US airports adapt to increased travel by expanding use of technology | Trending Viral hub

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  • U.S. airports are adapting to the growing influx of travelers by implementing technological solutions.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are working closely with airports to allow some travelers to bypass traditional passport control lines.
  • The introduction of E-Gates at some airports is also expected by the end of summer.

The Belgian family of four was on their fourth trip to the USA. They feared the long line at passport control when they entered the country, but they heard about a new app they could use to make their way easier and decided to give it a try. Within minutes, they had bypassed the long line at Washington Dulles International Airport and were waiting for their luggage.

“It was always a long line,” Piet De Staercke said of the line to get through passport control. He, his wife, and his two children were visiting Washington and Chicago. “We were a little scared. But now, with the app, it’s amazing.”

As travel continues to increase following declines related to the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is expanding the use of technology such as the Mobile Passport Control app that the De Staercke family used in an effort to process the increasing number of passengers traveling internationally. And with events like a rare solar eclipse, the Paris Olympics and summer vacations continuing to boost international travel, it doesn’t look like those numbers will slow down anytime soon.

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Customs and Border Protection officials gave The Associated Press a behind-the-scenes look at some of the technologies they’ve been using and what to expect in the months and years to come.

Airport

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is expanding its use of technology to process the growing number of passengers as travel increases following declines related to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

THE NUMBERS

During fiscal year 2023, the agency processed more than 394 million travelers at ports of entry. That’s a 24% increase from the previous year. Looking at the country’s top 20 airports by passenger volume, officials processed 31% more travelers, while average wait times increased 11%. And at some of the busiest airports, wait times have seen negligible increases or even decreased. At New York’s JFK airport, for example, wait times were reduced (0.4 seconds on average) while CBP agents processed 33% more travelers.

More and more people are traveling abroad with their families rather than traveling abroad alone on business.

MORE APPS

Officials are leaning more toward app-based technologies to speed up passenger movement through the airport. The Mobile Passport Control app used by the Belgian family is an example. It is available to U.S. citizens, but also to lawful permanent residents, certain Canadians, and travelers from countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program who have already been to the U.S. at least once.

Passengers upload their photos and information to the app. When they enter the screening area, they are directed to a separate line. Then the officer only needs to take a photo of one family member and gets the entire group’s photos and their information.

CBP launched the app in 2021, but is now trying to get more people to use it, including working with airlines to allow the app to be downloaded while the plane is in flight and posting signs at airports to inform travelers about it. Last year, a record 4.1 million people came to the country using the app.

“Any second we can save during the process saves time because it eventually adds up,” said Marc Calixte, the top CBP official at Dulles.

Last September, the agency also created an app specifically for passengers using Global Entry. That’s one of the “Trusted Traveler” programs CBP runs that allows certain low-risk passengers who schedule an interview appointment and undergo a background check to get through customs and passport control more quickly. when they arrive in the US

GLOBAL ENTRY IMPROVEMENTS

Last year saw a record 3.2 million people apply for the Global Entry program, and this year the agency is on track to file about 4 million applications, said CBP Branch Chief Brendan Blackmer. for Trusted Traveler Programs. But passengers have complained about the time it takes to process applications and their difficulties in getting appointments. On its website, CBP says the average application processing time is four to six months. In February, 17 members congressional wrote to CBP demanding information, saying they were receiving complaints from voters about wait times.

Blackmer said the agency has pushed to improve the process, including allowing nearly 100% of people who renew their status to do so without having to go to an enrollment center. That frees up appointments for first-time applicants. And he’s pushing for more people to be able to complete the process while at the airport, whether leaving or returning from a trip.

There are also more appointments available, Blackmer said, although some cities like San Francisco are still so in demand that appointments can take more than 90 days to get.

“We’ve done a lot of work over the last year and a half and the agency is now in a better position and can meet the demand for the program. And we’re going to keep working,” Blackmer said.

RATE INCREASES

Starting October 1, people who use some of the Trusted Traveler Programs will see increases in the rates they pay. The cost of NEXUS, a US-Canadian program designed to facilitate travel between the two countries for pre-approved travelers, will go from $50 to $120. Global entry will go from $100 to $120. SENTRI, for pre-approved travelers on the southern border with Mexico, will drop from $122.50 to $120.

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But fees will now cover all children under 18, regardless of which program they are in.

What has not changed is that the approval of the programs will remain valid for five years.

WHATS NEXT?

Calixte said possibly by the end of summer the airport will open so-called E-Gates where passengers using Global Entry can use the app, bypass an officer at a booth and instead go to a gate where they will be takes a photo and compares it to it. your passport and, assuming no red flags arise, the doors open and you exit the passport and customs control area and are on your way.

Going forward, Blackmer said the agency is exploring a concept called smart queuing, where the app assigns passengers to certain lines depending on information they have entered into the app, such as whether they have goods to declare.

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