Airlines for America (A4A) reports that President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, addressing the administration’s agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to establish a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) preclearance facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport – a facility that no U.S. carrier serves.
As the panel explored the Abu Dhabi agreement and its implications for U.S. passengers and businesses and national security, Calio made a case as to why the Administration’s decision to establish a CBP preclearance facility in Abu Dhabi is a bad deal for taxpayers, travelers, U.S. airlines and their employees, and our overall economy.
A4A sad it has consistently advocated for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to use its resources to focus on addressing 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.
“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," Calio said.
Calio also voiced his opposition to U.S. taxpayer dollars being used to foot the bill for preclearance services in Abu Dhabi, particularly while passengers wait in lines up to four hours to clear customs at U.S. gateways.
“This diversion of taxpayer dollars to assist wealthy foreign airlines cannot be justified,” said Calio. “No U.S. taxpayer dollars should be invested outside the U.S. before we correct the mess at our own ports of entry.”
Calio urged members of the Committee to enforce the direction Congress has already given to DHS and put an end to DHS efforts to open facilities in foreign countries and instead commit to work collaboratively with the U.S. airline, airport and travel and tourism industries to resolve lengthy wait times at U.S. airports, A4A said.
A4A also says it launched its Draw the Line Here campaign, calling on the administration to drop its plan to provide preclearance U.S. national security services at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Thousands of letters from concerned citizens have already been delivered to the White House and DHS, A4A said.
The A4A said joining A4A in the national call to action are the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA), Consumer Travel Alliance, Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), and the Regional Airline Association (RAA).