US House passes law against Abu Dhabi pre-clearance facility

Washington DC
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The US House of Representatives has passed legislation that would disallow the Department of Homeland Security from opening a pre-clearance facility for USA-bound travellers at Abu Dhabi International airport.

The amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014 prohibits the use of federal funds for the facility. It was introduced by three representatives and passed by the House today.

Michael Robbins, director of government affairs at the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), says that if the pre-clearance facility were built it would be the only one where US carriers do not operate all or a majority of flights to the USA, during a briefing today. The union opposes the facility.

No US airline serves Abu Dhabi, while Etihad Airways operates to three US cities from Abu Dhabi.

The USA and the United Arab Emirates signed a letter of intent for such a facility in December 2011. Recent reports that the two countries were nearing a decision to set up the pre-clearance facility had drawn ire from US aviation industry trade groups and congressional representatives, who say that the facility will benefit only the UAE and Etihad Airways.

Reacting to the legislation passed in the House, Airlines for America (A4A) president and chief executive Nicholas Calio says: "This unanimous vote sends a clear message to the administration that using US taxpayer dollars to benefit a government-owned foreign competitor is completely unacceptable - particularly when customers travelling into and out of the US continue to endure excessive wait times at our own gateway airports."