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Customs computer system outage snarls thousands of travellers at US airports

Entry for people arriving at airports across the US was slowed Friday when a Customs and Border Protection computer system failed on Friday, forcing the manual processing of passengers on a busy summer travel day.

Several major airports including those in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and the Washington, DC, area confirmed the outage, some of them reporting backups of passengers arriving from overseas.

Customs officers at Dulles International Airport near Washington haven’t been able to process passengers arriving from outside the US since 3:18 pm. local time, said Micah Lillard, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

Passengers are being held in the international arrivals terminal and “the line is beginning to build,” Lillard said.

“CBP is experiencing a temporary outage with its processing systems at various air ports of entry & is taking immediate action to address the technology disruption,” the agency said in a tweet. “CBP officers continue to process international travelers using alternative procedures until systems are back online.”

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport said in a tweet late Friday afternoon that systems there were back in operation.

The failure is isolated to operations at airports, sparing other points of entry such as seaports or highway border crossings, and there is no indication of nefarious activity, according to the agency.

New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport said in tweets that passengers are being processed manually, slowing the entries. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport said the problem stemmed from the Federal Inspection Services’ system.

The Los Angeles airport authority has been aware of the outage since roughly 4:20 p.m. Eastern Time, said Fred Badlissi a spokesman for Los Angeles World Airports.

Videos posted on social media showed the waiting area to go through customs at Dulles packed with thousands of people.