JFK Airport Kiosks Cut Customs Wait Times by 33 Percent

Automated passport kiosks have helped significantly reduce wait times at New York and New Jersey Airports during the first six months of 2014, says a new study released by the Global Gateway Alliance (GGA).

The new Customs data showed that wait times have been reduced by approximately 33% at John F. Kennedy International Airport and more than 15% at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Average wait times at JFK's Terminal 4 decreased from 34 minutes to 17 minutes this year, cutting the average wait time nearly in half.  JFK Terminal 1 average wait times were reduced by 21% in spite of a 14% increase in passenger traffic.

At Newark International, average wait times at Terminal C dropped from 23 minutes to 18 minutes. GGA says further improvements an anticipated following the installation of 20 new kiosks last month.

Other airports around the country are also benefitting from the automated kiosks. Here's a look at the installation at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport: http://www.travelagentcentral.com/airline-policies/new-automated-passport-control-kiosks-fort-lauderdale-hollywood-international-45297

The GGA survey, though, focused only on New York area airports. It showed that other international arrivals terminals at New York metropolitan airports also experienced drops in wait times and shortened lines, reflecting an increased focus by Customs and Border Protection, the airlines, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on reducing what had been the longest Customs lines in the country.

"GGA has worked with the airlines for over a year to shine a spotlight on the need to relieve Customs lines at New York area airports,” said Joseph Sitt, chairman and founder of the Global Gateway Alliance. “Our airports are the biggest international arrivals gateways in the country, so improving the Customs experience for the millions of passengers who use our airports must be a top priority. We're pleased that the numbers are heading in the right direction, but we need to continue improving the passenger experience by investing in new technology and additional manpower."

Tim Zagat, co-founder and CEO, Zagat Surveys said that creating a world class Customs experience is critical to business, to tourism and to New York's place as a top destination for international travelers. "New technologies like the automated kiosks are a positive step, but we have to take a holistic approach to shortening wait times and making the passenger experience at our airports significantly better," Zagat emphasized.

Other executives also involved in GGA echod those comments, and GGA made these additional recommendations for improving the passenger experience at Customs.

Implement Technology to Track Complete Passenger Time in Customs: The recent drastic reduction in Customs wait times has given way to a new challenge. Passengers are spending this newly-saved time waiting for their luggage to arrive at baggage claim.

GGA is calling for the use of new technologies to collect passenger data using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi sensors and provide real time information. Individual passengers can opt in to being tracked from the time they exit the airplane until they leave the Customs area, creating a widely representative sample to know the true time it takes for passengers to move through the international terminals and what action is needed as a result.

Play Music in Terminals: GGA believes that music is a cost effective way to entertain arriving international passengers and ensure that they are made to feel welcome while they wait at Customs. Delta already instituted this improvement at JFK’s Terminal 4 in April of this year.

Install Entertainment Screens: Entertainment screens and information at points throughout the Customs area would ease the tedium for passengers waiting in line. GGA said taxis, theme parks, restaurants and other venues where customers spend a long time waiting already use this kind of amenity and have shown it to be effective.

GGA believes videos could challenge travelers to New York City and U.S. trivia, direct them to popular tourist destinations and foster positive impressions of the New York and New Jersey region. These platforms could also be used to create sponsor-generated content and additional revenue for airport modernization and infrastructure investment.

For more information on GGA visit www.globalgatewayalliance.org.