Customs service comes to Skagit airport
BURLINGTON — For the first time, international flyers can land at Skagit Regional Airport following the opening of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection office.
The service, which became available last week, will be offered 24 hours a day on an on-call basis. Flyers need to give 48 hours notice before touching down.
Airport Supervisor Keith Love said having customs available will add a new level of convenience for pilots and passengers who will no longer have to land at larger airports such as Sea-Tac International Airport or Bellingham International Airport.
Customs wait times are also expected to be significantly less than at larger airports.
“A small plane might take 30 minutes to two hours,” Love said.
And at a major airport?
“Get in line,” he said.
Skagit Regional Airport has wanted this service for years, but money constraints were a barrier.
Port of Skagit Director of Planning and Facilities Sara Young said the port was able to move forward with the help of U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, who expanded Customs and Border Protection’s Reimbursable Services Program.
Being a part of that program allows the port to pay for customs service only as needed.
Rather than pay for full-time staffing, customs agents from Bellingham or Anacortes will come to the airport whenever an international flight is scheduled to land.
Usage fees — based on the size of the aircraft — will be used to cover the agent’s time.
The cost for single-engine planes is $60, twin-engine planes is $175 and large jets is $500.
The port anticipates this new service will bring more business opportunities to Skagit County and increase demand for businesses that provide aircraft fueling, maintenance and transient services, according to a port news release.
“U.S. Customs availability at the Skagit Regional will increase the use of the airport by both recreational and international business aircraft. This is an economic positive for our community and will lead to the creation of more family wage jobs,” port Commissioner Kevin Ware said in the release.
Love said the airport is planning a grand opening for the office this spring.