Airport System Director Mario Diaz says Bush Intercontinental has seen over a fifty percent increase in international travelers over the past decade.
Last year about nine million visitors flew into Houston from other countries. That’s the most in the airport’s 43-year history.
But the sequestration cuts have Diaz concerned. He says they’re already seeing longer-than-usual wait times for passengers going through customs. Diaz says before sequestration, the wait time for most international passengers was around 30 minutes.
Now he worries those wait times could increase to several hours. That’s because of overtime cuts and furloughs for Customs and Border Protection agents.
“We could start to see fifteen to sixteen to seventeen thousand passengers trying to make their way through immigration on a typical weekend. We won’t have the personnel. We won’t have the resources.”
And Diaz says if the situation isn’t resolved in Washington:
“I fear that international business, international tourism — that will drive the economy of this country forward — will stall. And it will have significant consequences for the economy of this country.”
Diaz says the effects could also be felt at small regional airports that lose their air traffic controllers.
He says there are some companies that refuse to fly their business jets into airports that don’t have an active control tower.