International travelers are standing in lines for hours when they arrive at U.S. airports, including an average wait of almost three hours at Dulles International, according to a new travel industry report.
The U.S. Travel Association report blames the delays on staffing shortages at the airport entry points manned by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol personnel. Dulles recently expanded its customs screening area, spending $180 million and adding more booths.
The 2.9 hour average wait at Dulles is shorter than the delay at several other big airports for which the travel group collected data. The report says peak-hour delays hit 4 1/2 hours New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport during the busy travel time December 2012. In April, Miami’s airport saw 4.7 hour peak-period delays. The wait averaged 3.8 hours at Chicago O’Hare and 3.3 hours at Los Angeles International Airport.
“One in seven overseas visitors has missed a connecting flight to a U.S. destination because of delays at customs,” said the Travel Association’s Cathy Keefe. “But our data could be gravely understating the problem…one major airline at [Dallas-Fort Worth Airport] estimated that 19 percent their international arriving passengers missed connections.”
Keefe says the delays are costing U.S. businesses $416 million a year.
·”Simply put, the reason we have this problem is that there aren’t enough customs officers to process inbound travelers,” she said. “It’s a broken system. Airports are spending millions to expand customs lanes but a lack of officers means they sit empty more often than not.”