SA Airport introduces faster way through customs

Automated 'Global Entry' kiosks speed up customs processing time

Author: David Sears, Reporter, dsears@ksat.com
Published On: Aug 29 2012 04:51:56 PM CDT   Updated On: Aug 29 2012 05:40:39 PM CDT
SAN ANTONIO -

The San Antonio International Airport on Wednesday officially announced the use of automated kiosks to process customs for "trusted travelers" with their Global Entry program.

"It gives them that opportunity to get into San Antonio a lot earlier and enjoy the city of San Antonio," said Frank Miller, aviation director for the city of  San Antonio.

Travelers can save time by passing through customs without stopping at the agents desk -- if they qualify.

Travelers can go to Globalentry.gov and fill out and application. An interview will be set up with a Customs and Border Protection officer. An extensive background check will be conducted, including criminal and flying amounts. Fingerprints will also be taken.

If you pass, you'll become a card-carrying member.

"Once you’re a trusted traveler, then you're considered a low-risk traveler," said Jeffrey Baldwin, senior director of field operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

For international travelers like City Councilwoman Elisa Chan, who ends up in pretty busy airports like San Fransicso, picking up a few minutes -- up to 20 to 40 in some cases -- is a relief.

“You usually try to run to get in front of the line so I think this will really help those who wanted to go in and out," Chan said.

Using the kiosks only takes about 45 seconds to a minute. All you need is your passport and you use the machine almost like you would a ATM.

There is another advantage to the system: It adds a layer of security and aids in discovery of individuals who could be a risk.

“We continue to talk about finding that needle in a haystack but this helps us blow away the hay,” said Baldwin.

It also has a financial effect. 

The ability of visitors to get through customs even faster can be great marketing tool for a city continually looking to expand its reach around the country and the world.

"This is clearly a marketing benefit for us as we continue to work up more international service,” said Miller.

For a list of recent stories David Sears has done, click here.