Tulsa International Airport Breaks Ground On Customs Processing Facility

Airlines can't fly directly to Tulsa from other countries because there's no screening area for passengers. Work started Wednesday on building one that will open in two years.

Wednesday, January 24th 2024, 7:10 pm

By: News On 6


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Tulsa's airport is closer than ever to living up to its "international" name.

City leaders broke ground Wednesday on a new customs processing center for passengers.

Airlines can't fly directly to Tulsa from other countries because there's no screening area for passengers. Work started Wednesday on building one that will open in two years.

The mayor tossed sand in the air to symbolize new flight connections to Mexican beaches.

While it was foggy at the airport during the groundbreaking, in early 2026, travelers could have more options for sunny connections on direct flights.

“We know that Cancun is the number one international destination,” said Alexis Higgins, Airport CEO. “Tulsa travelers like to go sit on the beach in Cancun.”

Each day, 115 people fly in from Mexico on connecting flights because there is no screening area for international travelers.

Customs use a small office space to deal with cargo flights, but the new international screening area will cover 45,000 square feet.

Passengers will arrive in a new connection at the Concourse A waiting area.

While city officials applauded the new recreational destinations, they also believe it's an economic opportunity.

“You think about what we can accomplish with direct flights to the major hubs of economic activity around the world, and we can get that with this facility,” Mayor GT Bynum said.

The addition will be the largest expansion of the terminal since security was centralized after 9/11.

That will stay the same because only arriving passengers are screened by customs.

It's part of a building boom at the airport, with a new hotel just finished and a new tower in the design phase now.

There's a gas station coming to the airport grounds--not a QuikTrip--and this year the airport will replace the main sign at the entrance with one that's easier to read, with “international” meaning more than it used to.

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