By Vanni Gibertini
Toronto City Airport Anticipates US CBP Preclearance Facility In 2023
The U.S. Border Preclearance program is about to add a new airport to the list of facilities where passengers can clear U.S. Immigration and Customs before departure. Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport announced last week that it is on track to open its own U.S. CBP Preclearance facility by 2023 as the authorization process is well underway and the physical space for the facility is available on-site and could be easily constructed in as little as 18 months.
Toronto will become the only city in the world to have two airports with its own U.S. CBP Preclearance with Toronto Pearson International Airport having the ability to pre-clear passengers into the United States at both its terminals. However, Billy Bishop Airport is located on a small island on Lake Ontario right in front of Toronto’s downtown business district and it is much more convenient than Pearson that requires a 30 to 45-minute drive from the city center in good traffic conditions.
“The costs associated with the Customs and Border Protection Agents agents and other factors have proved challenging, and PortsToronto and other stakeholders such as Porter [Airlines] and [terminal building operator] Nieuport have been trying to get the federal government to prioritize the service implementation. Now, as we emerge from the pandemic and are all focused on economic recovery, U.S. CBP at Billy Bishop Airport would be an effective measure to support the economy and get people moving again,” said Debra Wilson, Vice-President for Communication with PortsToronto, the company owning the airport, during a council meeting at Toronto City Hall as reported by the Toronto Sun.
It has been estimated that building the facility at the airport is likely to cost around 20 million Canadian dollars ($15.5 million), with operating costs running at approximately another 10 million Canadian dollars per year. The U.S. Government requests local operators and authorities to contribute to the operating costs incurred in running the facility. The most recently established operation at Abu Dhabi International Airport — in the United Arab Emirates — is rumored to be 80% subsidized by the local government.
Preclearance allows international flights to arrive at U.S. airports like domestic services, therefore reducing connecting times for U.S. carriers at their hubs, but also allowing Canadian carriers to serve airports unequipped to handle international flights. For example, a U.S. CBP Preclearance facility at Billy Bishop would allow local carrier Porter Airlines to operate into airports such as New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Washington National Airport, while at the moment they are serving New York City and Washington flying to Newark, NJ and Dulles respectively. Currently, no U.S. airline operates into Billy Bishop Airport, which only allows turboprop aircraft due to very restrictive noise regulations.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the airport served 2.8 million passengers in 2019, a mere fraction of the 50 million that flew from Pearson International. TorontoPorts, Nieuport and Billy Bishop-based Porter airline are confident that a U.S. CBP Preclearance facility would be an invaluable booster to airport traffic numbers: in fact, when Halifax International Airport opened its Preclearance facility in 2006 it experienced a 29% increase in transborder traffic, the Toronto Star reports quoting a study performed by Nieuport and York Aviation Consulting.
There are currently flights to five destinations in the US: Newark, NJ’s Liberty International Airport, Boston’s Logan International Airport, Washington Dulles Internationa Airport and Chicago’s Midway Airport, plus a seasonal link to Myrtle Beach, SC), but it projects to be able to add services to Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlanta, Detroit, Raleigh, NC and Nashville, Tenn. by 2025 once the Preclearance facility opens.
There are currently eight airports in Canada with their own Preclearance facility: Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Montreal-Trudeau International Airport, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Halifax. It is also present in Ireland (Dublin and Shannon), Bahamas (Nassau and Freeport), Aruba, Bermuda and the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi).