Today, that message was reiterated and echoed by ALPA pilots who joined Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA), and other key aviation stakeholders at a press event at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) to support a bill (H.R.3488) that would require the U.S. government to take a serious look at the potential effect on the U.S. airline industry and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staffing before it can establish a new CBP preclearance facility. This would include any facilities at Abu Dhabi International Airport, Al Maktoum International Airport, and Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Doha International Airport in Qatar.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Meehan, is currently cosponsored by more than 120 members of the U.S. House, and ALPA’s strong support in the PHL press event is another crucial step in voicing the collective concern to the U.S. government: Enough is enough. U.S. resources and taxpayer dollars should be used to support U.S. industry and U.S. jobs.
A preclearance site allows passengers to clear U.S. customs before departure. It’s a powerful marketing advantage because once precleared passengers land in the United States, they can quickly connect to their next flight as a domestic passenger.
The primary purpose of customs preclearance sites should be to make it more convenient for passengers to travel on U.S. airlines, to the benefit of U.S. citizens and the U.S. economy. A preclearance site should not benefit foreign airlines economically nor create an unfair advantage for foreign airlines over U.S. airlines. The new site in Abu Dhabi clearly does not pass this test as only Etihad, the national airline of the UAE, flies there.
Today’s event underscores ALPA’s position that our industry is long overdue for common-sense legislation that advances the U.S. aviation industry, not that of our foreign competitors.
“A pre-clearance facility in Abu Dhabi will give a foreign, state-owned airline a competitive edge over U.S. airlines as customers traveling to America from the Middle East and Asia route themselves through Abu Dhabi to avoid the lines at customs in the United States. This will steer travelers away from U.S. carriers towards a foreign-owned airline, and we’re using American tax dollars to do it. A pre-clearance facility in Abu Dhabi will threaten American jobs and is little more than a taxpayer-funded handout to a foreign airline owned by the United Arab Emirates.”
– Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA, 7)
“No U.S. carriers currently fly between Abu Dhabi and the United States. This facility will provide a clear and unquestionable competitive advantage to a foreign airline. With U.S.-based Customs facilities routinely seeing lines stretching for hours on end, passengers will choose itineraries connecting through Abu Dhabi rather than fly on U.S. carriers that can’t offer the same hassle-free service. Why would the U.S. government willingly spend tax dollars on something that so adversely affects our own economy?”
– Capt. Ryan Delong, United Airlines Pilot
“This press event is very important to our careers. It is refreshing to see a bipartisan effort to do what is right for American jobs. I am a supporter of my Congressman, Pat Meehan. I’m appreciative of his willingness to work in a bipartisan way with Congressman DeFazio to block the Abu Dhabi preclearance facility. As a pilot partisan, I’m proud to be an ALPA pilot.”
– Capt. Tim Cosgrove, Delta Air Lines Pilot
“Etihad already enjoys a huge competitive advantage over U.S. airlines as it is supported by its government. This facility would increase that advantage and potentially shift long-haul flying from the U.S. carriers seriously impacting U.S. pilots’ future career potential.”
– Capt. Steve Crampton, United Airlines Pilot
“As an international pilot, I have experienced the preclearance facilities in both Ireland and Canada and understand the advantage that these facilities offer the passengers and crews of participating airlines. The Abu Dhabi preclearance facility can only offer these advantages to non-stop U.S.-bound flights. Basically, then, the Mideast airlines are the beneficiaries of this facility. I see no reason why the U.S. government should offer this advantage to foreign-owned airlines.
“I am pleased that Congressmen Meehan, my representative in Pennsylvania, co-sponsored this bill. I am spending some of my vacation time to come to the press conference and personally thank him for his efforts on this matter.”
– Capt. Ken Plunkett, Delta Air Lines Pilot