x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

US agrees deal to open Customs checkpoint in Abu Dhabi

The deal will mean the US department of homeland security will set up a checkpoint at Abu Dhabi International Airport, the first of its kind in the Middle East.

ABU DHABI // US officials have agreed to open a Customs post in Abu Dhabi, allowing passengers to bypass long lines when they arrive in America.

The agreement between the US and the UAE will mean the US department of homeland security will set up a checkpoint at Abu Dhabi International Airport, the first of its kind in the Middle East.

Under the system, passengers would go through US Customs and immigration before take-off.

US Customs confirmed the plan, first proposed in late 2011, saying it would help to increase security.

"The pre-clearance agreement with the UAE will enhance our aviation security by allowing US security officials to screen passengers before they board flights for the US," a spokesman said.

Passengers saw it as a positive. "It sounds like a good thing - no long lines upon our return," said Rita Mayer, from Florida.

But Ms Mayer, who has lived in Abu Dhabi for two and a half years, wondered if there would be any drawbacks.

"Would it involve some red-tape here at the airport?" she asked.

The UAE agreement "further underscores our commitment to protecting the safety and security of our citizens while also streamlining legitimate travel and commerce", the US Customs spokesman said.

A spokesman for Etihad Airways said: "The establishment of the US Customs facility at Abu Dhabi Airport will ensure that Etihad Airways continues to fulfil its pledge to offer a world-class customer travel experience.

"The new state-of-the-art facility will provide passengers of Etihad Airways, and its codeshare partner American Airlines, with a seamless US pre-clearance process, whether flying directly from Abu Dhabi Airport or transiting from a destination in Africa, Asia or the Middle East."

Abu Dhabi Airports, which manages and operates Abu Dhabi International Airport, declined to comment, and the US Embassy directed all inquiries to the department of homeland security.

Negotiations are continuing with the US state department on some details of the system that need to be ironed out before the checkpoint will open, USA Today reported yesterday.

Abu Dhabi would be the 16th airport to secure US Customs pre-clearance. Ireland's Shannon Airport became the first outside of North America in 1999 and was later joined by Dublin.

The US also operates checkpoints at nine Canadian airports, and in Bermuda, Aruba and the Bahamas.

Etihad Airways is the only airline to fly non-stop to the US from Abu Dhabi.

newsdesk@thenational.ae