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Airport Security US Pre-Clearance

Returning to the US out of Dublin, Ireland, we found that we had to go through two layers of "US Pre-Clearance" security in Dublin airport. First was the usual removal of shoes, putting all belongings on X-ray conveyor belt, walking through metal detector. Next was passport control, which entailed laying your passport on a scanner, having your photo taken, and taking the resulting printout to an agent who showed you a photo of your checked luggage and asked you to verify if it was yours.

This all takes extra time in the airport. Luckily we had allowed more than 2 hours from our connecting fight, as it took well over an hour to wait in the lines and get through. By the time we came out, our flight to the US was listed as "FINAL CALL." If our Dublin-bound flight had been late, we might have missed our connection.

Some years ago I flew to the US from Toronto, Canada, and encountered a similar process there. I didn't remember having to do this from anywhere in Europe, but I'd never flown out of Dublin before. I heard on the news today that this system is only in place at a few airports -- among them Dublin and, you guessed it, Toronto -- but the TSA plans to implement it at additional busy airports around the world, such as LHR.

I suppose it is a security enhancement since it's intended to prevent people with questionable credentials from even entering the US in the first place, instead of apprehending them once they land at their destination US airport. For law-abiding travelers, it is just something to be aware of when planning how long you'll need to get through security on your US-bound flight.

BTW, I highly recommend Aer Lingus. It was one of the cheapest fares we were able to find, and we had no complaints about the quality of service and condition of the airplanes.

Posted by
1626 posts

On our return from Europe last fall we had a connection in Montreal with a similar process. Since one clears US customs in Canada on the way to the US, they had the same thing where they checked passports, then put your name on an electronic board and asked you to wait until they your name started flashing. Finally, (I'm guessing about 30-45 minutes later) our name came up and the US customs agent asked us to confirm the 3 bags we checked were ours, shown as photos on his computer screen. 1st and 2nd bags (2 carry on roller size bags), no issues), but when he asked what was in the gun case (our third bag). we both piped in that it wasn't our bag. Our third bag was a box with Scotch.
So we waited in the customs area for another 15 minutes until they sorted it out. Apparently they matched up the gun case picture to our baggage claim check. We'll they brought up the luggage matched to our claim check, and sure enough it was our coveted box of scotch. Customs was very apologetic and wasn't sure what went wrong, but thankfully we had a three hour layer. I think it took us a full two hours from the time we stepped off the plane until we arrive at the gate for our flight to San Francisco.

Posted by
3122 posts

The gun case??? OMG I would have just about had a heart attack. Good thing they were able to straighten it out -- and you got home with your case of scotch!

Posted by
559 posts

Hi Epltd,

Thanks for sharing your experience. I have two questions: 1) Was your flight from Dublin a connecting flight through Dublin from somewhere else or did it originate in Dublin?
2). Do you have Global Entry?

The reason I ask is that I will be returning from Dublin to Boston in about two weeks. However, my Aer Lingus flight will start in Amsterdam, connect through Dublin and head to Boston. I'm wondering if I do the clearance in Dublin anyway? If so, now I'm worried about timing of my flights.... However, I do have Global Entry - perhaps that would shorten my time in Dublin passport control?

Any thoughts?

Thanks!

Posted by
3122 posts

Hi Gretchen,

  1. Our flight originated in another European city and country (Glasgow); we changed planes in Dublin.

  2. Since I am not sure what Global Entry is, it's probably a good guess we don't have it. We have been "TSA Pre-Cleared" on domestic flights within the US, and we have the State Dept. border crossing cards and "verified" driver's licenses from our state as well as valid passports, but that did not get us any preferential treatment leaving the US bound for Dublin, much less expediting us through the Dublin US Pre-Clearance rigmarole.

I hope it works out smoothly for you. I just Googled "Global Entry" and, FWIW, I see that the kiosks in the photo on the Customs & Border Patrol website look just like the ones we used in Dublin for the passport control phase.

Posted by
5383 posts

All flights to the USA through Dublin these days have pre-clearance. It is only really a time saver if you have a connecting flight at the other end, as you are treated as a domestic passenger, so as well as avoiding doing the clearance on arrival you also don't need to do security if you are then departing from the same terminal. Dublin is now the fourth biggest departure point in Europe for the USA in passenger numbers, so there can be a bit of a wait at busy times.

The TSA may want it but it is questionable it will be possible in Heathrow simply from the required scale of the operation. It may be possible from smaller airports which have the required space; I believe Manchester is interested. If Heathrow ever does get sorted out into an airport with checkin at either end of a long 'toast rack' arrangement of gates as they intend, you could see one or two of the racks maybe doing this. (The present terminal 2 and 5 are at either end of this 'rack'; terminals 1 and 3 would need to be demolished.)

Posted by
2795 posts

Actually, flying out of Dublin to the US that 2nd later of security, Passport Control, was your entry into the US. When you arrived in the US you did not go through immigration and customs as you would from arrival virtually everywhere else, you simply walked off the plane, grabbed your luggage, and moved on. This system is now to be added to several other airports abroad. It is also in use in flying from Canada to the US. And using my local international airport, Philadelphia, as an example, the International Arrivals Hall with the Immigration and and had to go through the entire airport to get to the arrival hall, and have their luggage taken there Customs processing is in Terminal A at the extreme western end of the airport. Terminal A handles the large planes. Smaller planes coming in from Canada use B through F. If someone landed all the way East at "F" they would have a logistical horror-show.

The scanning of the passport, answering the questions on the screen and taking this to the immigration agent was introduced at PHL and significantly reduced the time spent in the arrival hall. I would recommend that if you find again yourself in a long line situation where you could miss your flight, even though you were properly ticketed, that you find someone and show them you are on a tight connection, they should move you through.

Posted by
48 posts

This information concerns me, because I have a flight on 1 July from Chicago to Dusseldorf with a connection in Dublin. The layover is only an hour. I wonder how they will do a pre-clearance and get us to our connection in time?

Posted by
2795 posts

Looks like that is a standard connection tie for Dublin, see the web pages for Dublin Airport and Aer Lingus. In any event, this is not pre-entry into Germany, that will be done there. The pre-entry is only for into the US.

Posted by
920 posts

Larry's right. I flew from Montreal to Philly in February and went through this. It seems a little odd (the passport scan and photo taking--in which you will look like death warmed over-yay) if you haven't gone through the process before. But now that I recall, there's an American flag and Statue of Liberty backdrop once you pass through signifying you're in U.S. Territory even though you're still in Canada. I thought it was just a Canadian thing--informative to find out it's in place at other airports.

Posted by
9363 posts

Yes, U.S. Immigration has been in place for a number of years now in both Dublin and Shannon. It has nothing to do with Global Entry.

Posted by
3122 posts

Lisa, what Larry wrote is correct: it is pre-clearance for US-bound flights only. You won't go through this to connect to your Dusseldorf flight.

When we flew from the US, we changed in Dublin for Paris and didn't go through any sort of pre-clearance. It was only homeward; we had to go through it before we could board our US-bound flight out of Dublin.

Upon arrival in Paris, we had to go in the line for non-European Union passengers, show our passports to have them stamped. It was simple and quick. I don't even remember having to answer the kinds of questions that the UK passport control officials usually ask, like "where will you be staying?" or "how long will you be in the UK?"