US extends its pre-clearance facility at Shannon airport to private aircraft


CORPORATE JET travellers will be able to “cross the US border” at Shannon airport following the extension yesterday of the airport’s US pre-clearance and customs and border protection facility to private aircraft.

The facility will allow passengers on US-bound corporate jets that have pre-cleared at Shannon to land in the US as domestic passengers.

The pre-clearance at Shannon for corporate jet travel is the only one of its type outside the Americas following an agreement between the US and Irish governments.

Pre-clearance for US-bound commercial passengers has been in place since last August at the recently constructed €20 million pre-clearance facility at Shannon. Later this year, Dublin airport will open its own US pre-clearance facility, but it will not extend to corporate jet travel.

Aer Lingus has opted not to use the Shannon facility until similar facilities for commercial passengers are in place in Dublin.

Shannon Airport Authority board member Mark Nolan said yesterday: “Time after time in its history, Shannon airport has led the way internationally in aviation innovation and once again, here we are first in the field with an aviation winner of great significance to Shannon, Ireland and Europe . . . The facility provides a unique opportunity to develop substantial new private aircraft business”.

Formally opening the service, US ambassador Dan Rooney said: “Pre-clearance is a tremendous idea . . . It is going to be good for Shannon and the entire area.”

The new facilities will allow US government personnel carry out nuclear and radiation screening of passengers and items.

Chief executive of the European Business Aviation Association Brian Humphreys welcomed the work “to create a new US border at Shannon airport”.

However, Dr Vincent Cunnane, the chief executive of Shannon Development and a Shannon Airport Authority board member, said there was a need for additional marketing funds to promote Shannon’s new customs facility for corporate travel.

“Additional marketing funds for the facility is certainly something we are going to need,” he said.

Fine Gael TD Pat Breen yesterday described the new facilities as “ground-breaking” but accused the Government of doing almost nothing to promote the facilities.

In response, Clare Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley said: “What Deputy Breen clearly doesn’t understand is that the pre-clearance facilities are marketed directly to the airlines and not to the general public.”

Airport director Martin Moroney was unable to quantify precisely the revenues that the new facility will generate for Shannon.

He said: “We do know that we are the only airport in the world offering this service outside America. Nobody is clear on how attractive and beneficial it will be for users to come to Shannon.”

However, Mr Moroney said that it makes common sense for corporate jets to use the facility at Shannon that would be refuelling anyway in Europe en route to the US. He said: “It will take six months or so to see, but we are very hopeful of the growth in this area.”