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Frustration grows about airports' immigration lines

August 04, 2013|By Hugo Martin
  • A travel group hopes to exploit frustration about wait times at airports' U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoints. Above, a line at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2004.
A travel group hopes to exploit frustration about wait times at airports'… (Stephen Chernin / Getty…)

As lines grow at airport customs and immigration checkpoints, the frustration among international travelers continues to swell.

A trade group for the nation’s travel industry is hoping to exploit that frustration to pressure the federal government to hire more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to speed up those airport lines, thereby encouraging more foreign visitors.

The U.S. Travel Assn. has been going around the country to interview tired, disheveled travelers who have just cleared lengthy lines at such checkpoints. Video clips of those interviews have been posted on a website, Traveler's Voice.

“International travelers visit our country to conduct business, experience our destinations and sites and, most importantly, contribute billions of dollars to our economy,” said Roger Dow, president and chief executive of the U.S. Travel Assn.

The lines at airports are only getting longer as air travel climbs.

The number of people traveling by air grew 6% in June from the same month last year, with the biggest growth coming from Africa and the Middle East, according to the International Air Transport Assn., the trade group for the world’s airlines.

The effect of the surge in air travel may be showing up at Los Angeles International Airport. At LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal, the maximum wait time in July was 57 minutes, up from 52 minutes the same month last year, according to Customs and Border Patrol statistics.

[For the record, 3:09 p.m. Aug. 4: A previous version of this post's headline said airports' customs lines are at issue. It is their immigration lines.]


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