We Used an Automatic Passport Kiosk and Loved Every Second of It
Pardon the slightly blurry photo, but we're beside ourselves with excitement.
Those new self-service passport processing kiosks slowly appearing at US airports to speed the re-entry process for US citizens are a godsend, and we can finally say so from experience. Already the machines are installed at Chicago-O'Hare and Dallas/Ft. Worth Airports, but encountering them ourselves at New York-JFK last week was an eye-opening surprise. It knocked our usual 40 minute wait time down to an impressive 40 seconds.
Located in Terminal 4, whose passport control area often erupts into airport hell after the arrival of foreign A380s, the 40 new kiosks were turned on October 15 to welcome travelers holding US passports...for free!
How do you use it? Well, simply roll up to one, scan your passport page, confirm that the screen has your ID and arriving flight info correct, tap to answer "no" to the usual "are you bringing anything weird into our country?" questions, and a camera snaps your photo and prints a receipt of the transaction. Show that receipt to a man in a booth (no waiting!), he'll stamp your passport, and you're free to enter baggage claim. You'll finally yield that receipt to the customs inspection officers after baggage claim, with minimal bother and no queuing.
Is it so weird that we then started humming Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA?"
Still, we couldn't help but feel bad for travelers who diverted to the Global Entry kiosks instead, as they'd paid the $100 fee and gone to an interview, and yet their kiosk procedure seemed to take longer than that of these fresh devices.
Just to be clear, foreign visitors will still have to endure the lines and questions of US passport control with no fun kiosk shortcut.
Will the immigration kiosks kill Global Entry? Our instinct says yes, in good time, but there's no telling for sure until more airports use both side-by-side and travelers see for themselves what results in the least hassle, with the least amount of wasted time. Keep a look-out for the machines at ORD, DFW, JFK and hopefully a slew more US airports in 2014.