Pre-clearance for US flights at Shannon and Dublin airports to expand

Costs of upgrade to be shared by US customs authorities and Irish airports

Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

Pre-clearance facilities at Dublin and Shannon airports are to be expanded as part of a new deal approved by the Government on Wednesday.

The Cabinet has agreed a new funding plan for more staff at US pre-clearance in Dublin and Shannon. This will mean extra staff will be hired and additional rostering introduced. Extra space in the airports will also be sought to increase the service.

A source said that the Government was attempting to bolster the service, which has proven to be commercially valuable, before the US expands the service to other countries. By 2020, the US is aiming to increase by 30 per cent the number of passengers that are pre-cleared.

An agreement on how to fund the additional resources at the pre-clearance areas in the airports was reached between Irish and US officials following “detailed negotiations”, the Government said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney welcomed the agreement and said that “US pre-clearance is a major asset for Irish travellers and a big draw for airlines to route tens of thousands of passengers through our airports every year. We are one of the very few countries to have it, so seeing the system expand in Dublin and Shannon is a very welcome development”.

Extra facilities

Under the agreement, US Customs and Border Protection will fund baseline services with the cost of extra facilities paid for by the two airport authorities. This could, in theory, mean that airlines may pass the increased costs on to passengers through higher fares but sources have stressed that any increase is likely to be minimal, as low as a few cent.

The Government said there were no plans to fundamentally change the operation of pre-clearance in Ireland or to give any additional powers to US officials working at Irish airports.

US pre-clearance facilitates passengers of US bound flights from Dublin and Shannon airports to fully clear all US entry controls before leaving Ireland. Dublin and Shannon are currently the only pre-clearance locations in Europe, where 1.7 million passengers availed of the service in 2017. The Government has said that additional capacity and resources were now required to allow this growth to continue.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said talks on expanding the service had been ongoing since 2015.

“US pre-clearance is a valuable asset for Ireland, allowing people move more easily between Ireland and the US, enhancing the long and unique relationship between the two countries.

“Pre-clearance has been a huge success, and my department has been engaging with the US since 2015 on the need to enhance and expand services and introduce flexibilities to the pre-clearance service in Ireland.”