MIAMI — The 2014 World Routes Strategy Summit in Chicago drew more than 3000 attendees, 300 airlines, 800 airports, 200 tourism authorities and hosted 10,000 meetings between Sept. 21-23. Airports interviewed at the event said that it’s a great venue to tell their stories to airline representatives and continue to make pitches for new and expanded air service.

Ville Haapasaari is the senior Vice President for Finland’s Finavia and airport director at the Helsinki Airport. In a chat at the fresh juice bar his company used lure attendees, he said World Routes was a good platform to conduct meetings with airlines. “We catch up with our existing customers, but visit with a lot of newcomers too,” he said.

Haapasaari boasted of Helsinki’s great location as a Northern European hub that offers a great route to Asia. “We started Japan Airlines service last July to Tokyo. It took a few years of discussions that started at Routes a few years ago,” he said. “That led to the service, which has been doing really well.”

Helsinki is medium-sized airport, serving 15 million passengers a year, said Haapasaari. “Everything is under one roof and compact, which allows for smooth operations,” he said. “We offer the same things most airports offer, but we’re also building an Arctic bar where passengers will be able to feel the wind and snow, giving them the look and feel of Finland.”

Cheryl Marcell is the deputy director of business development for Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. “Most airlines know about Silicon Valley, but many don’t know that our airport is in the middle of it, surrounded by one of the strongest business markets in the country,” she said. “But we are also a community that can support leisure travel, because we have the higher income levels that support that.”

San Jose knows that it needs information like what aircraft are coming into an airline’s fleet, their ranges and what future routes might be possible, said Marcell. “We know that air service development is a marathon, not a sprint,” she said. “When we meet with airlines, we give them updates and intangibles they may not know. For example, a year ago, the new 49ers football stadium didn’t exist. It is now two miles from the airport.”

The airport’s service from ANA to Tokyo’s Narita Airport is a great example of a successful pitch that started at a past Routes meeting, said Marrcell. “ANA had existing service out of San Francisco when they added a flight here,” she said. “Our service had grown and San Francisco’s hasn’t degraded.”

Customs announces major expansion of pre-clearance program

If U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has its way, pre-clearance locations outside the United States will more than double starting within the next two years, said Kevin McAleenan, the agency’s acting deputy director at the World Routes Strategy Summit in Chicago, Wednesday.

“Pre-clearance expansion offers opportunities from a commercial and passenger experience perspective,” said McAleenan. “It’s part of the U.S. government’s effort focus more on a return on investment from programs.”

Pre-clearance facilities, in operation since 1952, are currently located at 15 locations in Canada, the Caribbean, Ireland and Abu Dhabi. CBP is processing about 18 percent of passengers through pre-clearance, said McAleenan.

“CBP’s pre-clearance operations are an important step in the U.S. government’s effort to prevent terrorism from coming to our borders.” said McAleenan. “Where we can identify foreign airports willing to partner with us, additional preclearance agreements will further protect the safety and security of our citizens while also streamlining legitimate travel and commerce.”

The plan is for CBP to start a process to evaluate and prioritize an initial set of potential pre-clearance locations, said McAleenan. “Foreign airport authorities that are interested in initiating the process to establish preclearance operations at their location are encouraged to submit a letter detailing their interest to CBP,” he said.

McAleenan said his agency would then work with foreign airport authorities, host governments, and domestic and foreign air carriers to look at expansion opportunities.

Facilities in Dublin and Abu Dhabi have been successful, said McAleenan. “We want to be able to pre-clear one third of travelers by 2024,” he said. “We’ve seen 22 percent growth in pre-clearance in the past five years, and we’re doing it with the same budget and staffing.”

Pre-clearance offers a better passenger experience because there’s no waiting after a flight arrives, said McAleenen. “And this could help airlines with quicker turn times and reduced repositioning of aircraft, opening the possibility to operate additional destinations,” he said. “We also see significant security benefits from expanded pre-clearance locations.

“We’ve already had requests from two dozen airports for a a pre-clearance facility, said McAleenan. “We already have efforts in place to transform our business to be paperless, seamless and passenger driven,” he said. “This has been done through programs like passport kiosks and the expansion of [the] Global Entry [trusted traveler program].”

Pre-clearance facilities allow CBP to be proactive against threats, said McAleenan. “We can address security threats before a plane takes off, and we can do this without asking an airport to change the way they do business,” he said.

Airports and airlines can get built-in efficiencies with pre-clearance facilities, said McAleenan. “For example, when an Emirates A380 lands with 517 passengers aboard, they all get off and approach CBP lines at the same time,” he said. “In a pre-clearance world, they can arrive at different times, allowing for a continuous and more efficient flow.”

This workswith efforts like a pilot program at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport that is testing the Mobile Passport Control (MPC), which allows eligible travelers to submit passport information and the customs declaration form from a smartphone or tablet, said McAleenan.

“We also continue to grow the Global Entry, program said McAleenan. “We already have 10 foreign partners, and we want to expand and increase the number of countries involved in the program,” he said.

The timeline for airport authorities interested in having a pre-clearance facility is: letters to CBP on adding the program are due by the end of November, said McAleenan. CBP will also do site reviews, study pre-clearance models and prioritize airports it deems are ready for formal negotiations, also in December; and final negotiations will begin in January 2015. A guide has also been released for interested airports.