SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) highlighted last Friday the successful implementation of the in-transit baggage pilot program at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (LMMIA) in Puerto Rico, after one full year of operation with Condor Airlines flights from Frankfurt, Germany, to Panama City transiting through San Juan.
As a next step CBP invited current international airline carriers to join the in-transit program. The pilot was designed to accommodate a request by the government of Puerto Rico to have an in-transit inspection program that could appeal international flights making a stop through the LMMIA.
With the assistance of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (DHS-IGA), the director of field operations for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, Marcelino Borges, underlined for representatives of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and LMMIA airline carriers the important contribution to the island’s economy this program represents.
“CBP is undergoing modernization efforts to streamline the traveler’s inspection process, increase officer efficiency and reduce operating costs in order to provide better services for all travelers entering the United States,” added Borges. “We recognize the importance of tourism in economic development, and although we will never compromise security, we are looking for ways to facilitate the arrival of international passengers transiting through our port”.
Beginning May 4, 2013, CBP conducted a 90-day pilot to assess the feasibility and efficiency of transferring passenger baggage from one aircraft entering the US to another aircraft departing the US en route to a foreign destination. Due to great results and efficiency, the pilot was extended for a full year.
All transiting baggage on these flights was tagged at the airport of origin. During transit through San Juan, the bags were held in an isolated area within the CBP processing area until CBP has approved the baggage to be loaded onto the departing flight. The In-transit baggage pilot demonstrated a reduction of 50% in CBP processing time for participating passengers.
Among other benefits it included that participating passengers had “head of line privileges,” as they did not need to pick up their luggage to go through exit control, having airline carriers handle those bags. This process resulted in extra time to reach tight connections, and for the airline it represented another service that carriers could offer their customers; making the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport become a preferred location to transit to foreign destinations.