Welcome: Celebrating the new US Customs House at Van Nuys Airport
“Now with this change, people can now fly here from anywhere in the world.”
Kudos to our great friends at Signature Flight Support for building out the US Customs facility at Van Nuys. This is a key benefit for international flights headed in and out of SoCal. We were proud as punch to be on hand at the ribbon cutting ceremony — AND to have provided catering to the many dignitaries and VIPs in attendance.
“Now with this change, people can now fly here from anywhere in the world,” said Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, one of dozens of local, state and federal officials who joined airport business leaders for the official grand reopening of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection office. “That will attract business here, because it’ll show that the Valley is a place where such businesses can be based.”
The 1,500-square-foot federal facility now allows global jetsetters, who once had to first land at Los Angeles International Airport to get their passports and cargo cleared, to fly directly into the San Fernando Valley.
The 87-year-old airport, which caters largely to business travelers, had been without a customs officer since 2006 when U.S. Customs closed its clearing office to save funds.
The new customs house, built for $248,000 by Signature Flight Support next to its office west of runway One-Six-Right, is paid for entirely out of user fees charged to arriving aircraft.
“It is clear that facilities like this are really symbolic — for our industry, for Van Nuys and for the economy,” said Deborah Ale Flint, the newly hired executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, which operates the airport known as VNY. “(It) makes Van Nuys Airport a more convenient location for international and business travelers and gives them world-class service.”
The dedicated facility, open Thursday through Monday from noon to 8 p.m., is manned by one full-time customs officer, Armond Hayrapetian. Other hours are available upon request.
After each of the 92 international flights into Van Nuys since May — 40 percent more than were expected — Hayrapetian has told more than 400 passengers plus 250 pilots and crew: “Welcome to the United States.”
In comparison, U.S. Customs and Border Protection cleared nearly 300,000 incoming air passengers a day last year, including 35,000 a day at LAX, its third-busiest port behind New York and Miami.
Proponents say the international flights into Van Nuys will benefit business travelers who will save time by bypassing LAX, fuel the Valley economy and cut pollution and airspace congestion over Los Angeles. Van Nuys Airport, the region’s largest employer, provides more than 12,000 jobs, $1.3 billion in business revenue and $80 million in local taxes.
“It’s impressive,” said Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Panorama City, who like Sherman fought for a restored customs house back when he was a city councilman representing the district. “It is far exceeding what we all expected.
“To me, this is a day that makes me proud to be an American,” he said. “We’re going to make sure we’ll never lose a facility like this — ever again.”