International Travel To and From the United States - Box 1

International Travel To and From the United States - Box 1

Security and Travel Time Post-September 11

Immediately following September 11, the key gateways of international travel-airports and land border crossings-were affected by a sharp decline in traffic and new security concerns and procedures. Entries into the United States from Canada and Mexico fell in the months immediately following September into early 2002. For instance, in September 2001 the number of personal vehicles entering the United States from Canada and Mexico was 20 percent less than in September 2000. The decline continued in October 2001 with a decrease of 24 percent over October 2000 levels [2].

Although international air travel grew during the 1990s, it was beginning to slow in early 2001 due to the economic downturn. The September 2001 terrorist attacks further depressed air travel. International revenue passenger-miles on U.S. carriers fell by 29 percent in September 2001 and 37 percent in October 2001 when compared with the same months in 2000. International enplanements also declined by similar amounts, 27 and 32 percent less than the September and October 2000 levels.

Government agencies charged with protecting U.S. borders have tightened inspections and security procedures for both people and freight.1 The anti-terrorism law, the USA Patriot Act (Public Law 107-56), enacted on October 26, 2001, authorized a tripling of U.S. agents along the Canadian border. Border enforcement is expected to increase on the Mexican border, as well. The Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) fiscal year 2003 budget request proposed 570 new border patrol agent positions. Half would be deployed to the northern border and half along the southwest border. In addition, aviation issues closely related to large travel volumes, such as airport capacity shortfalls, congestion, and liberalization, have taken a back seat to security concerns.

Heightened security has essentially added a new element to travel time, forcing passengers to not only count the total duration of delays and cancellations among the possible inconveniences to their travel plans but to also reserve ample time to clear security before each flight. Advisories after September 2001 suggested passengers arrive at airports two hours before domestic flight departures, and three hours prior to international departures. Since Spring 2002 these recommendations have been relaxed as better knowledge is gained about airport security timing issues. Land border crossings have also been affected. In the Seattle INS district, while traffic decreased 55 percent, wait time at the border increased 443 percent from October through December 2001, compared with the same period in 2000 [1].

1. Coleman, R.S., District Director, Immigration and Naturalization Service Seattle District, presentation at the Ship Operations Cooperative Program Annual Meeting, Feb. 12-13, 2002, Seattle, WA.
2. U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Border Crossing Data, available at, as of June 2002.