Star joins US airlines in lobby against Abu Dhabi pre-clearance

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Star Alliance supports increased investment in customs and immigration facilities at US airports before those abroad, as debate continues over a proposed pre-clearance facility at Abu Dhabi International airport.

"We need to invest here," says Mark Schwab, chief executive of Star, on the proposed federal inspection services facility in Abu Dhabi at an International Aviation Club of Washington DC event on 1 August.

"In my frequent contacts with business and economic leaders around the world, I'm feeling and seeing the impact," he continues. "Faced with the prospect of losing hours of their precious time standing in line, people tell me that they think twice before planning short trips to meet business partners in our country."

The proposed pre-clearance facility is the result of a treaty between the USA and the United Arab Emirates that allows the Gulf country to fund construction of the facility at one of its airports. It selected Abu Dhabi, which is not served by any US carrier, while Dubai International has service on Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.

Abu Dhabi is the main hub of Etihad Airways, which flies to Chicago, New York and Washington and has said that it is likely to add a fourth city in the USA in 2014.

The planned facility also received the ire of Delta chief executive Richard Anderson in July when he said: "It's an embarrassment to our government that as much as we, as an industry, pay into customs and border patrol, that we have issues at not just [New York John F. Kennedy] JFK, but at Newark, at Chicago, at Los Angeles, where we cannot seem to get our government to perform the very basic service."

"We're pursuing every avenue in Washington and in Congress to get this problem solved," he added. "The answer shouldn't be to outsource JFK to Abu Dhabi."

Airlines for America (A4A), the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) as well as the US House of Representatives are against the pre-clearance facility in the Gulf.

The US Department of Homeland Security, which runs the pre-clearance programme, have declined to comment on their rationale behind the facility.