BILLY BISHOP WON'T SEE ONSITE U.S. CUSTOMS ANY TIME SOON...
Porter says service would ease flow of travellers; budget cuts & 'ambitious agenda' cited as main setbacks
02-14-2013 By: Jovana Arnaut
Last week, Pearson International Airport introduced self-serve kiosks and in January, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration announced that it will eliminate 'naked image' body scanners from its airports, all in the hopes of making travel more convenient.
So with all these innovations and changes in travel efficiencies, the question remains: when will U.S. Customs arrive at Billy Bishop Airport?
Previously, the U.S. government required international airlines to carry 400,000 passengers per year in order to have U.S. Customs at its airports. But, despite the fact that Porter has reached this standard, the reality of bringing the service to Billy Bishop has been out of reach.
TRAVELHotNews.com spoke with Brad Cicero, manager, communications and public affairs, Porter Airlines, about the initiative.
He said negotiations have been ongoing and although there isn't an active application, Porter supports the idea of bringing U.S. Customs to its island airport. Having it will be convenient for travellers and most importantly, according to Cicero, the airline would have access to more domestic airports within the U.S.
"We service Newark and Washington-Dulles but Porter would like to see more than one airport served in these larger markets," he said. "Pre-screening is required since we are an international carrier and the smaller airports don't have customs onsite."
Budget cuts and unreachable timelines have been cited as some of the main reasons for the stall.
In a statement, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), responded to these claims by saying: "We have an ambitious agenda which continues to move ahead. While some of the Action Plan timelines have not been met, we remain on track to still achieve the deliverables outlined."
The CBSA focused more on the progress made by its Beyond the Border two-year action plan including an expansion of the CANPASS and NEXUS programs, and noting that this fast-track service has made travel more efficient at Billy Bishop.
The way it is vs. the way Porter wants it to be
"We do have the NEXUS line-by pass and other benefits of pre-clearance but not the full benefits," he said, adding that having U.S. Customs is something that is crucial in expanding the airline’s business and providing extra convenience to its travellers.
Currently, travellers flying with Porter, which now flies to Washington, Chicago, Boston, Burlington, Myrtle Beach and New York, are required to clear U.S. Customs and Immigration once they arrive in the country.
Beyond the Border's strategy for the future
Future plans of the Beyond the Border initiative, as outlined by the CBSA, mainly revolve around the NEXUS program. Improvements could include streamlining the renewal process; lifting the three-year residency requirement for Canadian and American citizens to apply for NEXUS; and expanding NEXUS lanes and booths by June 2013 at nine different locations.
There are also talks of expanding the CATSA security screening lines in pre-clearance areas at Canada’s eight major airports in Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
Although the CBSA couldn't give concrete answers on when Porter would be able to bring U.S. Customs to its Billy Bishop airport, it did say that it is continuing to work with the U.S. Homeland Security department to ease travel congestion, even planning to create security checkpoints at designated areas away from borders.
"As the airport international operations continue to grow, the CBSA will continue to provide services while addressing challenges, optimizing resources and embracing the changing needs of the operation," the CBSA said.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection couldn't be reached for comment.