Facial recognition system
Sung Hyun Ha of U.S. Customs and Border Protection explains the facial recognition system. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The San Diego International Airport will open on Saturday a new international arrivals facility that can process up to 1,000 passengers per hour using the latest security technology.

The first passengers to enter the $229.4 million facility will be from a Japan Airlines flight arriving from Tokyo on Saturday morning.

Arriving passengers will pick up their bags first before going through passport control, which makes use of facial recognition technology for faster processing. Those with Global Entry cards can complete their processing while waiting for bags and then just scan their receipt.

“It is phenomenal how fast this is. It’s a game changer as far as processing,” said William Snyder, port director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He said many passengers will go through in just seconds.

Global Entry terminals next to baggage claim.

The new facility leads passengers up to the third floor first, so they can experience daylight after a long international flight.

Currently passengers from four gates in Terminal 2 can be directed to the international arrivals facility, and construction is underway to include two more gates. That will allow the airport to process three wide-body and two narrow-body jets as the same time.

“As airlines look to add to their international networks, it is vital we have adequate facilities readily available to compete and attract new air service,” said Kimberly Becker, president and CEO of the Airport Authority.

“With twice the number of international gates, the latest technologies, and an expanded baggage claim and passenger wait area, this new facility ensures we are equipped to provide a world-class experience for international passengers arriving into San Diego,” she added.

The project includes two large pieces of public art, “Carry On” — simulated images of scanned bags — and Paths Woven — suspended, twisting wooden ladders.

The airport’s international arrivals have grown from about 50,000 passengers a year in the early 1990s to more than 400,000 a year in 2017.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.