Coup for Shannon with deal to clear US flights
THE world's first pre-clearance facilities for all US-bound flights outside of North America is to be based in Shannon in a welcome boost for the Clare airport.
The new agreement between Ireland and the US, which will be formally signed by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey in Washington on Monday, will allow all passengers travelling to the US to undertake all necessary inspections before departing Shannon.
Planning permission has already been secured for the new facility and it is expected to be operational by next summer.
Until now, only immigration clearance was provided at Shannon, with customs and agriculture checks taking place on arrival in the US. All will now be provided in the midwest region next summer in a process that should mean less commuting delays upon arrival in the US.
Pre-clearance currently only exists in eight airports in Canada and four in the Caribbean.
Minister Dempsey said he expected similar facilities to be secured in Dublin Airport in 2010 when terminal two is completed.
Mr Dempsey said that during negotiations it was made clear to the Irish representatives that the US had not offered pre-clearance to any other European country. "This is the outcome of detailed and extensive negotiations between Ireland and US officials from early this year," Mr Dempsey said.
Shannon Airport hopes that the agreement establishes the mid-western airport as an international aviation gateway.
Mr Dempsey said pre-clearance at Shannon opened up a range of possibilities for private chartered flights and the airport and also meant Shannon could access any US airport.
The minister was accompanied to Shannon yesterday by Defence Minister Willie O'Dea.
Mr O'Dea said pre-clearance provided unique opportunities for Shannon and it opened up the possibility that an international air freight hub might be based there.
Shannon Airport Authority Chairman Pat Shanahan said the agreement would mean a significant advantage for Shannon over other European airports as well as raising the profile of the airport and the west of Ireland.
"Becoming the first airport in Europe to have these facilities in place will be a very timely boost for Shannon Airport considering the current global economic downturn as well as the full onset of open skies," he added.
At the announcement, Minister Dempsey also said a decision on the independent autonomy for Cork and Shannon airports from Dublin would be made in the next three to four weeks.