CHANGING CUSTOMS AT D/FW

Remember back in December 1983 when D/FW airport officials announced that they were spending more than $3 million to renovate and enlarge Terminal 2W? They wanted to accommodate an increase in the number of people coming to Dallas on international flights and to introduce a better system for processing those weary travelers through customs and immigration.

Now, the question is: How much longer is all the dust and confusion going to last? The official estimate is August 15- just in time to greet the foreign press arriving for the Republican National Convention.

Just last month, passengers arriving on international flights were complaining of having to wait in the plane on the runway for up to an hour-after traveling, in some cases, for 10 to 15 hours-until the customs area was cleared by Federal Inspection Services (FIS) officers.

Also, meeters and greeters have been forced to wait outdoors or in a part of the terminal separate from customs until the arriving party’s luggage is inspected. And there have been complaints about the small baggage claim area and the slowness of the inspection process. Not a very good image for a city striving to enhance its international reputation.

David Greenleaf, D/FW’s district director of customs, says he anticipates that travelers will see a dramatic improvement in the customs and immigration check-in area with the installation of the “Red Door/Green Door” system. D/FW will be one of the first airports in the country to have it. Houston’s Intercontinental Airport has a similar system, and it has increased the processing rate while increasing the amount of confiscated goods by 40 percent, says Angel Biasatti, a D/FW public information assistant.

The system, Greenleaf says, gives passengers a chance to meet with an inspection officer and to declare goods before they pick up their baggage. Passengers with nothing to declare may exit immediately through the green door, and those declaring goods can go to the red door for an inspection. The system is expected to speed up the inspection process considerably and eventually accommodate up to 600 people an hour. D/FW Executive Director Ernest E. Dean says, “The new system can expedite FIS processing and help the airport attract additional international airlines.”

That rate is important when one considers an airport statistic that shows that foreign airlines brought nearly 26,000 people to D/FW in May. That total doesn’t even include the tremendous number of international passengers who flew on American or Delta airlines.

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