Brussels Airport to become third in EU to get US Preclearance, reports say

Jul 22, 2020

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A new Preclearance checkpoint could make future travel out of Europe easier.

One of the biggest hassles of returning from international trips is long customs and immigration lines. If you have Global Entry or even the Mobile Passport Control app, you could skip some lines but even with those tools, clearing customs before you even start the journey home can be even better.

The United States implemented a series of “Preclearance” checkpoints at departing airports, so that when you land you can simply get off the plane and go about your day. And now American passengers flying out of Brussels Airport will eventually be able to get their documents checked before arriving in the United States.

According to Belgian Finance Minister Alexander De Croo, Belgium and the U.S. just signed an agreement that officially gave the green light for Brussels to have a Preclearance facility, according to European media reports.

Brussels Airport had been under consideration by U.S. officials ever since the Obama administration released a list of potential airports for Preclearance facilities back in 2015.

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A Preclearance facility allows U.S.-bound passengers to go through immigration and customs before arrival, essentially allowing the international flight to be considered as domestic upon arrival. Passengers can seamlessly connect onto other flights and check their luggage to the final destination without having to leave security. Global Entry members can take advantage of their membership at Preclearance locations as well.

Brussels would become the third European airport to have this service after Dublin and Shannon in Ireland, and the fourth airport on the eastern side of the Atlantic if including Abu Dhabi (AUH) as well.

Related: 14 things to know about Global Entry before your next trip

The U.S. government also signed an agreement with Sweden to operate a Preclearance facility at Stockholm Arlanda (ARN) in 2016, though that has yet to be implemented. It also committed to a new Preclearance facility opening at Bogota Airport in August of last year.

While no official timeline has been released yet, the plan is for 30 American customs agents to be stationed at the airport to conduct checks on U.S.-bound passengers. According to The Brussels Times, this is expected to help lighten the load of customs services at New York (JFK) and Washington, D.C. (IAD), which host most of the routes to the U.S. from Brussels.

Related: Lack of Preclearance facilities prevent LaGuardia passengers to fly into Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport

Officials are also hoping that the new installation can help the financially struggling Brussels Airlines, which has a hub operation in the namesake airport. They predict that this facility can help make Brussels Airport more popular with American passengers, which could translate into an increase in feed for the airline’s hub operations — especially into its African network.

As success for Brussels Airlines is critical for Brussels Airport’s operations, it was actually the airport management that requested the agreement.

“The work is only now beginning,” airport spokesperson Ihsane Chioua Lekhli said to the Brussels Times. “We are now going to work with the airlines and other partners to see what the impact will be on operations and costs, and how we can organize everything practically.”

In the meantime, U.S. is currently working to add an additional 20 countries to its Preclearance operations. The next most likely airport to get Preclearance approval is expected to be Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Review: Brussels Airlines premium economy on the A330

Featured photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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