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The program is advantageous to travelers and to national security, but this “blue seal” CBP approval could make certain routes and hubs more popular than others. No doubt, both airlines and airports take note of this.

American Airlines, JetBlue, and United have applauded the decision by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expand its Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) preclearance program, saying it will contribute to a rise in U.S. Tourism.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced on May 29 that the U.S. will expand air preclearance operations to ten new foreign airports, in nine countries: Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

The ten foreign airports identified for possible preclearance locations are: Brussels Airport, Belgium; Punta Cana Airport, Dominican Republic; Narita International Airport, Japan; Amsterdam Airport Schipol, Netherlands; Oslo Airport, Norway; Madrid-Barajas Airport, Spain; Stockholm Arlanda Airport, Sweden; Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey; and London Heathrow Airport and Manchester Airport, United Kingdom.

“A significant homeland security priority of mine is building more preclearance capacity at airports overseas,” said Secretary Johnson. “We have this now in 15 airports. I am pleased that we are seeking negotiations with ten new airports in nine countries. I want to take every opportunity we have to push our homeland security out beyond our borders so that we are not defending the homeland from the one-yard line. Pre clearance is a win-win for the traveling public. It provides aviation and homeland security, and it reduces wait times upon arrival at the busiest U.S. airports.”

American Airlines welcomed the proposal.

COO Robert Isom said of the announcement: “Expanding air pre clearance is a tremendous step forward for improving the overall travel experience for our customers and welcoming more visitors to the United States. Pre clearance eases the congestion at our U.S. gateway airports and ensures our customers get to their destinations faster. We fully support Secretary Jeh Johnson and the Obama Administration’s plans for bringing more tourists to the United States, and we are excited to begin discussions on expanding pre clearance facilities.”

Of the airports on the list, American serves: Heathrow, Manchester, Narita International, Madrid-Barajas, Brussels, Amsterdam Schiphol, and Punta Cana International Airport in the Dominican Republic. The airline stated its commitment to support DHS and CBP in this effort “to ensure the negotiations are successful.”

JetBlue’s CEO Robert Hayes also celebrated the decision, stating:

“As New York’s Hometown Airline, I congratulate Secretary Johnson and the dedicated team of professionals at the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection on today’s announcement that pre clearance operations will be expanding. We believe that in addition to the need for an increase in CBP staffing at key U.S. gateway airports, more pre clearance facilities like the ones being proposed around the globe are an important tool to enhance our nation’s security and reduce the number of travelers clearing Customs stateside — and that ultimately reduces wait times for travelers on all airlines.”

The airline serves Punta Cana, featuring it in its JetBlue Getaways, and has also partnered with JAL to serve the Japanese Airline’s customers with domestic U.S. connections on flights to Boston, JFK and San Francisco from Narita International Airport.

United issued this statement:

“We have worked closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and support developments that provide more convenience for our customers. We thank Secretary Johnson and his team at the Department of Homeland Security and CBP for their engagement with United and the airline industry, and we look forward to partnering with them on this initiative to facilitate travel and reduce wait times.”

Despite a pilot program at its home-base Atlanta airport for a new CBP app, Delta Airlines issued no official statement on this latest CBP announcement.

DHS points out that the CBP Program has made the immigration process faster and more “traveler-friendly.”

Successful CBP programs have already been carried out at Dublin and Shannon in Ireland; Aruba; Freeport and Nassau in The Bahamas; Bermuda; Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg in Canada; and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

As the Department claims that existing CBP programs have already benefited those who travel abroad with “average wait times were down 13 percent at the top 10 airports last year.”

“CBP’s preclearance operations are an important step in the U.S. government’s effort to prevent terrorism from coming to our borders,” said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “Where we can identify foreign airports willing to partner with us, additional preclearance agreements will further protect the safety and security of our citizens while also streamlining legitimate travel and commerce.”

In addition to expanding the CBP program, DHS and the Department of Commerce, have outlined plans to upgrades technology at 17 U.S. airports which collectively account for 3/4 of International arrivals to the U.S., as previously reported by Skift.


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Tags: american airlines, jetblue airways, united airlines

Photo credit: A CBP officer provides training to an enrollee with the use of a Global Entry kiosk located at the Ronald Reagan building in Washington, D.C. The CBP has also reduced wait times at JFK through use of kiosks. Josh Denmark / CBP

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