Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association, had some harsh words for the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) following a four-hour technical disruption on Jan. 2 that caused long delays at checkpoints nationwide.
According to the CBP, the service breakdown does not appear to be malicious, but it did create a lot of issues since customs was forced to manually process all travelers coming into the United States. The internet exploded with photos of long lines and complaints about lack of bathrooms, water and unprepared customs officials.
Miami International, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood (Florida) International, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, John F. Kennedy International (New York), Logan International (Boston) and Los Angeles International were among the airports where travelers waited for hours.
“What happened at customs airport checkpoints yesterday is disturbing, but unfortunately it is not surprising,” Dow says. “Technology at these facilities is too outdated to cope with existing travel volume, let alone the increased traffic we hope and expect to see at our gateway airports in years to come.”
Dow is especially concerned with the impact that delays will have on international travelers.
“The U.S. customs and entry process is already notorious for dissuading long-haul visitors from dealing with the hassle of coming here, and lost inbound travelers means lost export dollars at a time when our economy can ill afford that,” Dow says. “A modern system is not only more efficient, but more secure, and both of those are very worthy priorities in the current security and economic environment. Let’s not forget that we have seen this problem before, and it is all too likely we will see it again if we keep failing to learn from these mistakes.”
A similar technical problem with customs happened in October 2015. That incident was blamed on issues with computers and kiosks as international travelers arrived to the United States.