Hawaii aims to reduce immigration lines at Honolulu airport

AP News
|
Posted: Sep 02, 2015 10:06 AM

HONOLULU (AP) — The state of Hawaii plans to install machines to reduce the time travelers have to wait in immigration lines when they arrive at Honolulu International Airport.

The machines should reduce the time visitors spend in long lines by having the passengers scan their passports and fingerprints, quickening the immigration process, officials said.

"Visitors get to their destination on a more timely basis — hotels, beaches, wherever they want to get to," said Ross Higashi, deputy director of the state Department of Transportation, said Tuesday.

Many foreign visitors wait in long lines because many flights arrive from Asia around the same time each day. Peak arrival hours are between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Standing in a long line is often one of the first experiences international tourists have in Hawaii after getting off an eight-hour red-eye flight from the other side of the Pacific.

Passengers must wait an average of 20 to 30 minutes to pass immigration in Honolulu, Higashi said. The machines should cut a half-hour wait by 10 minutes. The state plans to install 32 of the machines at a cost of $1.7 million. Similar machines are already in use at international airports in Chicago, Houston and other cities.

Gov. David Ige told tourism industry officials about the machines during a conference last week. He said they're part of a broader plan to support tourism, Hawaii's biggest industry, as the state reports record-breaking visitor arrivals.

"The question that we need to ask ourselves is how do we ensure that these numbers remain strong and grow in the months and years to come?" Ige said at the Hawaii Tourism Conference.

The governor also touted his efforts to push the U.S. and Japanese governments to establish a program that would allow Japanese travelers to clear U.S. immigration and customs before they even board their flights at Narita International Airport outside Tokyo.

The U.S. government's preclearance program allows Customs and Border Protection officers stationed abroad to decide whether to admit passengers and their belongings before they leave a foreign port. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security in May said it would begin talks to expand preclearance to 10 new foreign airports, including Narita.