Could London Heathrow Ever Get US Preclearance?

US preclearance is slowly growing in popularity. However, with London to New York acting as one of the world’s busiest routes, could Heathrow ever get a US preclearance facility? Head For Points believes this idea is not beyond the realms of possibility.

London Heathrow, US Immigration, Preclearance
Could London Heathrow ever offer preclearance? Photo: Heathrow Airport

The idea of preclearance at London Heathrow Airport is nothing new. In fact, back in May 2015, the United States Department for Homeland Security originally floated the announcement. While pure speculation, HFP raised the idea that a number of factors could point to Heathrow’s Terminal 5C becoming a pre-clearance facility.

What is Preclearance?

The United States offers preclearance at a number of foreign airports. Essentially, the immigration proceedings for entering the United States are carried out before departure. As a result, when the aircraft arrives in the United States, passengers walk out of the aircraft as though on a domestic flight (and not by accident like some Finnair passengers managed last summer).

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There are currently nine preclearance posts in Canada, making it the country with the largest participation in the program. The Caribbean also offers four preclearance posts. Meanwhile, Ireland offers two, in Dublin and Shannon. Finally, preclearance is also offered at Abu Dhabi Airport in the United Arab Emirates.

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Indeed, British Airways already utilises preclearance at Shannon for its flight from London City to New York. As the aircraft has to stop to refuel, there’s no better time for passengers to clear immigration.

London Heathrow, US Immigration, Preclearance
Dublin Airport does offer preclearance. Photo: Dublin Airport

So what about London Heathrow?

The route between London and New York is one of the busiest in the world. Indeed, according to analysts OAG, 14,195 flights operated between the two cities in 2018. That’s before you even consider the flights that operate to other destinations too.

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In 2015, the Department for Homeland Security announced intentions to role out preclearance to 10 new cities. Among this list was London Heathrow Airport. Of course, a lot can change in 5 years, so whether this intention still remains is unclear. However, Head For Points speculated that it could happen.

Why?

According to the publication, American Airlines has been holding off of opening a new Flagship Lounge in Terminal 3, while British Airways is rumoured to be building a lounge in Terminal 5C. British Airways is also planning to move in with American Airlines at New York’s Terminal 8.

London Heathrow, US Immigration, Preclearance
The DHS previously identified London Heathrow as a possible preclearance airport. Photo: Heathrow Airport

Purely hypothetically speaking, American Airlines could colocate with British Airways at Terminal 5C. Due to its isolated nature, the terminal would be perfect for housing a pre-clearance facility, with passengers unable to mingle with non-US bound passengers. Of course, no plans have been announced by anybody, and it must be stressed that it is pure speculation that London Heathrow would ever host a preclearance facility.

Would you want to see a preclearance facility at London Heathrow? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Dennis

Wouldn’t need preclearance if the they had a normal, functional, and non-abusive immigration process on arrival in the U.S.

Chuck

Pre-clearance at Heathrow would be appreciated. However, Heathrow Holdings (the For Profit company which owns the airport) would not give up one singe square foot of retail space to accommodate such a facility. Heathrow will only announce gate numbers 35 to 45 minutes prior to departure to assure passengers shop… Read more »

MR SATPREET SODHI

I think it would be ideal for Heathrow to get a pre clearance immigration check for the US. It would make it alot easier for passengers to clear US immigration at point of origin, rather then queue up at the arrival point, to clear it. And I don’t know why… Read more »

Frank Doyle

Um, it’s not just AA & BA that fly to US from LHR…Delta & United aren’t going to be using anything in T5.

Ray Powell

One major point is sovereignty. Basically, that little area becomes part of the US. US law prevails.

Larry Heyman

I remember flying TWA to JFK back in the late 1980s with preclearance at LHR. Would be delighted to see preclearance there reintroduced!

Louie

It’d be great to see preclearance at LHR. Would just hate to lose lounge service at T3 (QF and CX).