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August 02, 2013

DFW Airport may get more customs staffing as part of new pilot program

Long lines and three-hour waits at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport’s customs area may get shorter under a new pilot program announced on Friday.

DFW is one of six customs and border locations in the U.S. that have been approved for the new program that allows each facility to help pay for additional customs staff 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 with a 28-minute average wait. And on July 22, passengers were waiting over three hours as 93 international flights with 10,518 passengers moved through the customs area on a day when customs had an average of 23 agents on staff with 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 has been marketing the Global Entry program. It is also plans to unveil 30 automated passport control kiosks in November to help reduce wait times in the customs area by allowing U.S. passengers to enter their own information to customs questions before reaching an agent.

"This summer we’ve had significant growth in international service and if you go back to 2009, we have averaged over a 29 percent increase in passengers and zero growth in officers so that hits on the issue we have in customs," Byford Treanor, vice president of customer service for the airport said at DFW airport board meeting this week.

Six locations in California, Florida and Texas are going to be taking part in a pilot program designed to reduce the time people have to wait while entering the country by having the sponsoring organization help pay the costs of additional border officers.

The Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport; El Paso, Texas; the South Texas Assets Consortium; Houston Airport System; and Miami-Dade County, in Florida, would join a project already underway between Tijuana, Mexico, and Otay Mesa, Calif.

-Andrea Ahles



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