Hobby Airport Launches Simplified Arrivals for International Passengers

Hobby Airport is the first in Texas to use facial comparison technology for all international arrivals and departures.

February 20, 2020

HOUSTON (Feb. 19, 2020) — Wait times at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspection checkpoints will be cut by nearly half after facial comparison technology launches at William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) on Feb. 19. Hobby Airport is the first in Texas to have full biometric entry and exit for passengers who are traveling internationally. Learn more via this video.

“Hobby Airport has taken a big leap into the future of travel,” Houston Aviation Director Mario Diaz said. “We could not have reached this technological milestone without the help of our partners— CBP and Southwest Airlines. Simplified Arrivals will enhance the travel experience for more than a million international passengers traveling through Hobby Airport every year. This is an important step to realize our goal of becoming a 5-star airport.”

The enhanced entry process complements the biometric exit process that CBP, Houston Airports (HAS) and Southwest Airlines introduced in November 2018. In 2017, George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) was one of only three airports in the nation to deploy facial comparison technology when a pilot program for biometric exiting.

“CBP is committed to working with our partners to ensure that the travel system is secure and efficient,” Houston Director of Field Operations Judson W. Murdock II said. “The speed, accuracy and reliability of facial comparison technology enable CBP officers to confirm a traveler’s identity within seconds while further enhancing the customer experience.”

When international travelers arrive at the airport, they will pause for a photo at the primary inspection point. CBP’s biometric facial matching service will compare the new photo of the traveler to images that the traveler previously provided to the government, such as passport and visa photos. If a traveler cannot be matched to a photo on record, the CBP officer will process the traveler manually.

Travelers who wish to opt-out of the new biometric process may notify an officer as they approach the primary inspection point. Travelers who opt out of the new biometric process will be required to present a valid travel document for manual identity verification by a CBP officer and processed consistent with existing requirements for entry into the United States.

Strong technical security safeguards are in place and the amount of personally identifiable information used in the facial biometric process is limited. New photos of U.S. citizens will be deleted within 12 hours. Photos of foreign nationals will be stored in a secure DHS system.

Since September 2018, CBP has used biometric facial comparison technology to interdict more than 250 imposters who tried to enter the United States by presenting a genuine travel document that belonged to another person.

The implementation of biometric facial comparison technology is a direct result of recommendations from the 9/11 Commission, and it addresses Congressional mandates to biometrically record the entry and exit of non-U.S. citizens.

More information about efforts to secure and streamline travel through facial biometrics is available at CBP’s website here.

About Houston Airport System

Comprised of George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), William P. Hobby Airport (HOU and Ellington Airport (EFD) / Houston Spaceport, the Houston Airport System served nearly 60 million passengers in 2019.  Houston Airports form one of North America's largest public airport systems and position Houston as the international passenger and cargo gateway to the South Central United States and a primary gateway to Latin America.  Houston is proud to be the only city in the Western Hemisphere with two Skytrax rated 4-star airports.  Learn more at fly2houston.com.