A move is afoot to allow improved advance customs clearance facilities for US-bound passengers from Ireland. They will continue to avoid arrival immigration queues when they land in America.

The operator of Dublin Airport is to lodge plans in the coming days for an expansion of its existing US Customs pre-clearance and border protection facility to cater to increasing numbers of US-bound passengers.

As part of the plan, Dublin Airport Authority is to also seek planning permission for the partial demolition, refurbishment, and upgrade of an existing landside building to become the South Apron Support Centre at Dublin Airport.

Close to 1.7 million US-bound passengers will avail of pre-clearance facilities at Dublin Airport in 2023, and the new application to be lodged with Fingal County Council forms part of the authority’s €1.9 billion capital investment plan.

The pre-clearance facilities at Dublin and Shannon airports allow US-bound passengers to undertake all US immigration, customs, and agriculture inspections at the Irish airports prior to departure.

The Dublin and Shannon facilities give the airports a competitive advantage over most other airports operating services to the US Passengers who go through pre-clearance at Dublin and Shannon airports are treated as domestic arrivals in the US, allowing them to avoid immigration queues and pick up their bags and go.

A Dublin Airport Authority spokesman said on Monday that the refurbishment of the proposed South Apron Support Centre building will occur first and is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2024 and be completed in the fourth quarter of 2024.

With that in place, the construction of the pre-clearance extension is then expected to take just over two years, enabling immediate expansion to accommodate the current number of people taking advantage of the facility to pre-clear US immigration at Dublin Airport, the fifth largest trans-Atlantic hub airport in Europe.

In a separate development, five property owners are selling a large Dublin Airport landbank of 260 acres at the center of the airport grounds, raising questions over the future of land seen as a critical national asset.

The Irish Times reports that the decision presents a strategic and financial challenge to the Dublin Airport Authority. The state body now faces questions as to whether it spends potentially many millions of euro to block any other party from gaining control of real estate crucial to its long-term growth.

The land between the north and south runways will be presented as an “ideal location” for a third terminal in an international marketing campaign this summer.  The sale comes amid concern the airport will soon reach capacity as travel recovers after the pandemic disruption, although senior airport figures believe a new terminal won’t be needed for 20 years. 

*This column first appeared in the May 31 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.