Charlotte Airport Battle

Charlotte Douglas International Airport officials demonstrate passport kiosks

Instead of talking with a Customs and Border Protection agent at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, arriving international passengers now have the option of pressing a few buttons on a kiosk before being cleared to re-enter the U.S.

Airport and CBP officials demonstrated the new kiosks Tuesday. The 24 touchscreen units are expected to cut entry times by at least 20 percent and up to 50 percent at Charlotte Douglas.

“It speeds up the process quite a bit,” said Patty Fitzpatrick, the CBP area port director for Charlotte. The kiosks are in 10 U.S. airports, including Charlotte’s fellow American Airlines hubs at Chicago O’Hare, JFK International, Miami and Dallas/Fort Worth airports. They are also planned for Philadelphia and Phoenix, and Atlanta recently ordered 74 of the machines.

Here’s how they work: When travelers arrive, they swipe their passports at the kiosks. The machines take travelers’ pictures to digitally compare them to their passport photos and ask a series of customs questions. The kiosks then print receipts, which travelers take to CBP agents, who verify them before travelers can leave the international arrivals area.

Up to 2,000 international passengers arrive at almost the same time during Charlotte Douglas’ peak times, creating a backup that officials hope the kiosks will help alleviate. With the majority of those passengers connecting to other flights, a bottleneck can mean missed flights.

The kiosks are loaded with passenger lists ahead of the arrivals, and anyone selected for extra screening will get a printed receipt with a black “X” mark.

“It knows whether we want to see you or not,” Fitzpatrick said.

The new kiosks are separate from the Global Entry Program, which allows citizens who have been pre-screened and have paid $100 to enter the U.S. with expedited processing. The Global Entry Program is still available at the airport.

For now, only U.S. and Canadian citizens can use the terminals, though that’s expected to expand to other nationalities soon. Charlotte Douglas, an independently funded city department, purchased the kiosks from the Vancouver Airport Authority for $2.5 million, including five years of maintenance and support.