US spending bill includes funding for Abu Dhabi pre-clearance facility

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A sweeping US spending bill will permit federal funding for a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pre-clearance facility at Abu Dhabi International airport, despite opposition from some industry groups and lawmakers.

The bill would fund the US government’s fiscal year ending in September.

Facilities under pre-clearance agreements made after 1 February, however, would be required to meet certain requirements before they could receive federal funding under the appropriation bill.

For any new pre-clearance facilities to be considered for CBP funding, the US Secretary of Homeland Security and the US Secretary of State would first be required to show Congress that it provides a “homeland or national security benefit” to the USA.

US passenger airlines would also have to operate at any airport considered for a pre-clearance facility under the new bill and could not be prevented from using existing pre-clearance facilities if a new one is opened, the bill says.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the United Arab Emirates signed an agreement to establish the Abu Dhabi pre-clearance operation on 15 April.

While the US DHS has said that establishing the operation will benefit security efforts, several US airlines, industry groups and lawmakers have opposed the facility opening because UAE-based Etihad Airways is the only operator that flies directly from Abu Dhabi to the USA.

“By allowing a [customs and border protection] pre-clearance facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport, where no US air carrier currently flies, the US government is handing a state-subsidised airline, Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a major competitive advantage over US airlines,” ALPA says in a 14 January statement.