The U.S. plans to continue expanding their international preclearance locations. Currently at 15 locations in Abu Dhabi, Aruba, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, and Ireland, this addresses about 18% of inbound travelers. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) wants to nearly double this within ten years.
Some may recall that Delta Air Lines as well as the Air Lines Pilots Association expressed strong disagreement with the U.S. opening up preclearance in Abu Dhabi. After all, they reasoned, there is no way this will help any U.S. carriers since they fly from Dubai, not Abu Dhabi. Indeed, the big winner here was Etihad Airlines who just happens to be based here.
While it didn’t help U.S.-based airlines, the other big winner from all these preclearance centers is travelers. I appreciate the concerns of the airlines and pilots but the bottom line is travelers to the U.S. can clear customs and immigration much faster at these locations outside the U.S. than inside. There is also a national security element because CBP can more thoroughly screen travelers before they get on a plane instead of when they arrive in the U.S.
I also appreciate that those who have Global Entry, including me, feel that maybe our investment wasn’t so worthwhile since GE only helps with CBP clearance in the U.S. The bottom line for the benefit of Global Entry is where you fly from and how often. While maybe I can’t take advantage of it arriving from certain locations, the others more than make up for that for me.
This growth plan begins next year when CBP will begin formal evaluations with other countries. Foreign airports that have an interest will submit proposals this month. Next, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will evaluate these submissions and conduct on-site visits. Those that are approved should be operational within 2-3 years.