JFK International is getting automated passport machines Monday to speed up the arrival of U.S. passengers from international flights. It's the latest airport—and one of the largest—to get the system.
Similar self-service machines already in use at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Terminal 5, and at two airports in Canada (Vancouver and Montreal) are already helping to significantly cut down wait times at customs that, at times, have forced arriving international passengers to stand in line for up to five hours or to be held back on a plane.
JFK is the busiest U.S. entry point for international travelers, and 40 automated passport kiosks have been purchased by Delta for use in Terminal 4, where it is the largest tenant among more than 30 airlines. At JFK, only U.S. citizens will initially be able to use the machines, but soon Canadian citizens should be able to use the machines as well.
"We're going to have a couple hundred people—100 today, 200 tomorrow—test the system. If all goes well, we'll go fully live on Wednesday," Delta spokeswoman Leslie Scott said Monday.
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Several vendors, including the Vancouver Airport Authority and SITA, make and market the technology and the hardware, so the cost of an individual kiosk is confidential, but Delta says its overall cost is somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 per kiosk.
Delta would like the Custom and Border Protection agency to increase staffing and improve scheduling to accommodate peak arrival times. "But we don't know how long that will take," Scott said. "This is something proactive we can do now as an investment in the customer experience. Because if a passenger has enjoyed the in-flight meals, the lie-flat bed and other aspects of an international flight having to stand on line for hours on arrival really ruins the experience."
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According to the Chicago Department of Aviation, since July 1, when the automated passport control technology was rolled out at O'Hare Airport's Terminal 5, daily passenger volume has increased by 21 percent, to over 15,000, but wait times during peak arrival periods have been reduced by 33 percent.