ALPA Calls for Grounding of Abu Dhabi Preclearance Facility

ALPA issued the following statement opposing the agreement made between the U.S. government and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) to establish a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) preclearance facility in Abu Dhabi.

“It is alarming that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is putting U.S. airlines and American jobs at great risk by moving forward with an agreement to open a CBP preclearance facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Further, the fact that this will be seeded with U.S. taxpayer dollars is unjustified. This agreement must be reconsidered by the administration, and if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is unwilling, Congress must act to force a reversal of this misguided plan.

“As ALPA recently wrote to Congress, our own government is effectively picking winners and losers in the global market and incredulously, footing the bill for these services. DHS officials admit that taxpayers will fund a portion of the construction and continued operation of these facilities. This diversion of taxpayer dollars to assist wealthy foreign airlines cannot be justified, especially in a budget environment in which U.S. airports have been understaffed for years, causing our passengers to wait in long customs lines. DHS needs to provide adequate services and staffing at U.S. airports before establishing facilities overseas that give our competitors a significant advantage over U.S. airlines in attracting customers seeking to fly from Asia or the Middle East to the United States. The notion of building a facility and staffing it with U.S. government security workers in a foreign country where no U.S. airline flies is simply baffling.

“DHS resources and CBP facilities and services should first and foremost benefit the United States—its travelers, taxpayers, economy, airlines, and their employees. A preclearance facility in Abu Dhabi benefitting only Etihad Airways fails the test.

“There are currently 15 U.S. preclearance facilities located in Canada, Ireland, and the Caribbean; however, each of these airports is served by at least one U.S. airline. A large portion of the passengers who are cleared at these airports take their next flight on a U.S. airline. Therefore, American airline passengers and the U.S. airline industry are benefitted. This is not the case in Abu Dhabi because no U.S. airline flies there using its own aircraft.

“While the U.S. government plan at Abu Dhabi is disturbing on its own merit, it is only the beginning. DHS will look to provide more preclearance facilities to foreign governments that will pay. If DHS succeeds, this ‘money talks’ policy could mean CBP facilities are established at the expense of staffing at other facilities and national security.

“Congress must ensure that the administration acts to protect U.S. airlines and their workers by rescinding this outrageous agreement that will only compromise the economic viability of the U.S. airline industry and its ability to provide jobs.”

Read an op-ed ALPA president Capt. Lee Moak and Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for America (A4A), wrote together for The Hill yesterday on the administration’s flawed plan to pursue a preclearance facility in Abu Dhabi.

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