Skift Take

The White House report puts a positive spin on modest improvements in wait times for international visitors at U.S. airports, but it is still an inexcusable bottleneck in many places.

The White House issued a progress report on the Obama administration’s national travel and tourism strategy that shows wait times at U.S. airports for international arriving passengers dropping 18% compared with a year ago.

“Through close partnerships with airports and industry, we have seen dramatic improvements to the entry process and reduction in wait times are possible,” the report states.

“Although, passenger volume has increased and staffing has remained flat, wait
times are 18% shorter than one year ago, with some airports seeing wait time reductions in the 25-40% range.”

Judging by the wait times for international visitors at JFK Airport on Memorial Day weekend, it is clear that any progress is not consistent airport to airport, as the lines for international visitors were long.

Among the standout airports, according to the White House report, was Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, which saw a 40% reduction in wait times on average over the last 12 months through automated passport control kiosks, and trusted traveler programs, the report states.

“These efforts reduced by more than half the percentage of travelers waiting over 30 minutes, resulting in a new average wait time through border security of 15 minutes,” according to the report [embedded below].

The report claims that Chicago O’Hare Airport reduced its average wait time for international arriving passengers to around 15 minutes at this juncture in 2014, down from a high of around 30 minutes in 2012.

“Chicago O’Hare International Airport has seen passenger growth of 7 % this year — the second fastest growth of any top 10 airport – and has partnered with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on improved queuing, signage, passenger flow, Global Entry, and critically, Automated Passport Control kiosks,” the report states. “The results have been dramatic.”


Among other data points about U.S. travel and tourism policy, the U.S. State Department says:

  • 70 million international visitors, a record, arrived in the U.S. in 2013, spending $180.7 billion;
  • U.S. consular offices and embassies issued 9.2 million nonimmigrant visas, a 42% increase since 2010, and
  • More than 90% of visa applicants were interviewed within three weeks of submitting their visa applications.

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Tags: customs, dfw, visas

Photo credit: FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2013 file photo, travelers walk through terminal 3 baggage claim at O'Hare International airport in Chicago. Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press

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