Los Angeles International Airport is anticipated to receive an additional 20 U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers this year in a move that officials hope will address staffing shortages and reduce processing delays for passengers.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced to the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce Jan. 18 that CBP Assistant Commissioner Michael Yeager has reported that the LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal will add 20 customs officers over the year.
The announcement came as welcomed news to Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the LAX area and was one of the local elected leaders who expressed concern with reportedly long processing delays and wait times for international travelers.
“It was clear to me that anyone who comes off of a plane from anywhere on the planet should not have long waits to be processed,” said Rosendahl, who wrote a letter to Feinstein regarding his concerns.
“Sen. Feinstein jumped to the plate and provided that leadership and I applaud her for that. I feel pretty good that she listened to the local community and local leadership on this issue.”
Feinstein pointed to the need to address a staffing shortage situation at LAX in a December letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
“It is my understanding that a shortage of CBP agents continues to produce excessive delays in processing international passengers at LAX, which is the third busiest airport in the United States,” Feinstein wrote.
“I am aware that Customs and Border Protection has recently taken steps to add agents, implement the Express Connection Program, and expand the Global Entry Program. However, I am told that these steps have failed to sufficiently address the issue and reduce wait times at LAX.”
The senator’s letter came after Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey, in a letter to former CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin, explained that insufficient CBP staffing at inspection points led to alarming delays for LAX international passengers. The staffing shortages at primary booths and exit lanes had increased some wait times to two and even three hours, Lindsey said.
Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Venice) and nine of her state congressional colleagues also wrote to Bersin, saying the delays are unacceptable and calling for additional staffing resources.
CBP officials responded that they “continually evaluate personnel needs to appropriately manage travel and trade.”
Feinstein said that CBP plans to relocate senior management offices from an offsite cargo facility to the Bradley Terminal to facilitate increased oversight and accountability of daily operations.
The agency plans to modify work shifts and restructure staff schedules to maximize the resources and provide greater coverage during peak hours at the airport.