Buenos días everyone. Before I arrived at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City on Saturday evening, I was a bit irritated when the flight crew announced that they did not have customs forms on board. After I cleared immigration and proceeded to baggage claim in the customs hall, I was confused because I couldn’t find any blank forms anywhere. That confusion turned into surprise when I approached an American Airlines baggage agent and was told “We don’t use those anymore.” Sure enough, when I went up to the customs agent, she just asked me if I had anything to declare and told me to push the red button – thankfully the light turned green.
After I cleared customs and got in my Uber, I hopped on Google to investigate the situation. According to El Universal, SAT (the customs agency in Mexico), announced a few weeks ago that they are phasing out both customs forms and the red light / /green light random screening system at the country’s largest airports.
Both elements have already been eliminated in Mexico City’s Terminal 2 (home of Aeromexico and Delta), and they have removed the customs forms at Terminal 1 (where I landed on Saturday) as well as Cancun International Airport. The “traffic lights” will be removed from T1 and Cancun later this month, and at some point, these changes will also be implemented in Los Cabos, Guadalajara, and Monterrey. Together, these five airports handle 85% of inbound international flights to Mexico.
Instead of random screenings, customs officials and federal police will use mobile X-ray units to scan baggage between the plane and the baggage claim, and suspicious bags will be pulled aside for manual inspection in the presence of the traveler. This brings Mexico in line with modern customs procedures like those used in Europe. (No word yet as to whether this will eventually lead to connecting passengers no longer having to claim their bags in transit).
I’m excited for these changes, since it will make the arrival process much faster – according to Expansion (a CNN affiliate), the average processing time for travelers will drop from 25 minutes to just 3 minutes. What do you think of these changes? What changes would you like to see to customs screening in the US or anywhere else you travel? I’d love to hear your thoughts.