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A discussion is currently under way between Washington and London to bring US Pre-Clearance facilities to UK Airports. Although the talks are still in the exploratory stages, things seem positive with some airports keen to host a Pre-Clearance facility — that said, there are significant logistical and financial issues that need to be ironed out.
Which Airports Are Interested?
So far both Manchester Airport (MAN) and Edinburgh Airport (EDI) have expressed an interest in hosting a Pre-Clearance facility. On the other hand, London Gatwick (LGW) and London Heathrow (LHR) have said they are not planning to participate in the Pre-Clearance program. This is not a big surprise since Heathrow has over 761 flights per week to the US, and the airport believes the logistics involved in establishing a US Pre-Clearance facility would be too significant. Both Manchester and Edinburgh are looking to attract a bigger share of the trans-Atlantic traffic with the presence of a Pre-Clearance facility.
Logistical Issue to Be Resolved
While discussions are still in the early stages, there are some significant issues to be ironed out. First, there is the question of cost, and of who will pay for the presence of the Pre-Clearance facility? Will it be the airport, the airline, or the UK government? And if the airline has to foot the bill, will that mean they have to pass the costs on to the passengers, which could make the route uncompetitive?
The second major issue to be ironed out is a cultural one, since US personnel are regularly armed, while in the UK even the police are not routinely armed. Will the UK Government accept the presence of armed US personnel at their airports? Or even will the US accept having unarmed personal at UK airports?
Based on previous agreements such as the Le Touquet agreement between the UK, France, and Belgium, which primarily affects Eurostar, and cross-channel ferry traffic, the agreement sees UK border controls on French soil and vice versa. However, even though French and Belgian security officials are routinely armed, they are unarmed at the UK border controls. It would be politically challenging for a UK government to accept armed foreign officials on British soil, no matter how friendly the relationship between the countries.
The introduction of Pre-Clearance facilities at some UK airports would be great, and if you consider the volume of traffic between both countries, it will make things easier for travelers. However, like most things involving governments it is expected to take a long time to iron out, with a speculative implementation date five years away.
The expansion of Pre-Clearance to the UK would be in line with the new security procedures required by the US government at international airports. Having Pre-Clearance in the UK would be a big step, since currently outside of Canada and the Caribbean, there are only three Pre-Clearance facilities at Dublin and Shannon as well as Abu Dhabi, all of which have a much lower volume of traffic than major UK airports. Getting Pre-Clearance to work smoothly will be a challenge for both the US and UK authorities.
Source: Daily Express
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