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Kennedy Airport customs wait times ranked longest in nation

Traveler Liza Leach of Boston uses an automated

Traveler Liza Leach of Boston uses an automated passport kiosk at Kennedy Airport after arriving from France on Nov. 18, 2013. The kiosks can lower wait times, which at Kennedy in 2015 were an average 25 minutes. Credit: Craig Ruttle

Bad news for global jet-setters who use Kennedy Airport — the southern Queens hub has the longest customs wait times of the nation’s 10 busiest airports for international passenger traffic, according to a new report from a New York City traveler’s advocacy group.

The Global Gateway Alliance compiled the statistics using data from Customs and Border Protection that showed the average customs wait time at Kennedy in 2015 was 25 minutes, with a maximum wait of 55 minutes. Both were the longest waits of the nation’s 10 biggest international passenger hubs last year.

Another New York City-area airport improved its standing last year, the Alliance said: Wait times at Newark Liberty International Airport dropped from almost 20 minutes in 2014 to just under 18 minutes in 2015.

The longer waits at Kennedy reversed a two-year trend that saw the hub cutting back its wait times after automated passport kiosks were installed in international terminals there in 2014.

The group is calling on customs to expand use of the kiosks, which it has said help reduce wait times by as much as 20 percent, and add more officers to help move people through the inspection process more quickly.

Stationed before customs booths, passengers use the kiosks by sliding their passports into a scanner, and after answering questions electronically, they are issued a clearance ticket that allows them to move through the process faster.

The average wait at Kennedy last year was also a 13 percent increase from 2014, the Alliance said. The longer waits coincide with Kennedy’s record-breaking number of international passengers in 2015, at 30 million.

“JFK is the nation’s gateway to the world, so it is unacceptable that visitors arriving in New York are once again being met with long and grueling lines at customs,” said Alliance chairman Joe Sitt. “It is past time for CBP to step up and roll out automatic passport kiosks in every terminal and boost manpower to match the needs of an airport that welcomes 13 million international arrivals a year.”

A customs spokeswoman said the agency has done its best to keep up with the growing demand for international travel — last year, customs saw a 5.1 percent increase in international visitors from fiscal 2014.

The agency has installed more than 150 kiosks in five international arrival terminals and plans to add more before the summer travel season, the spokeswoman said.

And in coming months, fliers will be able to use Mobile Passport Control, an authorized app to expedite passenger arrival into the United States — eligible travelers will submit their passport information and customs declaration form to CBP via a smartphone or tablet app before arriving stateside.

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