Customs outage from software update disrupts travel into the U.S.

CBP confirmed the systems went out around 5 p.m. and were back online around 9 p.m. Monday, but the agency is still unsure of the cause.
Supervisory CBPO Dale Markowitz manages passenger traffic on the primary inspection floor at Philadelphia International Airport after Hurricane Irene in 2011. (CBP Flickr)

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with new information on the cause of the outage.

An outage of U.S. Customs and Border Protections processing systems Monday night caused huge delays and disruptions for incoming international travelers at American airports.

CBP confirmed the systems used to process travelers at ports of entry went out around 5 p.m. and were back online around 9 p.m. Monday. Tuesday afternoon, the agency revealed the outage “was due to changes made to the software used to process travelers on December 28.” CBP bypassed those changes to resolve the issue.

On one of the busiest travel days of the year as many returned home from their holiday travels, the outage caused “longer than usual” wait times for those entering the U.S., ranging from 30 minutes to two hours in some airports. Officers processed travelers “as quickly as possible while maintaining the highest levels of security,” a CBP spokesperson said.


“During the technology disruption, CBP had access to national security-related databases and all travelers were screened according to security standards,” CBP spokesman Jim Burns told FedScoop in a statement. “At this time, there is no indication the service disruption was malicious in nature.”

When such an outage occurs, CBP officers must use slower backup systems to process international travelers through customs.

CBP personnel are still conducting diagnostics to find out what went wrong.

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