San Diego International Airport opens new customs facility


San Diego International Airport is opening a new customs area and gave the Frugal Fliers a sneak peak. Technically, called a new Federal Inspection Services facility, the airport redesigned four existing gates to allow for more international arrivals in Phase 1. It will expand to two other gates in Phase 2, which is underway. Once complete, the airport will have the capacity of handling up to six international flights at once. Currently, the airport can handle three from airports without preclearance.

The change will require yet another gate change for airlines who currently use the high numbered gates as they will become common-use with preference going to arriving international flights.

The airport first modified gates 48-51 on the west end of the terminal. All are now “swing gates,” which will either allow arriving domestic passengers directly into the terminal or divert international passengers not arriving from preclearance airports to the new customs area.


This was created by adding stairs and a walkway to the old exterior of the building.

Eagle-eyed readers will notice this gate can't fit the larger international aircraft.

Many gates have been restriped to accommodate larger aircraft at this end of the terminal. It appears the a 747-400 is the largest plane that can fit here. Currently, British Airways is the only carrier that occasionally uses the 747.

Fun fact: the international area is the only place in the airport with signs for the toilet. Everywhere else the signage is for restrooms.

Passengers will then make their way upstairs to a room with an obscene number of stanchions.

It was designed with a lot of natural light and there’s a blue hue throughout, which is supposed to remind travelers of the sky. The black signs in the upper corners are actually dynamic, digital signs to control flow based on need. For example, a flight filled with Americans returning from Mexico will have different method of processing compared to a Lufthansa or Japan Airlines flight with a healthy mixture of international and American travelers.

This area is only for American and Canadian passport holders and anyone else eligible to use an Automated Passport Control kiosk. Pro tip: you can bypass the line by filling out your declaration ahead of time with the Mobile Passport Control app.

Everyone else, including Global Entry holders and passengers who completed a mobile declaration can skip this hall and continue to the baggage area.

The airport added an escalator above an existing one to bring travelers down two floors to baggage claim. The tan colored walls are meant to remind travelers of the area's many canyons.

The artwork in baggage claim is inspired by the beach on one wall, which appears sand-colored.

“Carry-on” luggage art graces the frosted window.

Each "bag" contains one unique item sourced by the community such as the balloon animal in one bag.

Global Entry holders will go along the sand wall to one of the kiosks. Meanwhile everyone else can grab their luggage.

Notice the test bags still on one of two carousels. The system utilizes the existing baggage belt since these carousels used to be numbered 7 and 8.

San Diego is the second airport with CBP’s new layout. It requires passengers to get all of their luggage before seeing a customs officer. And, yes, luggage carts are free in this area only. Carry-on passengers should benefit from quicker processing since they're not stuck behind those who will have to wait for luggage.

Again, the airport installed digital signage to adjust queues based on how many passengers are ineligible for automated processing. International travelers will have to queue for screening by an officer sitting at one of 16 new podiums. Everyone who used an automated kiosk will go along the wall for final verification and speak with anyone who received a dreaded “X” on their kiosk receipt.

The secondary screening area is visible after passing through primary. There is a seating area and access to an interview room. Holding cells in the back if needed.

Finally, passengers are directed to exit through the first of two sets of doors.

After the first doors it's a quick u-turn to drop your baggage off for a connecting flight, but only if your bag is tagged to your final destination. If you're going to a different airline you'll have to haul it to the counter by going through the second door.

This delivers you to the meet and greet area, which features an ATM, currency exchange and information desk. All of which were still under construction when this photo was taken. There are also plans to add a coffee stand. For your caffeine fix now you’ll have to use Einstein Bagels near Checkpoint 6.

Connecting passengers going to Terminal 1 can take a shuttle bus at the existing MTS bus stop. Terminal 2 passengers can go to the next building and proceed upstairs to TSA screening.

This $229.4 million project is a big step forward for San Diego International Airport. It significantly increases the size of the FIS from 26,000 square feet to 130,000 square feet.
San Diego International Airport opens new customs facility San Diego International Airport opens new customs facility Reviewed by Brandon on June 28, 2018 Rating: 5

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