U.S. Customs and Border Protection is considering building a facility in Abu Dhabi. But U.S. airlines are concerned that would give an unfair advantage to foreign carriers such as Etihad Airways.
Should U.S. Customs and Border Protection be allowed to install a pre-clearance facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport?
No, says Airlines for America, the major lobbying group for U.S. carriers. And with a new campaign, the group is making its views very clear. The group says the facility would give an unfair advantage to foreign airlines.
Under the proposal, the government of the United Arab Emirates would reimburse customs for the cost of running the facility. It’s potentially worth it for the UAE because it would make flights to the United States considerably more convenient. As they do elswhere, including in Canada, Ireland and Aruba, customs would clear passengers in Abu Dhabi, rather than in the United States. (A full list of pre-clearance airports is available on wikipedia.)
When flights from those airports arrive in the United States, they’re essentially treated like domestic flights. Passengers tend to like pre-clearance because it means no crazy customs lines after long flights.
But U.S. carriers generally don’t fly to Abu Dhabi, so they wouldn’t benefit. Instead, the new system would help Etihad Airways, which operates the bulk of international flights there.
Airlines for America doesn’t like that.
“The establishment of this facility in Abu Dhabi primarily benefits only a foreign emirate and its wholly owned national carrier, giving it a competitive advantage over U.S. airlines, their employees, and their customers who pay $1.5 billion in annual user fees,” Airlines for America wrote on its website.
A4A, as it is commonly called, has created a full website to criticize the proposal. You can find it at: http://www.drawthelinehere.com/