Western Ireland’s Shannon Airport has become the first airport outside Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean to provide full U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) pre-clearance facilities for transatlantic flights to U.S. destinations.
Shannon Airport had been providing U.S. immigration pre-clearance since a successful initial trial in 1986, but customs and agriculture inspections for each flight’s passengers still had to be performed upon their arrival in the U.S. However, signing of a pre-clearance agreement on November 14, 2008 in Washington D.C. by Irish Transport Minister Noel Dempsey and senior U.S. officials paved the way for Shannon to become the first airport outside of the U.S., Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean to provide full U.S. pre-clearance facilities.
Shannon Airport immediately began work on a new passenger screening area; inspection area; post-clearance passenger holding lounges; a secure and segregated baggage holding area; and staff offices. All were required for the new facility. The facilities were designed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Dan Rooney, the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, visited Shannon Airport today to welcome passengers travelling with Continental, Delta and US Airways to the United States. These were the first passengers to be cleared through Shannon’s new US pre-clearance service facility. The passengers encountered no further checks at Newark, JFK and Philadelphia airports, the respective destinations of the three airlines’ flights.
Martin Moroney, Shannon Airport’s director, says the service will open up very significant opportunities for business development for Shannon.
“This is an historic day for our airport and, indeed, a milestone moment in Irish-US relations,” says Moroney. “Shannon is the first airport in Ireland to have these facilities in place, and [it] represents a major upgrade of the pre-inspection which commenced in 1986. It is a very proud moment for us and we look forward to maximising this opportunity in the years ahead.”
While the pre-clearance service began today with commercial flights provided by major US carriers, preclearance for general aviation flights, including corporate jets, is scheduled to begin later in the year. Shannon Airport says the attractiveness of the service is already reflected in British Airways’ decision to have a transit stop in Shannon and avail of pre-clearance at the same time on its new all-business service from London City to New York JFK, which starts in September.
Pat Shanahan , the chairman of Shannon Airport Authority, said last November that the pre-clearance agreement would create a significant advantage for Shannon over other European airports, as well as raising the profile of the Shannon Airport and the West of Ireland brands considerably throughout the world.
In addition to fast-tracking access for passengers flying from or through Shannon to U.S. international airports, pre-clearance would also enable services to be established directly to any domestic US airport, he said. This would make Shannon an ideal airport for low-cost transatlantic carriers and open the way for significant executive-jet business into any location in the US.
“This agreement has the potential for Shannon to emerge as a major transatlantic aviation gateway. It has the potential to significantly increase the number of transatlantic flights daily in and out of Shannon, which will strengthen revenue through increased landing and handling charges and support employment levels at the airport in the process,” Shanahan said in November.
Moroney added that having full pre-clearance at Shannon would also reduce processing costs and connection times for airlines, enhancing the airport’s attractiveness to carriers ― not least those already operating transatlantic services at Shannon ― and also business-aviation operators.
Full U.S. CBP pre-clearance facilities are also due to open at Dublin airport by November 2010, according to the Irish Times.
By Chris Kjelgaard