ALPA Blasts Abu Dhabi Customs Preclearance Proposal

Letter to DHS: Flawed Proposal Helps Foreign Airlines Compete While Harming U.S. Carriers

WASHINGTON–An egregious Administration proposal to establish a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport must be immediately dropped, said Capt. Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), in a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Napolitano. The proposal will inevitably do two things: hand a state-backed foreign airline a competitive edge over U.S. airlines and reallocate CBP resources at a time of across-the-board budget cuts and long delays for U.S. airlines’ passengers.

“This misguided administration proposal adds insult to injury by using U.S. taxpayers’ money to give foreign airlines a competitive advantage over U.S. airlines while at the same time making it more difficult for U.S. airlines’ passengers to clear customs,” continued Capt. Moak. “The Administration needs to get behind U.S. airlines and U.S. workers by immediately dropping this flawed proposal.”

The administration’s proposal to establish a CBP preclearance facility in the UAE would exclusively benefit state-backed Etihad Airways, the UAE’s national airline, because no U.S. airlines currently serve Abu Dhabi International Airport. By allowing its customers to clear customs while still in the UAE, the proposed facility would give Etihad Airways a significant convenience to offer as it competes against U.S. airlines for passengers flying to the United States from Asia or the Middle East.

The U.S. Congress recently passed language in the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution that prohibits the use of third-party reimbursement for preclearance facilities such as the one the Administration is proposing in Abu Dhabi, which means that funding for an Abu Dhabi facility would have to come out of monies that are or could be used to operate and staff existing facilities.

“DHS resources and CBP facilities and services should first and foremost benefit U.S. travelers, U.S. airlines and their employees, U.S. taxpayers, and the U.S. economy,” said Capt. Moak in the letter sent today. “A preclearance facility in Abu Dhabi benefitting only Etihad Airways fails this test.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing nearly 51,000 pilots at 35 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at http://www.alpa.org.

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