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San Diego/sandy play-go
San Diego Airport
Member Name: Listerbelle
San Diego Airport
Date: 23/03/13, updated on 08/09/13 (98 review reads)
Advantages: Small airport - easy to navigate, hard to get lost!
Disadvantages: Small airport - large plane = long queueing times.
San Diego International Airport - International Arrivals
I travel through this airport at least twice a month, usually arriving directly from London. This is a review of the international arrivals process.
Despite being the eighth-largest city in the USA, San Diego, California has a small-town feel about it. This feeling extends to the airport, located at the edge of the San Diego downtown/midtown areas and next to San Diego Bay. Used by 17 million people each year, there are three terminals: commuter, 1 and 2. International planes usually arrive at Terminal 2. Terminal 2 is currently being extended/renovated. This building work is hardly noticeable and the facilities are clean throughout.
***Approach and landing***
The approach to the airport is nearly always over the gorgeous Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo, continuing close to several high rises and then low-flying over the I-5 Freeway before touching down. If you are an anxious flier, look out the left side windows to watch the pretty, little boats bobbing on their moorings in the bay.
The airport is prone to fog, especially in the early mornings and late evenings in Autumn. In this situation, the planes either approach from the ocean side, or alternatively are diverted to Ontario California (inland from LAX).
It goes without saying that the closer you are to the open doors, the sooner you will be off the plane. This is important when arriving from an international destination, as the next step in the process is immigration.
Note - I am one of few people who put all embarrassment and tiredness out of my head, and at this point I RUN! You will understand why after reading the next section.
Ideally, you will have completed the necessary paperwork on the plane prior to your arrival. One custom form per family (to be shown here and later on), and if travelling on a visa (NOT a visa waiver), one white I-94 form per person. There are spares on the tables within the "immigration" area if you need them.
The immigration area is VERY small. From memory, there are lines for US citizens, visitors, one for visitors AND permanent residents/visas, one for crew, and one for the Global Entry program participants.
I happen to be a permanent resident of the USA, which means that there is only one line I can be in. Unfortunately this line can be the slowest to move. On one recent arrival, I was the 15th or 16th person to reach immigration (yes, I did count - I'm such a saddo!), and 6th in my line. Out of a full planeload of arrivals, I was the 3rd LAST person through immigration.
The immigration officer may ask you questions such as the length and purpose of your visit, what you do for a living, what items you have with you and which will remain in the USA, and other similar questions.
***Luggage collection, screening and customs***
Once through immigration, the luggage hall is a short walk away via stairs or an escalator. There's only one small carousel. Don't be too anxious if you cannot locate your suitcase at first; many of them are removed and placed just to the side by the airport workers. Oversized luggage collection is found easily on the far side of the carousel.
The next step is for all of your items, bags and luggage to be screened - just as your hand luggage was at your departure airport. Lots of patience is required here - 300 passengers for one little scanning machine!
Finally, all there is to left is to hand your customs declaration (one per family) to the officer located approximately 10 metres from the scanning area.
Go through the (only) set of automatic double doors, and you're here! If you are not sure where to go next, there are usually several "airport ambassadors" close by who will be happy to help you. Taxis and buses are a further 10 metres away.
As it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour from leaving the plane to getting through the arrivals process, it's important to know that the nearest loos ("restroom") are a very short walk away to the left as you exit the luggage hall's double doors.
If you are desperate for caffeine, there is a starbucks upstairs - follow the signs to "departures". This area is currently being renovated, so there are not many facilities there are the moment. There is free wi-fi throughout the airport.
Finally, if you are a true lover of airports who will be spending a few days in the area, try the free "Terminals to Tarmac Tour". According to its website, you can see behind the scenes of San Diego International Airport. The Airport Authority offers free tours of the airport and airfield, including up-close looks at the runway, endangered species areas and public art. Tours are two hours long and are offered every other week on Thursday at 1 p.m. and Friday at 10 a.m.
Summary: A great little airport that's convenient and easy to navigate.