The decision by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to open a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) preclearance center at Abu Dhabi International Airport leaves many of us scratching our head.
We don’t agree with the airlines on everything. But on this issue we do and join them in fighting this wrongheaded policy that places U.S. airlines and their employees at a competitive disadvantage.
So why would DHS establish, with taxpayer dollars, a preclearance facility in Abu Dhabi for an Emirate not served by a U.S. airline? Scratching your head yet?
You see, all the benefits realized from this policy flow to the UAE’s wholly owned carrier, Etihad Airways. Etihad, an airline operating free of corporate taxes at home, would be able to market its convenient preclearance services courtesy of the U.S. government. Anyone else have a problem with handing them that competitive advantage over U.S. carriers and their employees?
We already have 15 preclearance facilities, in Canada, Ireland and the Caribbean, all at airports served by at least one U.S. airline and where a large percentage of the passengers cleared through CBP continue their trip with a ticket on a U.S. airline. The Abu Dhabi plan is different, and unacceptable.
We are in an extremely competitive era in a highly globalized airline industry. It makes no sense to divert precious U.S. resources to benefit only a foreign emirate and its wholly owned national air carrier that wants to clean our clock.
Fortunately many in Congress are working to quash this unwise DHS initiative. We will step up our effort to convince DHS to withdraw its ill-advised plan. It defies common sense and harms the U.S. aviation industry and its workers.