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Self-service makes for satisfied travelers

Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks are making for more satisfied travelers, says Maurice Jenkins, Director of Information Systems and Telecommunications, Miami International Airport

Miami International Airport has grown tremendously over the last six or seven years compared to other airports within our region and globally. We expected to handle 40 million passengers by 2016. But we hit that mark last year.

Innovation is critical to how we satisfy this massive increase in customer demand. The introduction of Automated Passport Control kiosks from SITA is a case in point.

We first got together with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staff in 2013 to go through a process that was taking from 45 minutes to three hours to complete.

No one wants to go through a process that lengthy after being on a flight for 10 hours. We’ve succeeded in slashing that time down to just 45-90 seconds.

Simplicity

The APC process is simple. You leave the aircraft, go to the device and choose your language. We support three foreign languages today but are looking to increase that to 13.

You select the flight you just came off and that’s reconciled against the database. You present your passport and that’s also reconciled.

The kiosk takes your picture, it’s vetted and you're issued with a receipt. You get your bag, face a final question and answer session. And you're done. 

Our initial customer base has been US citizens. The second tier will be Canadian nationals and we're currently testing passengers from countries with whom the US has visa waiver programs. 

Rapid growth

The process is one hundred per cent secure. We went through a litany of testing processes and procedures with CBP and we have a zero error rate with regards to the product itself.

On average, there are about 30,000 passengers a day that come through the Federal Inspection Service, of which about 5,000 use the kiosks. We expect that number to grow rapidly.

Better security

When we first launched, some border staff expressed concern about their jobs. They’d written the guidelines, of course, and they need to work closely with us on maintenance and upgrades.

We also pointed out that they could be more involved in the business of keeping people safe and secure.

So, while the kiosk is going through the simple, straightforward process of vetting the passport, checking the passenger was actually on the flight, vetting who they are, our border staff have a better opportunity to look at the profile and address people on an individual basis.

Good experience

The key driver is simply “How can we ensure a good experience coming into Miami?”

We want to ensure that when you land, and before you walk out of our airport, we can provide a good experience. We looked at surveys. We engage with Facebook, Twitter and all other feeds.

What are we missing? How can we improve? The introduction of the APC kiosk has definitely delivered improvement, thanks to leveraging self-service border technology. 

Aided by analysis

Thanks to the reports generated by the kiosks, we know that, if our customs hall gets too crowded, we can increase the number of Customs officers. We can generate analyses that allow us to ramp up more effectively.

We can give that data to Customs and now they're using it to help better coordinate staff within the customs hall. 

We also benefit from internal management data. Apart from the obvious detail of how many passengers are processed per kiosk per hour, we can query per kiosk how many have been approved, and how many disapproved.

We can look at the ratio and share that with Customs to explore any variances or how we can all make the process more effective and efficient. Based on the numbers Customs have been seeing, they like what they're seeing.

We currently have 36 APC kiosks operating. We expect to increase that to about 144. That’s the measure of our satisfaction with the process and the technology.

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