WORLD ROUTES: US Customs and Border Protection Plans to Double Pre-Clearance Capacity at Airports

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plans to double pre-clearance capacity at Airports over the next decade, CBP acting deputy commissioner, Kevin McAleenan, revealed at the start of the second day of the Strategy Summit at the 20th World Routes Development Forum in Chicago yesterday, writes Jutin Burns for The HUB.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plans to double pre-clearance capacity at Airports over the next decade, CBP acting deputy commissioner, Kevin McAleenan, revealed at the start of the second day of the Strategy Summit at the 20th World Routes Development Forum in Chicago yesterday.

He detailed the expansion which he explains will be led by a new pre-clearance “flexible model” that will bring security and commercial benefits to host governments, while the CBP’s goal is to pre-clear 33 per cent of all US-bound passengers by 2024.

McAleenan explains the CBP will “administer a process to evaluate and prioritise potential new preclearance locations" in October 2014.  Airports interested in the new process are then to be invited to submit a letter of interest by the end of November 2014.

The US Department of State will prioritise applicant airports in December, before conducting site visits and working with gateways to develop their pre-clearance model, specific to them.  The CBP then intends to start negotiations for new locations in January 2015, and agreements will then be reached between host governments and the CBP to establish operations 24-36 months after negotiations.

McAleenan told delegates: “Pre-clearance is the answer and can bring significant opportunities for commercial projects and passengers and security.  About two dozen airports have contacted the CBP about pre-clearance, and we are seeing a reduction of 40-50 per cent in waiting times in airports working with us."

“Pre-clearance has security benefits and the new flexible model brings commercial benefits along with security benefits and is better for passengers as well. It is a win-win for everybody,” he added.

He noted it means travellers don’t have to wait as it is faster, while it opens up destinations in the US, increases passenger volume and brings new routes to the US.  The CBP has seen a 22 per cent growth in passenger volume being pre-cleared in the past five years, but McAleenan says “resources haven’t kept pace”. 

The agency currently permits pre-clearance at 15 locations in Canada, Ireland, UAE, Bahamas, Aruba and Bermuda.  Around 29 per cent of commercial aircraft and 18 per cent of commercial air travellers arriving in the US were pre-cleared last year.

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