Vancouver Airport Trumps U.S. Congress

Vancouver International Airport

In all the years that I lived in Vancouver the rest of Canada called it La-La Land. Come winter, they skated on thick ice while we windsurfed off Jericho Beach in thin windbreakers.

The lower British Columbia coast is Canada’s California, where only the dreamers live. That’s what they said.

So it comes with plenty of in-your-face pride that Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has done what the U.S. Congress won’t do – diminish the long lines at the U.S. Customs pre-clearance inspection at YVR.

Last year, YVR had 18 million passengers, half of them traveling internationally. And there were so many years when U.S. Customs thought passengers were akin to a piñata that hangs itself and then hands them a stick.

What Congress won’t do is provide enough money to adequately staff the Customs facility. But who knew that when we were tacking off Jericho in a perfect 260-degree wind our flotilla was dreaming about airport kiosks?

Vancouver is now the Wayne Gretzky of passport-kiosk development. And its product is popping up at many U.S. airports. They are the e-cigarette of passport control.

“We had long lines here, the same problem (as U.S. airports),” Craig Richmond, CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority,” told Forbes. “We had built huge (international arrivals) areas with lots of stations, but you never got the funding to fill them (with CBP agents).”

Starting in 1996, YVR was one of the first airports to even use passport kiosks. And then around 2010 the airport authority started to develop its own. According to Richmond, the U.S. Customs process had a lot of technical challenges regarding the formatting and coding of information. (Where was Edward Snowden when we needed him?)

“We’re a private company,” Richmond told Forbes. “We can move very quickly: we can write code and test it very quickly. And we worked very closely with the Customs and Border Patrol folks. They were with us every step of the way and I would say they are amongst our biggest sales force: they really like the product and sing its praises.”

A year ago, new kiosks were planted at YVR that cut wait times in half. Now they’ve sold about 300 of the redesigned kiosks to airlines and airports. Last month, Charlotte Douglas International Airport dropped $2 million to have 24 installed.

For now, the Vancouver kiosks are at 11 U.S. airports, including Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare, JFK and Seattle, reports Forbes. This month, Detroit, LAX Terminal 5 and Newark get theirs.

Delta Air Lines is a huge fan of the YVR kiosks, grabbing 190 to be installed this summer, including 52 at JFK, 74 at Atlanta, 30 at Detroit, 14 at Seattle 10 at LAX and 10 at Minneapolis.

United is getting in the game at Newark and plans to add Cinnabon-scented San Francisco.

The Tarmac’s View:  So back at you, the rest of Canada. You can have your nine months of hockey and three months of bad ice. There’s a fresh wind blowing at airports. And it started in Vancouver. Now here’s another item us West Coasters will throw in your face: Within days, the LA Kings will win the Stanley Cup.


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Comments (Showing 1 of 1)

  • jallred6 at 2:55pm June 11, 2014

    I think the small soap dish in my shower could trump the current set of US politicians.

    Well done, YVR!

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