ALPA Continues Fight Against Abu Dhabi Preclearance Facility

The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l continued its no-holds-barred campaign to avert the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s misguided decision to open a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) preclearance facility at the United Arab Emirates’ Abu Dhabi International Airport.

In addition to mobilizing its members to participate in a Call to Action, the Association yesterday reached out to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a letter requesting clarification on the rationale for her agency’s decision. The letter noted, “We are dedicated to making sure that CBP’s preclearance program is managed responsibly, cost effectively, and with American national security as its primary concern. The development of a facility in Abu Dhabi, however, raises a number of concerns that must be addressed immediately.”

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Meanwhile, Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) wrote to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, reminding him of his statutory obligation to “eliminat[e] discrimination and unfair competitive practices faced by United States airlines in foreign air transportation . . .” and “strength[en] the competitive position of air carriers to ensure at least equality with foreign air carriers . . .”

LoBiondo noted that “Our nation’s airlines already are having difficulty competing with Etihad and other sovereign-owned airlines in the Middle East, including Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airlines, which receive direct and indirect support from their respective governments. The ability of U.S. airlines to compete on a level playing field with Etihad and other foreign airlines is critical to ensuring their global competitiveness and economic viability.”

On a third front, ALPA joined ranks with 10 other U.S. aviation stakeholder organizations including labor unions and trade associations to educate members of Congress about the effects of the DHS decision and its detrimental impact. In a Tuesday letter, the group indicated that by providing a preclearance facility at the Abu Dhabi airport, “the United States will support the UAE at the expense of U.S. airports, airlines, and jobs.”

ALPA maintains the position that, at a time when the U.S. airline industry is battling to maintain its global competitiveness, the U.S. government should not be signing a deal that directly benefits another country and its wholly owned national airline, while providing no reciprocal advantage to the U.S. airline industry.