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Is pre-clearance really about making things easier or is it about the U.S. security state?

Is pre-clearance really about making things easier or is it about the U.S. security state?

  1. James321

    I recently traveled from BKK to JFK via AUH — I thought the pre-clearance was a joke. After arriving from BKK, I had to pass through AUH’s transit security and then I had to queue for the U.S. passport control (where the agents were rude even by the bad standards of the U.S.) and then I had to go through the most intensive security screening I’ve ever experienced (all devices turned on: phone, laptop, Kindle) where they even tried to get me to remove a plastic/cloth belt sewn into my travel pants. After passing through pre-clearance I had to sit on the floor until Gate 61 opened.

    Except, maybe, for Canada, what is the point of these pre-clearance facilities? Do you really think it’s about making things easier/better for travelers? Or is it about the U.S. security state attempting to control immigration outside of our own borders in sensitive places (i.e. Abu Dhabi, Europe, etc.) In my opinion, it’s more about the latter than the former…but maybe I’m wrong.

  2. No Name

    [USER=1614]@James321[/USER]

    Things are a bit more complex than the black and white picture that you paint.

    Easier/better for travelers and US state security does play a part.

    For the airlines the biggest benefit is probably not having to return passengers that are denied entry to the US.

    Also I believe I might have to do with funding, think part of the funding to run these facilities comes from local sources and not the US budget.

    So basically money/costs might be a big part of the reason for it.

  3. James321

    Right, I agree there are a couple reasons, but the entire experience — not to mention the normal experience returning to the uSA from any airport without pre-clearance (i.e. the extra security at the gate, not being able to leave once once has entered the gate, etc.) — makes me feel like I’m returning to a military empire…

    And, I would also submit: why does the U.S. think it should get to have all these pre-clearance facilities at foreign airports just so it can play security theater abroad and, as it says, prevent bad guys from even getting to U.S. soil?

    What if the Schengen Zone countries wanted to do something similar at airports all over the world? What if the UK did? What if China wanted to do the same?

    Global aviation would grind to a halt. I’m an American-EU dual-citizen, so I’m not just ragging on America, but I find it incredibly arrogant of the US to think it can demand all these extra security features in foreign airports when other countries do not have that luxury. Because, as I said, if other countries did demand US-style security and pre-clearance at foreign airports, global aviation would grind to a halt.

  4. James321

    [QUOTE=”No Name, post: 14447, member: 268″][USER=1614]@James321[/USER]

    Also I believe I might have to do with funding, think part of the funding to run these facilities comes from local sources and not the US budget.

    So basically money/costs might be a big part of the reason for it.[/QUOTE]

    And, yes, Abu Dhabi is paid for by the nice folks in the UAE, but European pre-clearance facilities would be paid for by U.S. taxpayers — who would be paying TSA and customs agents to enjoy lives in expensive European cities. (And I can’t blame them! I’d rather be checking passports in London or Paris than Kansas City!)

  5. No Name

    First of all I don’t think there is that many TSA and customs agents in Kansas City due to international flights.

    [URL]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kansas_City_International_Airport#Airlines_and_destinations[/URL]

    Second Paris is not on the list, but LON is. Oslo and Stockholm would probably fit as very expensive European cities.
    [URL]https://www.dhs.gov/news/2015/05/29/dhs-announces-intent-expand-preclearance-10-new-airports[/URL]

    And a third reason is space, or should I say the lack of it in some US airports to expand the current customs areas to cope with increased demand.

    Yes I will be expensive to have TSA and customs agents live in Europe. But it will save on investment cost up front in expanding US airports that lack space and shift a lot of the cost to long term operations costs instead.

    And sadly debacles like the Russian flight out of Sharm el-Sheikh might well lead to pre-clearance like facilities run by countries other than the US in nations of the world where the locals have problems running a security that is anything more than a sad joke.

  6. James321

    Right, but that’s my point: why shouldn’t Schengen countries get to open pre-clearance facilities in these countries? What if the Schengen Zone wanted a pre-clearance facility at Abu Dhabi? How much of a nightmare would it be for pre-clearance of every flight through Abu Dhabi to Europe? Why does only the USA get this privilege? Well, the answer is obvious: it would shut down global aviation if Schengen Zone countries insisted on similar treatment.

    Regarding, U.S. airports: ok, but how is that the problem of the UK, Norway or Sweden? Shouldn’t the U.S. just figure out how to expand its passport control space — perhaps using e-gates for Americans (and maybe visa-waiver folks) like many other countries?

  7. David W

    I think the original idea behind pre-clearance was because some airports didnt have USCBP facilities. It allowed flights from various Canadian cities to land at US airports as domestic flights and for many years, pre-clearance facilities only existed in Canada.

    The program was expanded to other countries to make it easier for passengers that are refused entry to the US but I think each country/airport that has a facility has a specific agreement and are staffed by US CBP agents.

    I’m not sure that the US is specifically privileged to open and operate pre-clearance, but that it’s a program that was created by the US and foreign countries selected to join the program. It’s entirely possible that the Schengen Zone could create a pre-clearance program but they may not want to.

    I think the experience you had could be specific to AUH. The US is trying to improve immigration – some of JFKs terminals have electronic kiosks that scan passports and print customs receipts. There is also Global Entry, which is very fast, especially if you do not need to wait for checked bags. That being said, it is the USA and we like taking forever and a half to research, test and implement new things. We’ll probably have e-gates when I retire in 50 years, hah!

  8. Anonymous

    Well, other countries do have enhanced requirements. If you’ve ever flown to London from a Schengen country you’ve probably had an additional check for liquids at the gate, or (depending on the airport), a separate security zone with a more stringent screening.

    We [I]do[/I] have electronic kiosks here — there is Global Entry for those who travel frequently, and all US citizens (and those from visa waiver countries) can use the APC: [URL]http://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens/automated-passport-control-apc[/URL]

    And while I understand your point, it really isn’t that the US thinks “it should get to have all these pre-clearance facilities at foreign airports just so it can play security theater abroad”. The airports in question are advocating for pre-clearance facilities so they can market their flights as superior to the competition. That’s why Abu Dhabi pushed for one (and is paying for it) — they want to offer a point of difference versus Emirates on US flights.

    That’s also why the BA LCY > JFK flight was so popular for years — the plane used to stop in Shannon for pre-clearance, so when passengers arrived in the US they didn’t have to deal with US Immigration and could connect immediately to domestic flights.

    So while we’d certainly like to improve the immigration situation over here, there are tremendous infrastructure costs to doing so. Our airports are older, we have more of them, and the volume of passengers is tremendous. We also have far more connecting domestic traffic than other countries, and don’t have the airport square footage to have separate immigration queues for connecting versus terminating passengers. Demand and capacity are increasing more quickly than airports can be expanded, and it’s less expensive and more logistically practical for [I]everyone[/I] to have a half-dozen CBP agents in Abu Dhabi who can screen passengers going to Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, and whatever future airports Etihad can negotiate slots at than it would be to simultaneously expand all of those airports.

    It’s not about privilege — other countries could certainly implement something similar, but it’s not economically practical or necessary for them.

    All that being said, as an American with Global Entry I hate the pre-clearance facility at AUH as well. But we have clients who specifically want to route their international parents though Abu Dhabi because it makes their arrival in the US so much better, so I recognize this facility isn’t there for me.

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