I’m pretty amused with Air India sometimes, and today is one of those days. Air India has requested the Indian External Affairs ministry to liaise with their American counterparts to get Customs & Border Protection to open pre-clearance outposts in India on the lines of Abu Dhabi airport. The Economic Times reports:
The Maharaja has asked the external affairs ministry to facilitate having US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility at big Indian airports like Delhi and Mumbai. America-bound passengers can clear all immigration, customs and agriculture inspections required by the US at these facilities during departure itself. On landing in US, they can simply collect their baggage and walk off the arrival airports like domestic flyers.
For the uninitiated, the USA for years, has operated a few outposts in places such as Dublin, where passengers can clear customs & immigration before getting on their flight to the USA, and hence arrive as domestic passengers once in the US. Recently, Abu Dhabi gained this facility. And USA has made its intentions known to provide pre-clearance at Brussels, London Heathrow, Punta Cana, Narita, Schipol, Oslo, Madrid, Stockholm, Istanbul and Manchester.
I wouldn’t be amused if there were volumes involved, but from Air India’s own network, right now they make one daily flight from Mumbai and Delhi to New York (EWR/JFK), and one flight to Chicago which are all non-stop flights. On the other hand, this is similar to the flights originiating from from Oslo & Stockholm to the USA. Apparently, AI feel threatened by the Jet-Etihad combine:
The Jet-Etihad combine is weaning away passengers from our nonstop flights to US, especially as Jet feeds Etihad’s flights to US from large number of Indian cities. Dubai and Doha airports are also going to have the US pre-clearance. In such a situation, Delhi and Mumbai — from where AI has nonstop flights to US — need a similar facility for AI to remain competitive and take on the growing might of the Gulf carriers here,” said a senior AI official.
There is also an argument built by AI for that. Apparently they are looking at starting 5 more flights to the USA from India:
San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Washington and Boston.
“We are looking at these five new stations in the US. Depending on aircraft availability, we will launch flights to some of these places by this winter,” said an official.
I don’t know how much of this I want to believe, but it sure is amusing to see Air India taking the lead on these efforts. So, if it works out, kudos to Air India for getting this through, else best of luck for trying!