The head of US carrier Delta Air Line has hit out at plans to introduce a customs pre-clearance facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport, which is designed to reduce hefty queuing times for passengers travelling to the US.
Richard Anderson said that delays in clearing international passengers at US airports was an “embarrassment” and the result of wider government spending cuts.
A report by US Travel said that customs delays in the US were putting $95bn worth of economic activity and 519,000 jobs in the country at risk.
“In the US we collect a fee from every passenger, but cannot get the kinds of levels of support,” Anderson told analysts during a conference call. “The answer shouldn’t be to outsource JFK to Abu Dhabi.”
The proposal to open customs pre-clearance in the UAE capital has attracted intense criticism from the airline industry and Air Line Pilots Association, among other industry groups. Among issues raised by these groups that it would give Abu Dhabi-government owned airline Etihad Airways a competitive advantage via US tax payer money.
Under the agreement, passengers flying from the UAE capital to any US city will be cleared by American customs and immigration officials before boarding their flight, speeding up the entry process and helping the US screen passengers who might be denied entry before flying to the country.
It is believed it is the first time a new destination has been approved for the service since Ireland in the 1980s. The US has operated customs pre-clearance in locations in Canada and some Caribbean islands since the 1950s and 1960s, according to the US Customs and Border Protection website.
Abu Dhabi will reportedly pay 80 percent of the cost of the service but US customs and immigration officials will need to be based in the UAE.