OSL seeks to speed US-bound travel

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Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen (OSL) is trying to become the third in Europe to let US-bound passengers clear US customs and immigration procedures before they even take off. By becoming a so-called “pre-clearance” airport, passengers can avoid standing in long lines upon arrival at US airports.

Planes docked at Oslo Airport's international terminal. Norwegian Air's rapid intercontinental expansion drew criticism from the Civil Aviation Authority after it discovered 21 serious regulatory breaches during an inspection in November. Customers lodged 29,000 complaints, mostly over cancellations and delays. Meanwhile, US airlines and unions lobbied authorities to ban Norwegian from flying to the States, arguing the carrier has breached an agreement by hiring cheaper Thai staff. PHOTO: Oslo Lufthavn AS

Passengers on flights from Oslo direct to the US may soon be able to clear US immigration and customs before they take off, if Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen (OSL) succeeds in its bid to become a so-called “pre-clearance” airport. PHOTO: Oslo Lufthavn AS

Passengers will still have to go through the full screening conducted by US Customs and Border Protection officers, but newspaper Aftenposten reported on Monday that it would be conducted at OSL before they board flights directly to the US. Knut Holen, director of terminal operations at OSL, confirmed that the airport has launched the process to offer pre-clearance, which can save time for passengers and also provide a competitive advantage for OSL itself.

“We see this as a good offer for those traveling,” Holen told Aftenposten. “But of course it could make it more attractive for passengers from all over northern Europe to travel to the US via Oslo, when it can mean that they’d avoid the bottle-neck that the immigration lines in the US can be.”

The pre-clearance could also provide a major advantage for Norwegian Air, which is keen to increase its non-stop flights to the US. Norwegian Air spokesman Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen called it an “important condition” for the airline’s expansion with more US routes to and from OSL.

“Most travelers who have been through the major airports in the US know that it can take a long time to get through immigration,” Sandaker-Nielsen told Aftenposten. “By doing this at OSL, passengers will get a much faster and more comfortable trip.” He noted that Norwegian already flies many passengers from London, Paris, Rome, Prague and Barcelona to the US via Oslo.

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) does not support the pre-clearance move, however, claiming it will mean that passengers traveling from or connecting through Oslo will need to arrive at OSL earlier than they do now, to get through the immigration process before flying from OSL to the US.

Aftenposten reported that only the two Irish airports, at Dublin and Shannon, have arranged pre-clearance in Europe with US authorities. It’s also offered in Canada, the United Arab Emirates and some Caribbean countries.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund