Oslo Airport To Get US Pre-Clearance Facility

It looks like Oslo Airport may become the first in mainland Europe to get a US Pre-Clearance facility.

US-Pre-Clearance-Facility-1

For those of you not familiar with Pre-Clearance facilities, it’s whereby you clear US customs & immigration prior to boarding your US-bound flight, meaning you land in the US as a domestic passenger. Presently the extent of Europe’s Pre-Clearance facilities is limited to Dublin and Shannon, so this would be a very interesting addition.

Beyond that, Pre-Clearance facilities are common in Canada and the Caribbean, and there’s also a facility in Abu Dhabi, which I was a vocal critic of at first, though it has apparently improved substantially over time.

Abu-Dhabi-PreClearance

If run properly, a Pre-Clearance facility can be a great idea. Immigration queues in the US are crazy at times, so being able to arrive in the US as a domestic passenger makes the journey all the more pleasant. For my own uses I’m not a fan of Pre-Clerance facilities, since I have Global Entry, whereby I can breeze through customs & immigration in the US. But of course that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea.

It’s interesting to see how Oslo Airport, as well as airlines operating out of it, feel about this program. Via newsinenglish.no:

“We see this as a good offer for those traveling,” Holen told Aftenposten. “But of course it could make it more attractive for passengers from all over northern Europe to travel to the US via Oslo, when it can mean that they’d avoid the bottle-neck that the immigration lines in the US can be.”

Northern European airports are already incredibly practical for connecting within Europe (especially compared to the likes of London, Frankfurt, and Paris), and to many this would be a further selling point. The one downside I see is that Northern European airports have among the shortest minimum connection times in the world, so obviously they’d have to be lengthened substantially if a Pre-Clearance facility were added.

Not surprisingly, Norwegian Air Shuttle supports the addition of the facility:

The pre-clearance could also provide a major advantage for Norwegian Air, which is keen to increase its non-stop flights to the US. Norwegian Air spokesman Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen called it an “important condition” for the airline’s expansion with more US routes to and from OSL.

“Most travelers who have been through the major airports in the US know that it can take a long time to get through immigration,” Sandaker-Nielsen told Aftenposten. “By doing this at OSL, passengers will get a much faster and more comfortable trip.” He noted that Norwegian already flies many passengers from London, Paris, Rome, Prague and Barcelona to the US via Oslo.

Surprisingly, SAS seems to be opposed to the concept:

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) does not support the pre-clearance move, however, claiming it will mean that passengers traveling from or connecting through Oslo will need to arrive at OSL earlier than they do now, to get through the immigration process before flying from OSL to the US.

This is an interesting stance. Typically European airlines are big supporters of Pre-Clearance facilities. So I’m not sure whether SAS is actually opposed to it, or is just opposing it because Norwegian Air Shuttle supports it.

Bottom line

Ultimately this is probably good news for travelers, since these facilities in Europe have historically been well run.

That being said, I still think the idea behind the program as such is flawed. There’s nothing efficient about setting up all these facilities around the world to service a few flights a day. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to just put substantial effort and funding into improving the US immigration process instead?

Would you like to see a Pre-Clearance facility expand to more airports in Europe?

Comments

  1. One more line to wait in at the Oslo Airport? No thanks–it is bad enough the way it is. If you are a EU citizen, it is a breeze, but for Americans, it is one long, slow, line after another.

  2. > Wouldn’t it be more efficient to just put substantial effort and funding into improving the US immigration process instead?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the host country wasn’t picking up a substantial part of the tab.

    Besides, there’s a sizable security-at-ANY-cost contingent in the US that, if they could, would subject everyone to interrogations on the way into the US as if we all had the black flags of ISIS somewhere in our luggage.

  3. Pre-Clearance is no longer about passenger experience. It about security on the US end. If the US can reject someone from coming into the US then it is no longer their problem dealing with detaining them (especially when dealing with asylum cases). The real passenger experience problem (same as in Abu Dhabi) is going to be the lack of services post Pre-Clearance. I seriously doubt SAS/* Alliance is going to invest in building ANOTHER lounge for a handful of flights.

  4. Presumably SAS is not a fan because it creates additional complication for them — notably, they might have to open a new lounge post-preclearance. Norwegian presumably doesn’t care as much about that since they don’t offer as many amenities.

  5. As a Global Entry participant I don’t care either way as long as there are kiosks at the pre-clearance facilities. Otherwise, they become a setback rather than an advantage.

