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Commissioner Kerlikowske’s Remarks at the Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony for the William P. Hobby Airport - International Terminal

Release Date: 
October 15, 2015

Remarks as prepared for October 15, 2015

I am delighted to be here in Houston for the grand opening of the International Concourse here at “Houston Hobby” Airport. I would especially like to thank and recognize Mayor Annise Parker; Mario Diaz, Director of Houston Airport Systems; and Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines. And from CBP, I’d like to recognize John Wagner, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Field Operations; Jud Murdock, Houston’s Director of Field Operations; and Port Director Charles Perez.

This is a real milestone for the city of Houston as well as for Southwest Airlines. After a 46-year hiatus, international air service returns to this airport, providing millions of travelers with new, easier access to Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as to Central and South America.

In terms of population, Houston is: the fourth largest city in the United States; the largest city in Texas; and the largest city in the American South.

Houston’s role in the regional economy cannot be understated. The city is a leader in energy, aeronautics, manufacturing, transportation, biomedical research, and health care sectors. In fact, 25 companies on the 2015 Fortune 500 list are headquartered here, ranking Houston third among U.S. cities with the highest FORTUNE 500 concentration. Houston also appears on Forbes’ list of Best Places for Business and Careers.

This new concourse will help industries and international business travelers alike. And Houston has plenty of attractions for tourists, as well – particularly with NASA, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, a full calendar year of arts and historical festivals, and two major theme parks currently under development.

One study conducted on behalf of the Houston Airport System estimates that this new terminal will generate 10,000 jobs, 1.6 million extra travelers through Hobby Airport, and provide an additional $1.6 billion to the local economy.

This afternoon, the first international flight will arrive from Cancun Mexico. The new concourse also has the distinction of being the first international terminal and Federal Inspection Services facility that Southwest has helped design and build.

The new Federal Inspection Service area is designed to process 800 passengers an hour. This area features: 5 inbound/outbound gates; 4 outbound interview rooms; a separate corridor for international passengers; a primary processing area with 10 processing stations; baggage claim with 3 new baggage belts; and secondary processing space that includes day kennels for 4 CBP K-9s.

CBP’s area will also host personnel from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These partner agencies are so important in keeping our Nation safe and secure – from criminals and smugglers and also from pests and diseases that could harm people and agriculture resources.

I’d also like to note that a couple of CBP’s top business transformation initiatives play starring roles here in the new concourse. One is our Automated Passport Control, or APC.

APC kiosks use touch-screen technology that lets passengers scan their passports, provide fingerprints, and enter their customs declaration information. There are more than 1,000 kiosks installed at 36 airports worldwide.

Here at Hobby, we have 14 APC kiosks.

These kiosks reduce officer interaction with the passenger time by nearly half – from 55 seconds to approximately 30 seconds – while increasing security by allowing officers to focus on passengers instead of paperwork. As a result of APC kiosks, CBP has seen wait time decreases of as much as 40 percent, despite continued increases in international arrivals.

Global Entry is another traveler-friendly feature here.

This program expedites the clearance of pre-approved, low-risk travelers into the United States. The kiosks let Global Entry members bypass regular passport control queues and forego routine CBP questioning while maintaining border security. And all Global Entry members are also eligible for TSA PreCheck. We have 6 Global Entry kiosks here at the new concourse.

I also think it’s worth mentioning that one more travel facilitation and security initiative – CBP’s preclearance operations – plays a supporting role here at Hobby Airport. Since March, Southwest has being providing international service between Aruba and Houston, using CBP’s preclearance facility in Aruba, where U.S.-bound travelers clear customs and immigration prior to their departure.

In closing, I’d like to thank Mayor Parker, Southwest Airlines, and the management and staff here at Houston Hobby. I’m pleased and proud to help inaugurate this fine new facility. And I’m confident that together, we’re all going to make a positive impact on the great city of Houston.

Last modified: 
February 8, 2017