- By Jennifer Sorentrue Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
International travelers soon will be allowed to fly directly into the Boca Raton Airport without stopping in West Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale to check in with U.S. Customs agents.
A new $4.5 million U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility is set to open at the airport this spring, officials said Tuesday.
The addition means international travelers no longer will have to stop at Palm Beach International, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International or Fort Lauderdale Executive airports to go through customs before flying to Boca Raton.
“It is an amenity that a lot of our pilots have been asking for,” said Clara Bennett, executive director of the Boca Raton Airport Authority. “Right now, they have to clear (customs) at another airport before they can come home to Boca Raton. This will allow them to come directly to Boca and clear here.”
Once open, pilots will be able to taxi airplanes up to the customs facility in Boca Raton. The 4,400-square-foot office will be staffed from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Thursday to Monday.
A reservation service also will be available for those flying outside of normal operating hours.
The project is largely funded by a grant from the state’s Department of Transportation. The remaining funding came from the Boca Raton Airport Authority. No local tax money was used to pay for the office.
Local boaters also can clear customs at the Boca Raton Airport when the facility opens.
Aircraft will be charged $50 to $500 depending on the size of the aircraft. Marine vessels will be charged about $15 per person.
Those fees are expected to offset the cost of Customs and Border Protection services, Bennett said.
During the county’s winter tourism season, Bennett said the airport is a destination for international travelers from a number of countries. Those travelers are willing to pay a fee to avoid a detour to Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach, she said.