The federal Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has been deploying new technology in recent years to help arriving travelers spend less time waiting in line, but the effort faces an uphill battle in the face of increasing passenger numbers. And a new study finds some airports have a bigger problem than others.
According to a new analysis conducted for the Global Gateway Alliance, a private-sector group devoted to easing air travel hassles in the New York area, New York JFK suffers from the longest Customs waiting times of the 10 largest airports for international arrivals – and San Francisco International ranked a close second.
The group found that the average waiting time for international arrivals to make it through Customs was 25.04 minutes at JFK (up 13 percent from a year earlier) and 24.66 minutes at San Francisco. Other major airports with average waiting times of more than 20 minutes included Miami at 22.43 and Los Angeles International at 20.14. Those were average times; the group found that the maximum waiting time was almost 55 minutes at JFK and 54.3 minutes at Miami International.
Atlanta fared relatively well-– with average wait times only half as long as New York or San Francisco.
The study is just a reminder that Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry trusted traveler program ($100/5 years) – which lets participants process themselves at a kiosk and bypass Customs agents — is really worth the investment.
To accommodate a growing Global Entry membership – the program now has 2.6 million members, CBP said – the agency added five more Global Entry locations last year. The program is now available at 47 U.S. airports and 13 overseas Preclearance stations, covering more than 99 percent of inbound travelers, CBP said.
CBP recently reported that the number of international passengers arriving at U.S. airports last year topped 112 million, an increase of 5.1 percent over 2014. The agency said that in spite of that increase, the average waiting time to clear Customs at the top 10 airports was down 3 percent last year.
For non-Global Entry travelers, CBP has been working with airports to speed up the lines by deploying technology like Automated Passport Control kiosks, which let travelers input their own information and obtain a receipt to hand to the Customs agent; and the Mobile Passport Control smartphone app, which does the same thing. The app is now in use at Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare, Ft. Lauderdale, San Francisco, Miami and Seattle-Tacoma. CBP said it expanded the Automated Passport Control kiosks to 14 more locations last year, and it noted they have reduced wait times by up to 27 percent.
The biggest increase in international arrivals last year was at SFO, up 9 percent. “We’re working hard to improve processing times,” an airport spokesman tells Travelskills. “SFO has already introduced Automated Passport Control kiosks, the Mobile Passport Control app, and reconfigured both signage and queuing to increase efficiency. We’re also working with Customs and Border Protection to ensure they do their part, by increasing their staffing levels to meet these additional traffic demands.”
Have you noticed longer lines at customs? Thoughts on Global Entry? Please leave your comments below.
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