International travel has skyrocketed in 2023 and with the holidays approaching, international airport traffic is expected to increase even more, resulting in higher ticket prices, longer flight times and the ever-dreaded wait times at immigration checkpoints.
Thankfully, those flying in and out of Phoenix during the upcoming winter months are more likely to experience efficient international travel times than if they were to choose other airports, according to a new study by Upgraded Points.
When it comes to travel wait times, airport choice is the single most important factor. To help travelers increase the likelihood of an efficient travel day this holiday season, researchers at Upgraded Points calculated average wait times for travelers passing through customs during the 2022 winter holiday travel season (the week before Christmas through the New Year) at all 41 major U.S. international airports tracked by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) using data from the CBP Airport Wait Times dataset.
The results show that Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is the second-best airport for international travel during the holiday season. Phoenix Sky Harbor had the second shortest wait time at customs for all travelers with an average wait time of 5.9 minutes. This number was only surpassed by John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Calif, which had a record wait time of 4.6 minutes. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had the longest average wait time of 31.6 minutes.
The study also analyzed the average maximum wait time for all travelers at each airport. Phoenix Sky Harbor’s average maximum wait time at customs was 19.9 minutes, which is still under the national average wait time of just below 23 minutes during the holiday season in 2022.
There are also multiple factors that affect custom wait times for travelers, including their arrival time and whether they are a U.S. citizen. Typically, travelers who arrive between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. will experience shorter wait times, while those who arrive between 5 a.m. and 3 p.m. will find approximately 20% longer wait times compared to other hours of the day.
Additionally, non-U.S. citizens can expect to wait roughly 66% longer than U.S. citizens at customs, with the national wait time for non-U.S. citizens averaging over 28 minutes and the national wait time for U.S. citizens averaging 17 minutes, according to the study. At Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the average wait time for U.S. citizens in 2022 was five minutes, while the average wait time for non-U.S. citizens was eight minutes.
Overall, 85.6% of travelers who flew into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in 2022 waited in line for under 15 minutes, while 0% of travelers had to wait in line for over an hour.
Read the full report by Upgraded Points here.