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ALPA And A4A Testify Before Congress On Preclearance Facility In Abu Dhabi, Support U.S. Aviation Industry
By Shane Nolan

July 10, 2013 - Airlines for America (A4A) President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio and Air Line Pilots Association President Capt. Lee Moak testified today before the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, addressing 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 clear case as to why the U.S.’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.

ALPA and A4A 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.

Calio said “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. 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 also voiced his strong 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.” 



Moak said “It makes no sense to have an Abu Dhabi preclearance facility, as no U.S. carrier flies between Abu Dhabi and the United States. Nor does it make ‘cents’ to use U.S. taxpayers’ money as financial assistance to one of the wealthiest emirates in the UAE, especially when doing so would provide a foreign airline with distinct marketing advantages and further exacerbate the disadvantages that U.S. airlines face in the international marketplace.” 

Today’s hearing to investigate the effects of the Abu Dhabi preclearance facility on U.S. businesses was an important step toward promoting our nation’s airlines; however, more needs to be done in order to protect the future of the U.S. aviation industry. ALPA recommended the following: 

• The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should abandon any plans to open a preclearance facility in the UAE, or any country where U.S. carriers do not do at least a majority of the flying.

• Congress should pass strong legislation that will prevent DHS from using U.S. taxpayer money to provide a benefit to non-U.S. airlines, thereby hurting U.S. airlines and their employees. It should also prohibit DHS from accepting independent funding of preclearance facilities from any third parties, including cities, countries, and carriers.

• The United States should prioritize adequate resources to fully and appropriately staff domestic customs and immigration operations to reduce passenger wait times at all international airports to a reasonable maximum. DHS should improve its services and staffing at U.S. airports instead of spreading its resources to foreign countries not served by any U.S. airline.

• The United States should adopt a formal transportation policy that supports our aviation industry and places it in a position to compete with every airline in the world. This policy would need to start with a complete review and reform of the tax and fee structure applied to U.S. airlines. 

The U.S. airline industry and its employees operate in a hyper-competitive global marketplace. Foreign airlines are often state-owned or heavily state-sponsored and operate with significant advantages such as a tax-free local environment, beneficial regulatory policy, and virtually unlimited access to the U.S. market. In contrast, the U.S. has no formal transportation policy in place that supports aviation, and it is the most heavily taxed of all industries in America with 17 unique taxes and fees. 

“U.S. airlines and their employees are driven to compete and prevail against our foreign competitors,” said Moak. “But our industry cannot prevail—or even keep pace—while hindered by actions from our own government that hurt our ability to compete in the international marketplace. The U.S. government needs to change course and level the playing field. Putting a permanent halt to the Abu Dhabi preclearance facility is a critical step in that direction.” 

A4A launched the Draw the Line Here campaign, calling on the U.S. 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. Joining A4A in this 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).
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