Airlines want DHS to ground Abu Dhabi pre-clearance facility plans

"The Abu Dhabi agreement will shift the resource allocation dynamic to reward deep pockets while entry points with the greatest travel demand and need for staff continue to suffer," the coalition wrote in a letter to lawmakers that was released this week.

"CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] has been working for two years to create a staffing model that demonstrates which ports of entry have the highest traffic levels and thus merit additional staffing," the letter continued. "Our government resources, in this case, America’s CBP officers, should not be for sale to the highest bidder."

The coalition said that "DHS should focus on fixing America’s airport staffing first, before providing this benefit at foreign airports that are not served by U.S. carriers."

The letter was signed by the presidents of the Airlines for America; the Air Line Pilots Association; Airports Council International – North America; the Association of Flight Attendants - CWA; the Consumer Travel Alliance; the Global Business Travel Association;  the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; the International Brotherhood of Teamsters;  the Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO; the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO and the Regional Airline Association.

The groups have launched a website called to encourage opposition to the Abu Dhabi pre-clearance facility.

The DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The agency has said it selects pre-clearance sites to make international travel and commerce easier.

"Pre-clearance is the process by which CBP officers stationed abroad screen and make admissibility decisions about passengers and their accompanying goods or baggage heading to the United States before they leave a foreign port," the agency says on its website. "CBP officers do, however, retain the authority to inspect these passengers and their accompanying goods or baggage after arriving in the United States should it be warranted."