Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Noteworthy Travel News: O'Hare Goes Paperless at Customs

Tell me if this has every happened to you. You disembark from a plane after a painfully long international flight, your legs are still gaining the feeling back after being cramped in a tiny seat for hours, and all you want to do is get your bag and go home--or to your hotel if you're just getting to your destination. And then you come upon the longest line you've ever seen just to get into the country. There is no way the wait will take less than an hour, and you are forced to shuffle slowly behind the mass of people in front of you. And it is inevitable that more than one of those travelers in front of you will have filled out their customer declaration form incorrectly or lost it all together, causing even more of a delay.

Well no more!

That scenario will hopefully become something of the past at O'Hare International Airport thanks to the introduction of a paperless customs system. The airport is the first in the U.S. to go paperless in an effort to cut down on wait times. Instead of filling out forms before landing, passengers with U.S. passports will scan their documents and answer questions at self-service kiosks before seeing a customs agent. This allows arriving passengers to skip filling out the form in favor of answering questions on the kiosk. When done, a receipt is printed and passengers present their passport, travel information and the receipt to the agent, who should take about 15 seconds to review it all, a fourth of the time it usually takes, according to O'Hare representatives.

O'Hare took a page from Vancouver International Airport, which established a similar system over a year ago. It also just launched the first Automated Passport Control kiosk program with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency. Those Canadians are certainly on top of things. Heck, Vancouver was recently named the best airport in North America by Skytrax, a passenger survey.

O'Hare will install 32 kiosks and the system is expected to up and running by July 1, just in time for the height of the summer travel season, which has seen wait times last several hours in the past. Officials had been looking for ways to reduce delays, especially considering four more international carriers will start to serve O'Hare in the summer.

Read the article here.

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