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Help me preemie baby zip though the airport line at JFK!
February 28, 2009 4:24 PM   Subscribe

How to get through JFK with a preemie newborn without waiting on line for possibly hours?

I'm arriving to JFK Airport later this week on an international flight.

I am arriving with my newborn baby (preemie to boot!) and noticed in the past when arriving at JFK that sometimes mothers with newborns seem to be whisked ahead of the line so they don't have to wait in the looong snake line for passport control.

how could I get around this line with my newborn? i don't want her around the airport for more then absolutely necessary....

can I pay (not too much!) for VIP service or something at JFK so I avoid the line?

(triple bonus points if someone here actually works in JFK and can help me!) :)
posted by Izzmeister to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANAAE (I am not an airport employee)

Perhaps this is just something they do because they can, not necessarily because people pay for the service. If I was a TSA worker, I'd put the mother to the front too, so long as she didn't come with a whole cavalcade of people behind her.
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:51 PM on February 28, 2009

Call your airline and tell them you need passenger assistance on landing. They will arrange it for you and the other passengers needing assitance with whoever provides ground services for that airline or airport spoke. If they offer you a wheelchair, take it, but they are most likely to throw you on the golf cart with the old people.

This may mean a short wait at the gate, but on the plus side, you will be ferried to the front of immigration and passport control. Do not mention the infant when calling to pre-book assistance, because that may scarper your eligibility to get assistance.

(Because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, they are not allowed to ask why you need assitance, and you do not need to volunteer this information - the "don't ask, don't tell" thing will work to your advantage despite the fact you do not have a disability. If you abuse this little loophole for anything other than the most pressing need, you will go to hell and those of us who actually do routinely need assistance on disembarkation will hound you. With walkers.)
posted by DarlingBri at 5:15 PM on February 28, 2009 [10 favorites]

Nth calling the airline.

Generally, the VIP line is reserved in cities for passengers with the following criteria:

1) Medical reasons, uniformed military (this is not a guarantee)
2) Airline club members (e.g. Delta Crown Room Club gets me in at everywhere that Delta has a lot of gates)
3) Premium members (Frequent fliers)
4) First class (not always, but usually)
5) CLEAR members
posted by arimathea at 5:35 PM on February 28, 2009

I suggest calling the airline and requesting that your ticket be tagged "wheelchair required". The airport will assign you an employee to help with mobility and luggage assistance. This may or may not get you through security faster, but can't hurt.
Or you could pay a meet-and-greet service, such as this google result.
posted by dreaming in stereo at 5:54 PM on February 28, 2009

Oh and this is VERY IMPORTANT:

Have cash in US$ so you can tip the assistance staff member who helps you. I had a Heathrow > Newark > Miami flight a month after knee surgery, with a two hour layover in Newark. I needed help and wheelchair assistance at every airport.

At Newark, I got picked up in a wheelchair, brought through customs and immigration, taken to baggage claim, had my luggage picked up and carried to the 2nd airline's check in desk, wheeled back through domestic security, taken to my gate, taken onboard down the elevator and up on the catering cargo lift, and parked in my seat... all by the same FABULOUS, funny, really nice guy.

To this day, I cringe with mortification when I remember that I had no US currency at all with which to tip him. And was too hopped up on Vicodan to ask for his address, which I sincerely wish I had.

No tip is too big for the people who make it possible for the people who need help to travel. Be generous.

(London guy got tipped in sterling, Miami guy got tipped by the girlfriend on the ground to whom he delivered me. Newark guy got shafted. Newark Guy, I'm so sorry!)
posted by DarlingBri at 8:59 PM on February 28, 2009

I do know that most airlines (that I've flown) let people with small children board first. They call for them. Of course, this is once you've cleared security. Don't know about that part.
posted by fructose at 9:02 PM on February 28, 2009

This is a little off-topic, and you probably know this already, but just in case you don't I figured it was worth mentioning: Did you know that small infants sometimes have trouble flying because the pressure differences cause them ear pain? Apparently not all babies, but here's more on that. Good luck.
posted by amtho at 2:25 AM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

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