The immigration people at JFK are nice to John Gapper, as well they should be

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After I wrote a couple weeks ago that New York was at a disadvantage to London as a financial center because getting through immigration as a foreigner at JFK is so much more unpleasant than at Heathrow, Financial Times columnist (and now blogger!) John Gapper has this to report:

When I arrived in London, I got through the queue for UK and European citizens very fast but there was an enormous snaking line that did not seem to be moving at all for Americans and others.

In contrast, when I got back to JFK, it only took about 20 minutes to get through immigration and I got a smile and a “have a nice day” not only from the immigration official but the customs officer.

For what it is worth, these things seem to go in cycles. A couple of years ago, the line at JFK tended to be very long and the greeting from immigration officials monosyllabic and frosty. But they seem to have smartened up their act just as London is going in the opposite direction.

Either that, or the lines just happened to fall out that way the days John traveled. Does anybody actually keep stats on this kind of stuff? Or are we stuck batting anecdotes back and forth. Like this one, via Ultrabrown:

Britain’s first Muslim minister said he was “deeply disappointed” after being detained at an American airport where his hand luggage was analysed for traces of explosive materials.

Shahid Malik, MP for Dewsbury and International Development Minister, was returning to Heathrow after a series of meetings and talks on tackling terrorism, when he was stopped at Dulles Airport in Washington DC. …

Then again, USA Today reports that the Transportation Security Administration folks reviewed their surveillance video and claim that Malik was only detained for eight minutes. Which is still a long time if you’re late for your flight.