News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Will DFW Airport's Automated System Let You Fly Through Customs?

After years of 20, 30,  even 60 minute lines or longer at DFW Airport after getting back from abroad, those lines are now a lot shorter. The airport unveiled a new automated passport kiosk system.

Dallas was one of six airports last year cleared to create an automated system to whisk U.S. passengers through customs, after returning from another country.  In place since last October, 30 kiosks were officially unveiled Monday. Martha Young and her husband were just two of many passengers opting to use the automated passport control instead of talking to a customs agent.  

“I am putting in my passport, taking my picture, making sure it’s correct," explained Young, and she wen through the process. "And then I’ll continue, add a family member, so that my husband and I can be on the same…and he’ll go through the same process.”

Young says that process used to be grind.

“Once you got in the line, depending on how long the line was, it could be up to 30 minutes.”

But this time, answering basic questions on a touch screen?

“It takes less than a minute.”

Jud Murdock, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, says at times here during last summer’s peak, the wait lasted hours.

“ It’s absolutely a game-changer here for us. We had some significant challenges here last summer. We don’t want to see that again coming into spring break and next summer so I think we hit the mark here.” 

More than 100,000 passengers a month came through DFW’s customs in the past 3 months, with more than half using the kiosks. Wait times were officially cut by 15%. Airport Vice President Byford Treanor says the goal is to reduce waits even more, so DFW becomes the preferred airport for those returning from abroad.

“Imagine being able to get to your gate," said Treanor, "for your connecting flight and being relaxed. Instead of 'I got to make it through this, I got to make it through this, I got to make it through this.' ”

Treanor imagines that will also improve the airport’s bottom line, as more customers have more time to visit terminal shops and restaurants. The airport also plans to pitch its kiosks to other airports as automation spreads. DFW says it’ll add 24 more machines to serve U.S. permanent residents and others from countries with visa waiver agreements, like the UK and South Korea. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.