Lack of resources threatens US pre-clearance service at Dublin Airport
The much-vaunted pre-clearance service at Dublin Airport, which saves passengers two hours in transit, is under threat.
The Irish Independent has learned that there are serious issues with the service offered to passengers by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Passengers currently travelling from Dublin Airport to America can save up to two hours of queuing at immigration in the United States by pre-clearing in Ireland.
Dublin is the only European country offering the pre-clearance service, which means passengers can avoid immigration queues and can collect their bags once they land in the US.
However, department officials have warned Transport Minister Shane Ross that while preclearance "operates very well", there have been difficulties with "CBP manpower resources and hours of operation" in Dublin Airport.
The transport department said all flights to the US that wanted to do so were precleared in 2015, but it warned that the service was now in doubt.
"With increasing passenger numbers, there is a risk that all flights will not preclear in 2016 unless permanent additional resources are provided by US CBP," the department brief stated.
A spokeswoman for the CBP acknowledged queries by the Irish Independent last night but did not provide a response.
Business and travel organisations here have warned that a reduction in the pre-clearance service would have major consequences for Ireland.
The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) said preclearance in Dublin attracted passengers from the UK and other European countries.
"We would have grave concerns of any indication that the pre-clearance service was going to be cut back or reduced in any way shape or form," said ITAA president Cormac Meehan.
"The current service is excellent and we would like to see it retained. Some of the airfares out of Dublin would be more competitive than what they might achieve coming out of the UK."
The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) CEO Mark Fielding has called on Mr Ross to clarify the situation. He said: "It is a boon for the economy to have it ... You can't have it that some flights will have it and others won't."