Virgin Atlantic CEO: Customs Lines at New York Airports “Embarrassing”

Skift Take

Kreeger and Anderson aren’t officially joint venture partners yet, but their idea to pressure U.S. officials about embarassing Customs waits at New York airports doesn’t appear to be a total coincidence.

— Dennis Schaal

As Virgin Atlantic is poised to implement its joint venture with Delta Air Lines, pending final approvals, Virgin CEO Craig Kreeger said the wait times at Customs that the airline’s passengers face when they arrive at New York airports is “an embarassment” and “tremendously frustrating.”

Pointing to the ample resources that other countries, including several in Europe, devote to airport infrastructure, Kreeger said it’s “a real shame” that  one of “the most important nations,” referring to the U.S., doesn’t recognize the vital role that travel plays in the global economy.

Kreeger, who assumed the CEO post early in 2013 and flew into the U.S. to speak on an airline CEO panel at the Global Business Travel Association conference in San Diego today, generated robust applause from attendees after making those statements.

Kreeger’s comments were similar to those made by Delta CEO Richard Anderson July 27. Anderson, too, called the waiting times for international passengers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago an “embarassment.”

JFK Terminal 4 had the longest average peak waiting time, 93.8 minutes, in May at Customs lines among U.S. airports, according to a recent study, while Newark Airport placed ninth at 51.3 minutes.

In December, Delta announced it had taken a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic.

Kreeger said today that the two airlines are still awaiting DOT approval for the transatlantic joint venture, and can’t discuss joint marketing activities until then.

He indicated that the two airlines have greater incentives to invest resources into ensuring that their codeshares are “tight” than with “looser” and “temporary relationships.”

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