LONDON – The US and Belgium reached an agreement on Monday to open US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Preclearance operations at Brussels Airport (BRU).

After five years of negotiations, the deal was signed in Brussels by U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Ronald J. Gidwitz and Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence Philippe Goffin.

The agreement will allow passengers flying to the U.S from Brussels, to clear US customs and immigration checks before boarding their flights. This would allow them to immediately board connecting flights or exit the airport as though they were U.S domestic passengers.

Pre-clearing customs and immigration would save passengers a significant amount of time as U.S customs queues are notoriously long and stressful.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

First US Preclearance Location in Europe

The deal between Belgium and the US will be the first of its kind in mainland Europe.  Belgium will be the seventh country to conduct CBP preclearance alongside; Ireland, Aruba, the Bahamas; Bermuda; the United Arab Emirates, and Canada.

In 2019, 22 million passengers precleared U.S customs from 16 airports, making up 16% of all passengers entering the United States.

Uwe Aranas via Wikimedia

Official Comments

Belgian Foreign Minister Goffin praised the agreement, saying it “exemplifies the high level of trust between the United States and Belgium – two long-standing transatlantic allies – and which will allow for more efficient traveling between our countries, enhancing tourism and business exchanges even further.”

U.S. Ambassador Gidwitz framed this as “a historic deal that will enable Brussels Airport to bolster its position as a leading commercial hub in Europe and serve as an important pillar in the post-COVID recovery for the aviation and tourism sectors.”

The deal will need to be ratified by the Belgian parliament before it can become operational. Brussels Airport will also have to reach technical agreements before commencing operations.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Post-COVID Pillar

Pre-clearance will no doubt be a significant post-COVID pillar for BRU. This is especially due to the fact that Winter demand for Belgium is expected to be lower, particularly on the Transatlantic market (TATL).

In an article released today, OAG mentioned that Belgium’s TATL traffic will drop by 37.2% this Winter due to the continued effects of the pandemic.

This is of course good news for Belgium therefore, as it will encourage more travellers to head to Belgium, thus bringing in more tourism and airline/airport-based revenue that will be needed as recovery looks for a beginning point.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Featured Image: Line-up of American Airlines aircraft. Photo Credit: The Independent