Long Lines Greet International Fliers at DFW Airport

Long lines blamed on U.S. Customs and Border Protection staffing levels

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    NEWSLETTERS

    International travelers at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport are experiencing longer than average wait times in customs lines due to lack of funding for additional staff.

    International travelers flying into Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport are increasingly greeted with a rude welcome -- extremely long lines to clear through U.S. customs.

    "It is a developing problem that is growing worse through the summer," airport spokesman David Magana said.

    The average daily peak wait time at DFW Airport was 67 minutes as of May, according to data compiled by the Global Gateway Alliance. It is a 41 percent increase over May 2012 and one of the worst waits in the country, according to Katie Connell, spokeswoman for Airlines for America, an airline industry advocacy organization.

    A video posted on YouTube on Monday night captured an extreme example of how long the lines can be.

    The video shows a line of hundreds of people stretched down a long corridor. People waited for upward of four hours Monday evening, many missing connecting flights to their intended destinations.

    But the problem of long lines is not isolated to DFW.

    "U.S. Customs waits at major airports are truly an industry-wide concern for both U.S. airlines and their passengers, who can endure customs waits up to three and four hours in major airports," Connell said. "Upon arriving in the U.S., air travelers should not be greeted by a frustrating, inefficient experience at our country's major U.S. gateway airports like Dallas-Fort Worth."

    Both Connell and Magana blame the lines on how U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, is not able to hire more customs agents to keep up with the increased demand from travelers.

    International flights into DFW are up 11 percent over this time in 2012, according to Magana, but the airport has the same number of customs agents.

    "Customs and Border Protection staffing has had an adverse effect on all five of our major international gateways, including DFW," said Kent Powell, spokesman for Fort Worth-based American Airlines. "We are working very closely with our colleagues at CBP at DFW and elsewhere to minimize processing delays by reorganizing customer queues, assigning special queues for tight connections and taking special actions to promote Global Entry at our ticket counters."

    Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.

    In addition to promoting the Global Entry program, DFW Airport has also invested $200,000 to purchase and install 30 kiosks that will allow U.S. citizens to answer and print out the questions customs agents ask of them and then present them to the customs agent in the effort to shorten the wait.

    Shortening the wait times is a priority for DFW Airport, Magana said.

    "This has been an issue for us, as far as an imperative, a strategic goal for the airport to provide great customer service.," he said. "But it's very hard for DFW to do that when you've got to wait three hours to get in."