Moving international travelers quickly through the Customs and Border Protection primary screening process got a big helping hand recently, when City Council approved a $1.38 million proposal to purchase 45 self-service kiosks that will expand the Automated Passport Control systems at both George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Hobby Airport.
Plans to install 32 additional APC kiosks at Bush Intercontinental and, eventually, 14 at Hobby Airport by the end of 2015 will improve traveler facilitation and security of international travel, aiming for a goal of allowing 80 percent of international passengers to move through the process in 30 minutes or less.
The additional kiosks join the 20 already in use at Bush Intercontinental. The new technology significantly shortens the length of time required to clear the required CBP processing steps, reducing the average wait time by approximately 30 percent.
U.S. and Canadian citizens and other eligible international passengers simply place their passport on the scanning pad located on the kiosk and then provide answers to a series of basic questions. That data is then sent electronically to one of the screening officers on duty, minimizing both the effort required from the passenger and the chance for mistaken information to enter the system. Passengers do not need to register in advance for the service.
The additional kiosks will enhance the level of customer service for the growing international passenger numbers at Bush Intercontinental and, soon Hobby Airport, where a new five-gate, $156 million terminal is scheduled to open by October 2015.
“The APC expansion effort is a continuation of the Houston Airport System deploying technologies throughout the airports in an effort to serve its customers,” said Bryan Helaire, Assistant Director for Applications and Support for HAS. “The new kiosks will have biometric scanners that will enable CBP to process Visa Waiver eligible and lawful permanent resident passengers. Over a dozen North American Airports are currently utilizing APC kiosks.”
CBP data shows that since the 20 current kiosks were added in January 2014, the average wait time was 21 minutes, even as the number of international travelers being processed grew. HAS saw nearly 9 million international passengers in 2013, and approximately 10 million in 2014.