Reporting Andrea Lucia
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The last thing you want to do after several hours on an international flight is spend several more hours standing in line. But thousands of passengers at DFW International Airport on Monday night did just that, while waiting to go through customs.
Chris Crow from Oklahoma City shot the below video, of a line that seemed to go on and on. “The line was just out of control,” he stated. “It almost felt like we were being detained.” Crow said that he spent nearly three hours waiting in line, and missed his connecting flight as a result.
“I couldn’t see the end of it,” said Becky Haskin. “I couldn’t see the end of the line. We just kept walking and walking.” She ended up getting in line later, and waited a total of four hours, she said. She also grabbed a camera to get photographic evidence of what she witnessed. “I thought, nobody is going to believe this. Nobody’s going to believe how bad this is. Thousands of people crammed in hallways.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that passengers on 31 incoming flights Monday waited for more than two hours due to the number of flights arriving at the same time. Some of them were off-schedule.
Passengers, though, told CBS 11 News that the customs checkpoint was under staffed, with only four agents working to process thousands of U.S. citizens. Oddly enough, they noted that the lines were shorter for foreign visitors, allowing them to enter the country faster and more easily than those passengers with American passports.
“We’ve been adding new international flights at a record pace for the last two years, and the staffing in customs hasn’t kept up with it,” said DFW International Airport spokesman David Magana. He said that the airport has seen an 11 percent increase in international travel since last year.
The federal government, meanwhile, has cut funding.
CBS 11 News crunched the numbers of the CBP’s own website. We found that it is staffing fewer booths at the DFW customs checkpoint compared to last year — about 25 percent fewer — and seeing average wait times increase by about 43 percent.
Things may have been especially bad on Monday night but, Magana said, it was not the first time that he has seen lines this long. And it probably will not be the last time, either. “It’s been happening more frequently this summer,” he said. “In past years, it hasn’t happened.”
The problem is not unique to DFW International Airport, said Magana. But the airport is so eager to fix the problem that it has volunteered to pay for customs agents to work overtime — something that the federal government has had trouble doing since the start of the sequester. That solution and several others proposed by the airport and CBP are long-term.
Magana said, in the meantime, he can only urge upset customers to contact Congress.
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