NEW DELHI: Facing stiff competition from the Jet Airways-Etihad combine on the lucrative US routes, Air India has requested the External Affairs Ministry to facilitate a pre-clearance facility for the flyers on its US-bound non-stop flights from major domestic airports.
The national carrier has sought the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility at Mumbai and Delhi airports to begin with, which would allow these passengers complete the immigration process at these airports itself. "We have requested the MEA for having this facility as it would enable our flyers land in the US as domestic passengers and, if granted, this would save considerable time for them," Air India sources said.
If Air India is allowed to have such a facility, its passengers would not have to go for immigration clearance on arrival, sources said. Such a facility exists for Jet-Etihad passengers at Abu Dhabi, which is the headquarters of Etihad. "Since Etihad is a partner of Jet Airways, its passengers from India flying via Abu Dhabi also avail the pre-clearance facility. Because of this, Jet Airways is taking away a sizeable portion of our traffic to US as the flyers don't have to stand in long queues on landing there," they said.
According to a recent report of the Sydney-based aviation think tank Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), passengers from India contributed 36 per cent to Emirates and Etihad's US traffic in a 12-month period ending August 2014. Under the Jet-Etihad deal, Jet Airways plans to operate codeshared flights with its partner Etihad from 23 cities in the country.
"Once the code-share flights from all these 23 cities are allowed, it would further eat into our share. But, if we get pre-clearance facility from some of our airports, it will be a big boost for us," they said.