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Customs Clearance Now Faster with Automated Passport Control

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U.S. bound international passengers will now enjoy a faster and smoother passport clearance process, as some of the major airports are now being updated with Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks. The self-service kiosks, which were in the process of being installed over the past one year, streamlines the passport clearance process and promises to enhance the flyers experience.

Passengers travelling to the U.S. often have to wait in long queues to gain passport clearance which tends to ruin the entire flying experience. According to International Air Transport Association (IATA), the number of international air travel passengers will touch 1.45 billion by 2016. Growing numbers will naturally translate into more issues with regard to customs clearance.

The long wait will now be over for passengers, thanks to the APC kiosks which will replace the traditional process of filling out declaration and customs forms. The APC kiosks utilize advanced technology by computerizing the border control process, which will protect border security while facilitating rapid customs processing.

APC follows three simple steps, which include responding to certain on screen instructions, and subsequent verification of the passport and the passenger’s identity. At the end of the process, each traveller gets a receipt, which needs to be presented to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer for final processing. According to CBP, this process considerably reduces the average wait time through the primary inspection area.

Air transport IT specialist SITA was the first to market the kiosk based on its state-of-the-art technology, which shortens the customs scanning procedure by offloading the work from immigration counters to self-operated kiosks. Vancouver Airport Authority in association with CBP also develops the units based on its BorderXpress system.  

The first phase of APC program was launched in May 2013 at Vancouver International Airport and was limited to U.S. citizens. The second phase began in Nov 2013 and was expanded to Canadian citizens, while the last phase stretched the eligibility to travellers from 38 countries that are part of a visa waiver program.

The kiosks are funded through a public-private partnership between CBP and the carriers, with Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL - Free Report) and United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL - Free Report) being the major players.

Delta Airlines has already installed such fully automated kiosks in several of its hub airports like Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York-JFK and Seattle. The premier carrier has installed 20 such kiosks in Boston, with 10 more in Boston and an additional 14 in JFK to be installed by this summer. United Continental has also started the process by installing 20 such kiosks at its Newark Liberty hub.

The regularization of APC will benefit CBP, airports and travellers to a great extent. For CBP, the self-service kiosk will ensure an enhanced immigration processing capacity by allowing immigration officers to focus only on specific persons of interest. Meanwhile, airlines will have more space and resources to utilize and reduce errors owing to immigration processing delays, thus reducing their operating cost.    

However, we believe the passengers will leverage the most from these multilingual APC kiosks. Apart from reducing the wait time for immigration, the APC kiosks will ensure an overall hassle-free travel experience for international fliers.

Delta Airlines sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) while United Continental carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). One can also consider Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV - Free Report) and American Airlines Group Inc. (AAL - Free Report) which hold the same Zacks Rank as Delta Airlines.

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