New US security facilities at Shannon launched
NEW €21 million facilities became operational yesterday at Shannon airport that will allow US government personnel carry out nuclear and radiation screening of passengers and items.
The enhanced security features are part of the first US Customs and Borders pre-clearance facility in Europe that, according to Shannon airport director, Martin Moroney, will allow the airport become a transatlantic gateway.
Mr Moroney said: “This is an historic day and in three years’ time, this will be a very busy airport based on pre-clearance. I don’t want to give numbers, but our aim is to give substantial growth in commercial and corporate jet business on the transatlantic.”
As the first US-bound passengers used the service yesterday, Shannon Airport Authority (SAA) chairman, Pat Shanahan, described the opening of the facility as “a milestone for the airport”. Mr Shanahan said: “It is a great innovative opportunity for Shannon and offers us the opportunity to grow our transatlantic traffic.”
By using the pre-clearance facilities at Shannon, passengers making onward journeys in the US will be subject to no further customs or clearance checks as it allows passengers arrive at any US airport as “domestic passengers”.
The introduction of the facilities comes against the background of traffic on US routes out of Shannon falling by 19 per cent for the first six months of 2009 and a drop of 7 per cent on all routes.
In the airport terminal yesterday to give a send off to passengers boarding the Newark-bound, Continental Airlines’ flight, US ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney confirmed the nuclear screening facilities, stating “we have the finest technology you can get here”. The facilities are in place following a bilateral agreement between the US and Ireland. Mr Rooney said the new pre-clearance facilities will offer economic and security benefits.
“The main benefit will be for the passengers. It is just marvellous and great for everyone. It’s a win-win situation,” said Mr Rooney, the 77-year old owner of US gridiron team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mr Shanahan confirmed that the SAA is in talks with Middle-Eastern airlines and eastern European airlines to use the new service. Continental Airlines, Delta and US Airways have signed up to use the pre-clearance facilities. However, Aer Lingus will not use the service until similar facilities are in place at Terminal 2 in Dublin airport next year due to operational and logistical reasons.
In putting in place the new service, the SAA is imposing a seven-fold increase to €10.50 on passengers seeking to use new pre-clearance facilities.
Mr Moroney said the pre-clearance facilities will reduce the time passengers spend connecting to onward flights from two hours to 45 minutes.