The European Business Aviation Association is calling on the US Customs and Border Protection agency to extend its pre-clearance approval to all business aircraft operations at Shannon airport in Ireland.

The plea follows the decision by the US agency earlier this month to give the go-ahead for private flights only to clear all US customs, immigration and agriculture procedures at the airport. The arrangement - the only one of its kind outside the Americas - allows non-US operators and their passengers to fly direct from Shannon to any airport in the USA as if they were making a domestic flight.

"While giving pre-clearance to private aircraft departing Shannon airport is a good development, it is ridiculous to differentiate between private and commercial flights," says EBAA president Brian Humphries.

He says European business aviation is "the fastest growing [aviation] sector after low-cost carriers, now comprising around 8% of instrument flight rules traffic. Business aviation encompasses corporate (non-commercial) and whole plane charter commercial operations. In Europe, the latter represents some 70% of the sector. And while the regulational infrastructure favours the latter, both commercial and non-commercial operations meet the same task for customers and are indivisible in nature."

Rapid and unhindered access between the USA and Europe is a vital and integral part of the service provided by this sector.

Pre-clearance for US-bound commercial passengers has been in place since August 2009 at the €20 million ($27.2 million) pre-clearance facility at Shannon. Dublin airport will open its own US pre-clearance facility later this year but it will not extend to private flights.

Source: Flight International