Aer Lingus must seek US arrangement to allow Shannon passengers avail of the US Customs and Border Protection facility – Breen

August 28th, 2009 - Pat Breen

Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Clare TD Pat Breen has called on Aer Lingus to negotiate a temporary arrangement in the US which would allow their Shannon passengers to avail of the US Customs and Border Protection facility. Deputy Breen claims that the provision of a separate lane or channel in the US Terminals which Aer Lingus operate services into from Shannon Airport would resolve this problem until such time as full pre-clearance facilities are available at Dublin Airport.

“When I tried to raise this matter on the Order of Business before the Dáil recess, I was ruled out of order. The fact that Aer Lingus is not using the new state-of-the-art US Customs and Border Protection facility at Shannon sends out all the wrong signals from our former national carrier.

“The situation now for Aer Lingus passengers departing to the US from Shannon is intolerable and cannot be allowed to continue. Passengers are facing delays of up to two hours when they arrive in the US and I have been inundated with complaints from passengers who are very annoyed at this treatment, especially when passengers travelling on other carriers leaving Shannon do not have to face these lengthy queues. In the longer term this will affect Aer Lingus itself and US traffic from Shannon; with a lot of people telling me that the next time they travel to the US they will not travel with the airline.

“I see no reason why Aer Lingus cannot negotiate a deal with the US Port Authorities in the airports they fly into, which would facilitate their Shannon passengers. The provision of a separate lane/channel on a temporary basis in the terminals which they currently fly into from both Dublin and Shannon Airports would overcome this problem and I would urge the airline to commence immediate negotiations with the US Authorities in an effort to put such a system in place.

“Of course, the other reason why Aer Lingus claims that they will not use the Shannon facility at present is because transiting passengers on their flights from Dublin through Shannon would have to disembark with their hand luggage and all the belly baggage would have to be cleared at Shannon. I cannot understand why this is such a major problem. Previously the passengers disembarked to clear immigration and then re-boarded, the only difference now is that they would have to bring off all hand luggage and the belly luggage would have to taken off and put through the screening facility which can be accessed airside. While it may take a little longer on the ground in Shannon it will be of huge benefit to their passengers when they arrive on the other side. I would encourage the airline to do a test run on one of their flights before ruling this option out completely.

“The US Customs and Border Protection facility at Shannon Airport is a state-of-the-art facility which now needs to be built on and developed further. Not alone must Aer Lingus come onboard and process their passengers through Shannon but the provision of cargo pre- clearance is now essential if the airport is to develop into a major international cargo logistics hub.

“I will be raising these matters with the Minister for Transport and Marine, Noel Dempsey, immediately upon the resumption of the Dáil as this situation cannot be allowed to continue. It is bad for Shannon Airport and it is bad for Aer Ling