SWAPA opposes pre-clearance at Abu Dhabi for Etihad Airways’ flights to the USA

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Southwest Airlines‘ (Dallas) pilots, represented by the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association (SWAPA) have issued this statement opposing the Customs and Border Patrol’s new Pre-Clearance located at the Abu Dhabi International Airport:

Today (January 24) marks a sad day for the U.S. airline industry, as the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association (SWAPA) learned that the first flight from Abu Dhabi to the United States was operated utilizing the Customs and Border Patrol’s Pre-Clearance facility located at the Abu Dhabi airport.

Both the U.S. airlines and their associated labor groups opposed the investment of U.S. taxpayer money into a facility that will only benefit foreign carriers.  No U.S. airline presently operates a single flight at Abu Dhabi, and the lone benefactor from this is the state-owned Etihad Airlines.  The traffic rate at the Abu Dhabi airport for U.S.-bound passengers is less than 200 per day on average, making this a poor investment of U.S. taxpayers’ increasingly limited resources.

The facility was funded earlier this month through the $1 trillion-plus omnibus spending bill, a gigantic measure which received very little debate.  The Abu Dhabi facility provision received very little attention — let alone the scrutiny it deserves — particularly while there remains pending legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would block funding for this facility.  H.R. 3488 introduced by Rep. Patrick Meehan [R-PA7] has 142 bipartisan co-sponsors.  With this measure in motion and despite an increasing throng of voices in opposition, the Department of Homeland Security still opened operations with this first flight today.

“Southwest pilots stand together with industry and labor partners to express our dismay at the federal government’s regrettable actions in choosing to open this unnecessary pre-clearance facility at Abu Dhabi,” said Captain Mark Richardson, SWAPA President.  “We are more than willing to compete against any airline in the world, including state-sponsored Middle East entities.  However, Middle East entities that already enjoy generous state sponsorship should not receive additional government support from the U.S. taxpayer.   We oppose our own government tilting the playing field further against U.S. airlines.”

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