DFW Airport approved for program to fund more customs agents

Posted Friday, Aug. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Long lines and three-hour waits to get through customs at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport may get shorter under a new federal pilot program announced Friday.

DFW Airport was one of six customs and border locations in the U.S. approved for a new program that will allow each facility to help pay for additional staffing and overtime.

“It will allow us to pay for some of the costs of federal agents in DFW Airport’s customs area in Terminal D,” said airport spokeswoman Cynthia Vega. “As of next week we are going to start talks with the government to work out an agreement about how much we can fund to alleviate the long lines at customs.”

The airport had submitted an application to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency to provide up to $3 million for salaries and overtime costs. Vega said the airport will ask its board to approve the funds to pay for the additional staffing.

DFW has the longest average wait time through customs at major U.S. airports at 28 minutes, according to Customs and Border Protection website. During peak times, DFW has the second-longest average wait, 69 minutes, behind Kennedy Airport in New York, at 83 minutes.

Some days have been much worse. On July 22, for example, passengers waited more than three hours on a day when the airport had 93 international flights with 10,518 passengers. Although Terminal D has 60 immigration lanes, U.S. Customs and Border Protection had an average of 23 agents on staff and only 10 at the lowest staffing point of the day.

The airport said it has been lobbying local congressional leaders to fund more customs agents and marketing the Global Entry program. It also plans to unveil 30 automated passport control kiosks in November to help reduce wait times by allowing U.S. passengers to answer questions before reaching an agent.

Byford Treanor, DFW’s vice president of customer service, told the DFW Airport Board earlier this week that DFW has had a 29 percent increase in international passengers since 2009 without any increase in customs officers.

Other locations approved for the pilot program include El Paso, the South Texas Assets Consortium, Houston’s airport system and Miami-Dade County in Florida. More than a dozen locations around the country had applied.

One of the groups rejected was Vermont’s Jay Peak ski resort, which gets 55 percent of its business from Canada. The border is just a few miles from the resort.

Border Protection said the proposals from each applicant were reviewed and ranked based on criteria including the impact on current border operations, health and safety issues, and community and economic benefits. The agency will complete the negotiations with the five applicants by the end of the year.

The agency is also finalizing the terms of the Tijuana Cross Border Terminal, which will allow ticketed travelers to cross between the Tijuana airport and Otay Mesa. Construction on that project could begin at any time.

This article includes material from The Associated Press.

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