Casey Pushes For More Border Patrol Staffing At Pittsburgh International
U.S. Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey is calling on the White House to increase funding for Customs and Border Patrol agents at Pittsburgh International Airport.
In a letter sent to President Donald Trump this month, the Democrat argued current customs staffing at the airport is insufficient and it will only get worse in the coming months.
The number of passengers arriving in Pittsburgh on international flights grew by 30 percent in 2016 and airport spokesman Bob Kerlik said the trend is expected to continue.
“We want to make sure that they have the staff necessary to process all the new air service that’s going to be starting in the spring,” Kerlik said.
Condor Airlines will offers twice-weekly flights from Pittsburgh to Frankfurt, Germany starting June 23. WOW Air will offer four weekly non-stop flights to Reykjavik Iceland beginning June 16. Delta’s summer flights to Paris will also resume around the same time.
The growth comes at a time when CBP staffing is decreasing at the airport. Casey said there are four fewer officers budgeted for Pittsburgh International than there were in previous years.
“We want to make sure that when people are landing, that they’re not waiting in extraordinarily long lines and that customs has adequate staffing to handle that,” Kerlik said.
Kerlik said it's unclear how many additional agents are needed or if the increased volume can be handled by authorizing overtime.
“We bought new automated passport control machines that help expedite the line," Kerlik said. "There are now four of those that help people get through quicker. But at the end of the day, you still have to go and see, at least get processed by a customs official. So we just want to make sure that customs is equally invested in getting people through as quickly as possible.”
The airport authority is also actively pursuing an international cargo service, which would add more pressure to the customs staff. No final deal is in place, but Casey’s letter said it is expected to begin in the next six months.