Why is Homeland Security Planning to Use Taxpayer Dollars for U.S. National Security Services at Abu Dhabi International Airport?

July 30, 2013

A New Campaign, “Draw the Line Here” Invites Americans to Sign a Petition to Drop the Plan

Sean Kennedy, Airlines for America (A4A) Senior Vice President for Global Government Affairs

(Washington, DC, Tuesday, July 30, 2013) – Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, has launched a campaign calling on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to drop its plan (partially using taxpayer dollars) to provide preclearance U.S. national security services at Abu Dhabi International Airport–a facility that no U.S. carrier serves.

 A4A has consistently advocated for DHS to use its resources to focus on addressing the existing lengthy wait times at several U.S. gateway airports – not sign deals that benefit a government-owned foreign competitor at the expense of U.S. airlines and their customers.  Joining A4A in this national call to action are the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA)Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA),Consumer Travel AllianceGlobal Business Travel Association (GBTA), and the Regional Airline Association (RAA).

The campaign’s website DrawtheLineHere.com invites Americans to sign a petition supporting the effort.

Domestic Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities are partially funded by the airlines and passengers entering the United States through $1.5 billion in annual user fees they pay. Supporters of the campaign said the plan for a preclearance facility in Abu Dhabi disadvantages U.S. citizens and other visitors who are not adequately served by CBP today, often waiting hours to clear customs when returning to the United States.

“This ‘pay-to-play’ scheme sets a dangerous and unauthorized precedent and harms U.S. citizens, jobs, the economy and the global competitiveness of the U.S. airline industry,” said A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio. “The time is now to draw the line on this ill-conceived policy because it encourages DHS to shift its resources to those with the deepest pockets rather than addressing the greatest need.”

“What we have here is the U.S. Government picking winners and losers in the international aviation business – unfortunately the winners are the international competitors of our U.S. airlines,” said Calio. “Granting the UAE a preclearance facility makes it much easier to enter our country if you fly through Abu Dhabi than it is to fly directly into JFK, Houston, Miami, Chicago or Dallas. This agreement significantly tilts the competitive playing field against U.S. airlines.”

  • U.S. Customs waits at major U.S. airports are truly an industry-wide concern for both U.S. airlines and their passengers. Upon arriving in the U.S., air travelers should not be greeted by a frustrating, inefficient experience at our country’s major U.S. gateway airports.
  • Even though airline passengers are waiting in these excessive and unacceptable Customs lines, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to use taxpayer dollars and resources to establish a preclearance facility in Abu Dhabi – an airport which ranks 80th in average daily passenger arrivals to the U.S. and one that is not served by a single U.S. carrier. To see how Abu Dhabi’s airport ranks with other foreign gateway airports, go to slide 44 in this presentation: http://www.airlines.org/Pages/A4A-Presentation-Industry-Review-and-Outlook.aspx.
  • DHS’s plan does nothing to address the long Customs lines airline passengers endure at U.S. airport gateways, but what it does do is negatively impact local and national economies, jobs and the global competitiveness of the U.S. airline industry by offering a foreign airline and emirate a competitive advantage over our own U.S. airlines and U.S. airports.
  • Granting the UAE a preclearance facility makes it much easier to enter our country if you fly through Abu Dhabi than it is to fly directly into SF, JFK, Houston, Miami, Chicago or Dallas – this agreement significantly tilts the competitive playing field against U.S. airlines.
  • No U.S. taxpayer dollars should be invested outside the U.S. before CBP correct the mess at our own ports of entry. CBP resources should first and foremost be used to benefit the very passengers who fund preclearance facilities through the taxes and user fees they pay.

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