  6. While this can work, i don’t see where they are gonna get the space from, the Non-Schengen part of OSL is already very small and at capacity, and the planned extension ATM doesn’t have jetbridges for widebodies (that could of course change).

    I think if it’s well managed though the pre-clearance facility can be a massive plus for Oslo.

  7. SAS probably doesn’t like this as I’d imagine a larger percentage of their traffic is connecting than Norwegian. Anyway you slice it, preclearance at a connection point is a huge pain, as compared to doing it at point of origin.

  8. In general, I’m for proper staffing and facilities at domestic arrivals areas.

    The only airport where pre clearance in Europe would be a good thing (in one sense anyways) is London Heathrow… flights depart almost the entire day to the US and there’s enough of them that it would actually take a burden off stateside facilities. The question of course would be how to get everyone on ~10 different airlines that use all 4 terminals through the same facility and then into sterile areas in their respective terminals. Given that it’s Heathrow, it would assuredly be a nightmare.

    If they insist on doing these things, it would make much more sense to charge fortress airlines for the privilege of using them (maybe not 100% — maybe 50% of the cost) and require they segment off some of their terminal as a sterile pre-cleared area. This would make sense for BA in LHR, LH in FRA. AF in CDG, KE in ICN, etc where all the flights can be operated from the same area of the same terminal. Then they can advertise the benefit to their customers–if there is any.

  9. “Wouldn’t it be more efficient to just put substantial effort and funding into improving the US immigration process instead?”

    My understanding is that most airports in friendly nations have the option of hosting a pre-clearance facility, but they (or their governments) are required to foot the bill. To date, only Canada and Ireland have done so, Canada due to the sheer volume of transborder traffic, and Ireland to try and maintain their historic role in trans-Atlantic travel.

    Abu Dhabi is a bit of a special case because whether the Middle Eastern countries are “friendly” depends on who you ask. Certainly the US carriers argued the UAE should not have pre-clearance facilities when Abu Dhabi first annnounced the plan.

    Ultimately, I think pre-clearance facilities benefit most travelers (or would if designed properly). So long as they have Global Entry kiosks (Canada does, not sure about Ireland/AUH) it really shouldn’t impact people with GE other than increasing the MCT.

    TL;DR – Improving immigration at the US end would cost the US money. Pre-clearance shifts the expense to the foreign airport/government.

  10. “Wouldn’t it be more efficient to just put substantial effort and funding into improving the US immigration process instead?”

    The problem is, no one can agree on how to do that, and until they can, why not let other countries pay for it?

  11. Unless I’m misunderstanding, this would be a great help for US connection times, as luggage could truly be through-checked. Passengers would never have to retrieve and re-check their luggage.

    And no time needs to be budgeted for non-GE folks for the immigration queues. (Even as a GE, I need to allow a bit of extra time as I’m one of the “funky fingerprints” folks.)

    GE and non-GE would no longer have to re-clear security for the connection.

  12. I believe the only reason SAS is against it in Oslo is because they gave an albeit weak still positive response to the swedish proposal to have preclearance att Stockholm-Arlanda. They can’t have it at all three scandi capitals, not enough planes nor passenger. Considering Oslo being Norwegians hhomebase and Copenhagen having so many disruptions from union strikes, Stockholm does seem as their only choice.

  13. Of course SAS would be against it. Wikipedia says they only fly Oslo-Newark while Norwegian flies to Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, JFK and seasonally to LA and Oakland. Why would SAS be in favor of something that helps a competitor more than themselves?

  14. We had it at London – Gatwick Airport some 30 years ago when Northwest had flights going stateside. It was fantastic. Like any good idea, it didn’t last. Now we have to queue for the ‘privilege’ of entering America. It would be nice if we were allowed some form of fast track. Having family over there, and having flown over some 60/70 times in the past 35 years, are we a threat!

  15. Geeez SAS. When will they ever accept that the world moved forward? If it was up to SAS, nothing would have changed since the mid 1900s. They always lagging behind.

    Btw, they just today flew the first flight with their new long haul cabin (all planes ready by approx sept). They just now have realized that they need a better bizz cabin than the old fashion they had/have. They started today with their flat bed seats. The good thing is that they have 3-point seat belts, approved for laying flat during taxi, takeoff and landing.
    It took them a while, but at last, they MIGHT have got it right.

  16. Plenty of unfair comments towards SAS here. The main reason they are not thrilled with this is because of the very short existing transit times in OSL, of just 30min. A pre clearance facility would increase the minimum transit time and would deprive them of that advantage.

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