“We’re hoping the impact is going to be minimal, but it’s too tough to say at this time,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at NRF.
But some airports already are feeling the pinch, and customs officials warned Tuesday that delays would worsen in coming weeks.
“Under sequestration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not be able to maintain its required staffing levels at our ports of entry,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday, adding: “In the coming weeks we will see additional impacts as the CBP hiring freeze and furloughs take place. . . . Itineraries should be adjusted to account for unexpected delays.”
In addition to Miami and New York, customs officials said there were delays for international passengers moving through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, although airport officials there said they could not confirm the problems.
Mark Henderson, a spokesman for Miami International Airport, said that on Saturday — the airport’s busiest day for international travel — passengers who would normally wait an hour to clear customs spent up to three hours in line. Customs officials said passengers aboard 51 flights that landed in Miami waited more than two hours, while those on four flights had wait times of more than three hours.
Henderson said it’s still too early to tell whether this past weekend was an anomaly or a sign of things to come. He said customs lines had returned to normal by Monday. “It’s important that our first-timers get a good impression,” he said of wait times. “Airports are the front door of the community.”
At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, customs officials said weekend passengers from approximately 56 flights had wait times of more than two hours and those on 14 flights waited more than three.