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HOW TO US Preclearance


Preclearance can alleviate queuing times for passengers arriving in the US after long flights


The CBP says there are no specified minimum passenger numbers needed to apply for preclearance, but airports should expect to start government-to-government talks 24-36 months before preclearance launches. The airport must provide all the necessary processing equipment, and the CBP says airports’ costs may also include those “related to the hiring, training and equipping of new CBP officers”. These costs can be passed onto passengers, with the CBP advising that 11 airports do so. For route planners, there is the added


consideration that slots may need to be rejigged and seamless baggage transfers facilitated. Both airports and airlines will also need to decide whether the wave period is wide enough to accommodate both preclearance and transfers.


A question of cost The biggest initial cost will probably be the physical infrastructure needed, as preclearance will be limited to a specific area of the airport that may require a bespoke build and which limits the number of gates that can be used. Dublin, for example, opened a ¤16 million facility last August to alleviate bottlenecks. The costs involved are undoubtedly a stumbling block, particularly when it comes to persuading airlines to pay their share. Manchester Airport, for example, has put on hold plans for preclearance (a project unconnected to its current £1 billion redevelopment). A spokesperson says the plans “would require the full support of our airline community”, particularly “given the


“The airlines noted significant improvements to processing times for passengers arriving in the US, and the costs associated with a UK-based service, which would ultimately be borne by passengers”


100 ISSUE 2 ROUTES NEWS 2019 routesonline.com


extra costs for users associated with developing and operating the newfacilities”. However, Manchester’s carriers have got


cold feet. “The airlines noted recent significant improvements to processing times for passengers arriving in the US, and the operational risks and the costs associated with a UK-based service, which would ultimately be borne by passengers,” says the airport spokesperson, who confirms it had “paused” its preclearance ambitions. “We remain open to looking at it again in the future,” he adds. The bets are off as to which will be the


next preclearance hub. The CBP declines to give any hints, but there are some indications. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is keen on the concept, despite hopes being dashed in 2017 when the Dutch government ruled it out following President Trump’s curbs on immigration. However, talks resumed last summer. A Schiphol spokesperson says: “Negotiations are still taking place at official level between the Netherlands and the US on the introduction of preclearance. We are also looking at how preclearance at Schiphol can be deployed operationally. We await the results of the negotiations.” Stockholm Arlanda Airport signed a deal in November 2016 ahead of an expected approval by the Swedish parliament that would have meant financial backing. Since then, says Arlanda, charges have risen and an aviation tax introduced in Sweden, meaning that “the per-passenger cost for using this service will most likely be too high relative to the expected willingness to pay”. The key Dominican Republic gateway of Punta Cana International Airport also signed in 2016, but again, nothing has materialised. Rebekah Bacon, CBP’s assistant director, field operations, preclearance field office, is still hopeful about all the 21 candidates.


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