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Airports urge U.S. to bolster border resources

Oct. 17, 2011, Ottawa - While extremely disappointed that the U.S. federal government this week passed legislation that will see an additional $5.50 fee charged to air travellers to the U.S., the Canadian Airports Council urges the U.S. federal government to use the new revenue to bolster strained airport resources at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Canada and the U.S.


October 17, 2011
By Carey Fredericks

"Air transportation is a global enabler of trade and tourism but budgetary and resource challenges at CBP are significantly increasing wait times for air travellers departing Canada's eight busiest airports for destinations in the U.S. For U.S.-bound travellers from other Canadian airports, the wait is simply transferred to the point of arrival," said CAC Chairman Bill Restall.  "The U.S. government now will collect some USD $90 million in additional tax revenue from Canada-U.S. travellers and these funds should go to bolster CBP resources at North American airports."

The U.S. CBP provides customs and border services to travellers departing for the U.S. from eight Canadian airports that have U.S. pre-clearance facilities at which U.S. agents pre-process travellers from within Canada.  They perform this function in the U.S. for travellers from other Canadian airports, however in recent years CBP staffing levels at many North American airports have not kept pace with the healthy growth in air traffic between the two countries.  In the first six months of 2011 alone, this traffic was up 4.5 per cent.

The new $5.50 Customs user fee is in addition to about $45 roundtrip in U.S. government fees already charged on trans-border plane tickets.

"The growing sandwich of government fees and taxes, each of which are small on their own, combine to make for an unfortunate air travel cost disparity that is driving millions of passengers to fly out of U.S. airports instead of Canadian airports," said Canadian Airports Council Chairman Bill Restall, noting that the fee is in addition to $45 per passenger roundtrip already charged by the U.S. government on transborder plane tickets.

"Another element of competitiveness, however, is in the passenger experience," said Mr. Restall.  "Airports in Canada have invested into their infrastructure in provide deliver facilities that are pleasant to travel through and with capacity for growth only to see the passenger experience sidelined by long lines at the border."

In conjunction with Washington-based ACI-NA, the CAC has been a long-time proponent of initiatives that ease the facilitation of passengers and goods at the Canada-U.S. air border from CBP and the Canada Border Services Agency, including technology-based trusted traveller programs like Nexus and Global Entry.  Nevertheless, most air travellers between Canada and the U.S. still must see a traditional border agent."

"Technology based programs hold a lot of potential to improve the passenger experience at world aviation borders, but technology alone is not the answer," said Mr. Restall.  "It is important that front line staffing resources also keep pace with traffic demand, which is only going to continue to go up."