Responding to concerns of “unreasonably” long delays for passengers at customs inspection points at Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl has called for additional U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff to be deployed to the nation’s third busiest airport.
In a letter to Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Rosendahl, who represents the LAX area, said he is concerned that long delays at customs inspection points are a regular occurrence at LAX. The councilman cited an Aug. 4 letter from Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey to CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin in which she describes a “chronic and punishing” problem faced by passengers arriving at the Tom Bradley International Terminal.
Lindsey explained that insufficient CBP staffing at inspection points has led to alarming delays for LAX international passengers, citing one day in which only 20 out of 60 booths were staffed as 2,880 passengers arrived.
“This problem is immediate and present. It must be addressed with a sense of urgency not yet evident,” Lindsey wrote.
The staffing shortages at primary booths and exit lanes have increased some passenger process times to two and even three hours, the executive director said.
Rosendahl added that in some cases, passengers are held in airplane cabins following long flights as CBP officials struggle to process an overwhelming workload, one for which they don’t have enough personnel. The customs processing delays are experienced at major airports across the country, but the problem is likely felt at LAX more than anywhere, said Rosendahl, noting that he frequently hears from frustrated travelers.
“We should make every effort to welcome visitors to our country, and to ensure a smooth and efficient return home for our own residents,” Rosendahl wrote. “Such a harsh reception of our arriving passengers reflects poorly on Los Angeles, and on our nation.”
CBP officials said in a statement that security concerns prevent them from discussing staffing levels at individual ports, but they continually evaluate personnel needs to appropriately manage travel and trade.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection leaders strive to work closely with local authorities to facilitate business and passenger travel at all ports of entry,” the agency said.
Lindsey pointed out that airport officials are spending $2 million per day to complete the new Bradley Terminal project, which among other things, will expand the number of customs primary booths from 60 to 81. But the project will be a “wasted investment” if CBP cannot provide sufficient staffing for the facility, she said.
Rosendahl called on Feinstein and Boxer to encourage CBP officials to work on a lasting solution to the staffing shortage at LAX to improve the travel experience for visitors to the city.