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).

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.

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.

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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