I guess I’m just a Grouch


I guess I’m just a Grouch

As I stood in line coming through immigration at LAX I began to wonder – Have these people (the ones who run the immigration department) ever stood in their own lines and watched what happens?

As you come down from the plane, someone is screeching in English covered by an accent that makes it hard for anyone to understand about which lines you should use. Of course their are signs the size of Montana but someone needs to scream out instructions no one, American or alien, can understand. There are PA announcements so garbled no one can understand, constantly adding to the din. (Why do you need to be told over and over and over that you must fill out a white or blue form (the ones given to you on the plane where you were told over and over that you had to fill them out?) Why do you need to be told a hundred times that you bags are on carousel 4 when there are large displays on the carousels telling you what flight will come down that chute?)

When you get into the line you watch as the immigration officers (who for the most part, it seems to me do a good job) have to yell at those in the line to come over. Most of the officers are hidden behind large pillars designed to ensure that the folks in line can’t see them. The desks directly in front of the line were empty, those on the sides, most difficult to see and find, were being used. Once you make it through the immigration line, you have to wait for you baggage.

Now here are two issues — First, it takes more than 45 minutes, sometimes an hour, get get the bags the 200 feet from the plane to the baggage carousel. You are told that the luggage will be on Carousel A however both begin and bags come down each one (there is only one plane in the hall at this time, yours.)
So you have to stand in the middle between the two, checking bags on both to find yours.

In the mean time, a screeching alarm goes off. Its an obvious false alarm but no one shuts it off. When you ask an airline employee if it can be turned off, shes says "we have reported it, but we have to stand here, too." You mention it to a senior police officer and are told that "its been called in" and get the same response something to the effect that I can leave, but they have to stand there and listen to it. Note: The alarm rang for the entire 25 minutes I was in the baggage hall.

Once you are on the street you wait for a taxi. There are two dispatchers and a mob of people. No organization, just a bunch of people and a line of cabs. Finally you get in your cab and out of that mess that is LAX.

By the way, this isn’t unique to LAX — I have seen similar disasters in Washington DC, JFK, Boston, etc.

I wonder at people who arrive for the first time in the US. What must they think?

I had just traveled through Heathrow.  I walked into the immigration hall, it was faced with two lines — EU and Non EU — Easy — I took the Non EU line. No one was screaming, no issues, no problems. Smooth as glass. I stood in line and there were desks so I could fill out my documents if I hadn’t done it earlier on the plane. When I reached the front, There was a person there who directed me to the next open immigration desk. When I cleared immigration I went to the baggage hall — there were huge signs showing me where my bags were, and in most cases (I have been thorough Heathrow dozens of times) they were on the carousel when I got there. I got my free baggage cart and walked out. At the taxi rank there was a line made up of barriers like at Disneyland. When I got to the front, I was told to walk down and stand on number 4. (a series of number painted on the sidewalk.) I did and a cab arrived in front of me. There was enough room so if I took a couple of extra moments, I didn’t hold up the entire cab line. People were polite, helpful, welcoming. It was the same in Sydney, Melbourne, Schipol, the rest.

How bout the return. Clearing security is always a pain. When I got on my plane in LA, I had to practically disrobe. Fight for a tray into which to put my computer, throw away my water, and be pushed, yelled at, and given no help whatsoever. The woman in front of me with the two small children was in real trouble.

Heathrow — First my boarding pass was checked and then I fell in line with my fellow travelers. When I got to the screening area, (there had been signs that told me what to do (remove my PC and outer jackets, etc, no yelling or verbal instructions). There was a helpful clerk there who placed the bins in front of me, chatted as I filled them, and helped me shove them down the line to the Xray. I then walked through the scanner (shoes on) and was assisted at the other side by another helpful clerk who moved the bins along and cleared space for me.

I noticed that if someone was "caught" by the scanner, a very efficient officer takes them aside and either 1) runs them through a second scanner, uses a wand, or "pats" them down. The entire world isn’t held up because someone forgot to put their cell phone in a tray to be sent through the Xray.

No hassles, no yelling. Just professionals doing their jobs well. And quickly. Oh by the way, the folks in the UK are private companies hired by the airport, also a private company, not the government. See, they have certain standards to meet and if they don’t, they can be replaced by someone who will (ah, the good old free market).

Every US manager beyond entry level should be given a round trip ticket to Heathrow or Schipol (I’ll bet the airlines would kick in an empty seat or two ) and then watch how they handle it. Then they should have to go through the process here in the US after sitting on a plane for 11 hours. Thinks would most probably change.

OK, it isn’t perfect in the UK, but they make an attempt to service their customers. They make it as easy as possible and at the same time, hurry the process along without seeming to. I’m sure that someone there has a bad day from time to time, I can live with that. However in the US, the "bad days" seem to be built into the system.


Just my opinion.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

5 Responses

  1. HUH — I don’t see how reading your web site will help me in any way — the problems I discussed are management problems, not technical problems.

  2. Perhaps you should move to another country if American operations are such a burden on your life.
    You’ll also probably be the first one to start complaining about lacsadaisical security and lack of human interaction if a terrorist gets through this inconvenient security processing system.
    And I’m still not sure what any of your rant has to do with parking. Maybe you could fill us all in on which horror or science fiction or dick tracey rubbish you are currently reading and how interesting it is.

  3. My pet peave when re-entering the US…after all of the foreigners have been processed, the immigration folks just close that gate and don’t process the US citizens waiting in other, longer lines.
    Huh? Customer service and good attitudes are lost on ICE.
    However, ICE is much better than Turkish immigration. I had to pay $100 tourist tax (cash only) and stand in line with scores of Russian prositudes at Istambul last year.

  4. Joe, Joe, Joe….
    You don’t seem to understand what blogs are all about. One can say anything one wants. Sure I talk about parking, but the rules (actually there are no rules) say I can also talk about anything I want.
    If you reread my post, you will see that I’m not complaining about security, but about how its carried out. I am complaining about lack of training, poor management, and nonexistant customer service.
    You must not have traveled much lately. Or your background must not tend you toward excellence. Its a sad day when we must accept things “as they are” simply because they are ours.

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