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US Preclearance


US Preclearance HOW TO


HOW TO… … US


preclearance


It can have huge benefits for passengers in terms of reduced border control waiting times and ease of transfer to connecting flights, but US preclearance comes at a price not all airlines are willing to pay


WORDS: GARY NOAKES T


he US Department of Homeland Security is very straightforward about it; on its website it states


that preclearance is more about identifying “terrorists, criminals and other security threats” before they reach American soil than smoothing family visits to Disneyland. That said, there’s no doubt preclearance does alleviate the need to stand in a long queue at a US gateway after an often lengthy flight, and there are undoubted benefits for an airport that offers preclearance as a selling point. Preclearance is currently offered at 15 airports in six countries: Dublin, Shannon, Aruba, Freeport, Nassau, Bermuda and Abu Dhabi plus Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Winnipeg. In 2018, these channels processed 21.6 million travellers and crew members. Another 21 airports globally– including Heathrow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Keflavik, Mexico City, Milan Malpensa and Sao Paulo – are on a list of possible candidates. There is a lot to think about when


contemplating preclearance. Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al-Baker famously vetoed it, arguing his airline would be obliged to offer accommodation to any transfer


passengers who miss connections despite the fact that “they never asked us to pre-clear”. At times, preclearance can seem to be simply exporting a queue from one location to another. While Dublin boasted a maximum waiting time of eight minutes during a week in mid-January this year, Abu Dhabi’s passengers were averaging around 20 minutes, with a minimum of two minutes and a maximum of 33 minutes during its three-hour morning peak period.


The waiting game However, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) argues that processing passengers after check-in staggers the procedure more than a bulk arrival of people all at once. It urges segmentation to stagger passenger flow: For example, check-in at Dublin closes 75 minutes before departure for economy passengers and an hour before for business class. This, the CBP says, ensures most economy passengers who are not transferring have been inspected before those with minimum connecting times are processed. It does admit, however, that “scheduling flights further apart can lessen spikes in passenger volume”.


routesonline.com ROUTES NEWS 2019 ISSUE 2 99


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