A deal signed this week by US and UAE authorities for a US customs outpost in the UAE has been blasted by the Association of European Airlines (AEA).The planned facility at Abu Dhabi would allow travellers to clear US customs before boarding their flights, handing a pivotal commercial edge to Etihad over European carriers, according to the AEA. While passengers from the UAE would skip customs procedures on arrival in the US, fliers with European airlines are now facing lengthening queues as the US ‘sequester’ kicks in, Geert Sciot of the AEA told Routes News. "Passengers arriving in the States have to wait up to three hours at certain airports before they can pass migration," said Sciot, AEA’s general manager for communications. "Due to the recent US budget cuts, the situation will get even worse." The US ‘sequester’ follows a failed budget negotiation between President Obama and his Republican opponents that has triggered automatic cuts. From Europe, only travellers on flights from Dublin and Shannon in Ireland can bypass US customs through preclearance before boarding, although other countries are seeking similar arrangements. For Sciot, the agreement with Abu Dhabi tilts the playing field against European airlines. "European airlines do their utmost to attract connecting passengers from all around the world," he told Routes News. "The fair competition for these passengers was so far based on fares, schedules and airline service. Now it will also be based on preclearance." Airlines for America (A4A) has also come down heavily against the proposed customs facility in Abu Dhabi, which the trade body describes as a ‘pay-to-play’ scheme that unfairly rewards investment by Abu Dhabi authorities. "At a time when US carriers and airports are fighting to maintain our global competitiveness, the US government should not be signing a deal that benefits a foreign emirate and its wholly owned national carrier, particularly since no US carrier serves that emirate," said president and CEO Nicholas E Calio. “Middle Eastern carriers and their governments make no secret about their aim to make locations like Abu Dhabi global hubs for commerce and tourism. Having the US government support that goal at the expense of US workers, airlines and our economy defies comprehension." A ‘Draw the Line Here’ campaign is gathering online support to force a US government backtrack. Geert called on US authorities to invest instead to cut the waiting times that are already forcing European carriers to adjust their schedules to avoid peak hours. From Abu Dhabi, Etihad currently flies direct to New York’s John F Kennedy Airport (JFK), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD).Source: route-news
Gravity always wins!