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Logan’s new kiosks lessen customs wait

Brandon Wu, 19, of Dover used one of Logan International Airport’s self-service customs kiosks. The machine asks passengers basic questions about their items to declare and spits out a receipt. Travelers then finish up with a customs agent.

Photos by Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Brandon Wu, 19, of Dover used one of Logan International Airport’s self-service customs kiosks. The machine asks passengers basic questions about their items to declare and spits out a receipt. Travelers then finish up with a customs agent.

American and Canadian travelers can now jump the long lines that snake around the US Customs inspection area during peak hours at Logan International Airport, according to the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Massport on Tuesday unveiled a $2.1 million investment in 30 self-service kiosks to reduce US Customs and Border Protection processing times for travelers arriving in Boston from foreign destinations.

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The agency says the machines are critical to moving passengers through customs smoothly as the airport experiences an influx of international travelers from new nonstop overseas flights and foreign carriers that plan to adopt larger planes.

“We have to get ahead of what we see coming at us so we don’t get this implosion of travelers and processing times,” said Thomas Glynn, chief executive of Massport. “It’s really a customer service imperative, and it seems like it works.”

The first 20 kiosks were installed last month and have reduced processing times by about 19.4 percent, according to US Customs. Now passengers wait an average of about 23 minutes to pass through customs.

Officials say the machine automates the process to submit declaration forms and biographical information and reduces the amount of clerical work placed on the customs agent.

“It expedites the process,” said Kevin Weeks, director of field operations for US Customs in Boston. “We feel it enhances our ability to vet or examine the traveler because the officer is no longer busy with key strokes or checking the passenger in.”

For now, only US and Canadian residents can use the kiosks set up in the customs inspection area of Terminal E. The touch-screen machine asks passengers basic questions about the items they must declare, scans passports, takes a picture of each person, and spits out a receipt. Travelers enter a separate — and Massport says shorter — line from other passengers to present their passport and receipt to a customs agent, who finalizes the inspection.

Zeren Earls, 77, used the kiosks for the first time when she returned to Boston from a trip to Istanbul in late June. The Cambridge resident said it previously took as long as 30 minutes to clear through customs and the kiosk reduced her wait to a few minutes.

“I like it because it shortens the time you are in front of an officer,” she said. “Once you go through, he already has the information electronically. Then you breeze through.”

Ed Freni, director of aviation at Massport, says longer lines reflect the growing number of international passengers at the airport.

About 2.3 million international travelers passed through Logan in the first six months of the year, up 6.6 percent from the same period in 2013, according to Massport. Logan added nonstop flights to Panama, Dubai, Istanbul, and Beijing in the last year.

Freni expects the number of foreign passengers to continue to increase. Four airlines have expressed a desire to fly the Airbus A380 into Logan. The A380 is the largest commercial aircraft in the sky and can seat between 525 and 853 passengers. Massport intends to add more nonstop international flights, including one to Israel, in the future.

“We’ve struggled a little bit with the influx of international travelers,” Freni said. “During the peak periods, the officers have 2,000 people coming through. We’re trying [to] mitigate that.”

Ten additional kiosks will be installed by September.

Taryn Luna can be reached at taryn.luna@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @TarynLuna.
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