Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, and the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) today called on Congress to focus its limited Customs and Border Protection (CBP) resources on better serving U.S. gateway airports rather than creating a new pay-to-play scheme that diverts funds overseas and puts U.S. jobs at risk.
In a joint letter to the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee, A4A and ALPA objected to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending proposal, which would allow foreign governments to pay for preclearance facilities at international airports, regardless if they are served by U.S. airlines and without consideration to where the greatest need for CBP staffing exists.
“If Customs and Border Patrol reallocates its already scarce resources to overseas facilities bankrolled by foreign governments, the United States, our airlines and our customers would be disadvantaged in this classic ‘pay-to-play’ scenario,” said Nicholas E. Calio, A4A President and CEO. “This kind of policy choice clearly undermines the ability of U.S. carriers to compete in the global marketplace and puts American jobs at risk.”
“The safety and security of our passengers and crew is our top priority and we believe having private or third parties fund a government function may have significant unintended consequences for national security as well as the competitiveness of the U.S. airline industry,” said Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA’s president.
In their letter, A4A and ALPA note that nothing in the proposed DHS spending plan stipulates that these agreements be vetted for national-security risks.
A4A and ALPA also are calling on DHS to maximize the deployment of CBP resources at U.S. airports. CBP’s airport inspection operations are increasingly understaffed, forcing customers to wait longer to be cleared into the United States, which dissuades foreign travelers from visiting the U.S. and suppresses demand for international air travel on U.S. airlines.
Other groups signing the letter include Airports Council International-North America, Allied Pilots Association, American Association of Exporters and Importers, Association of Flight Attendants, International Association of Machinists, Transportation Trades Department (AFL-CIO), Transport Workers Union, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.