WASHINGTON, 12 April 2013. Airlines for America (A4A) officials are calling for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to scrap its plans to establish a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) preclearance facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). A4A is calling it a “pay-to-play” scheme that sets a dangerous and unauthorized precedent and harms U.S. citizens, jobs, the economy and the global competitiveness of the U.S. airline industry.
Domestic CBP facilities are partially funded by the airlines and passengers entering the United States through $1.5 billion in annual user fees they pay, says a spokesperson. According to A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio, the plan for a preclearance facility in Abu Dhabi disadvantages U.S. citizens and other visitors who are not adequately served by CBP today, often waiting hours to clear customs when returning to the United States.
“The proposed agreement with Abu Dhabi creates an incentive for DHS to shift its sources of funding to those with the deepest pockets rather than addressing the greatest need,” Calio says. “At a time when U.S. carriers and airports are fighting to maintain our global competitiveness, the U.S. government should not be signing a deal that benefits a foreign emirate and its wholly owned national carrier, particularly since no U.S. carrier serves that emirate.”
“A4A urges the Administration to abandon this ill-conceived policy, cease efforts to obtain funding from foreign governments, and instead continue to work with the U.S. airline and travel and tourism industries to resolve lengthy wait times at U.S. gateway airports,” Calio adds. “Middle Eastern carriers and their governments make no secret about their aim to make locations like Abu Dhabi global hubs for commerce and tourism; having the U.S. government support that goal at the expense of U.S. workers, airlines, and our economy defies comprehension.”