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Schedulers: Business Aviation Customs Clearing Improving

People involved in international trip planning say years of coordinated efforts between industry and government are paying off, helping both entities to enjoy new efficiencies in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) procedures.

A pilot program will initiate a single-syntax, web-based XML Advance Passenger Information System (APIS). This program will enable operators to receive email confirmations for submissions through the APIS system, which has been modified to acknowledge the unique operating characteristics of business aircraft. This will ultimately separate the GA APIS transmissions from the processes used by airlines. This system, to be launched in 2022, will include electronic confirmations for APIS, landing rights and customs clearances.

“Customs officers spend a lot of time answering calls from general aviation operators,” said Jamie Porter, VIP accounts supervisor at UAS International Trip Support. “When the new system fully rolls out, operators will receive information electronically, reducing the resources needed to process general GA operations.”

Some ports already are processing these clearances electronically, but experts recommend trip planners still call the respective ports to follow up. Operators will receive an APIS receipt, which will be time- and date-stamped, providing an audit trail should it be needed.

“We don’t operate like an airline, so having to file APIS like an airline was confusing. The new confirmations are easier to read and make more sense for business aircraft operations.”

Megan Knox CAM, Scheduler and Accounting Administrator, Liberty Global Inc.

“We don’t operate like an airline, so having to file APIS like an airline was confusing,” said Megan Knox, CAM, scheduler and accounting administrator at Liberty Global Inc. “The new confirmations are easier to read and make more sense.”

In addition to electronic receipts for clearances, CBP is developing “port pamphlets” to include with confirmations. These pamphlets include critical information for the respective location, such as operating hours, location of the customs facility and clearance processes. There are over 200 single-page pamphlets available.

Operators also are benefiting from CBP’s Reimbursable Services Program (RSP), which allows them to request customs clearance services outside of normal CBP operating hours, with the operator reimbursing the agency for these services.

Operators, international service providers, airports or other stakeholders can apply to join the program. Once approved, they can request “out of hours” arrivals into selected ports and pay the overtime fees in advance. The requesting entity “partner” also must undergo training and sign an MOU with CBP.

Laura Everington, senior manager of government and industry affairs at Universal Weather & Aviation, Inc., and a member of NBAA’s security council, said the downturn in overall operations early in the COVID-19 pandemic helped the RSP expand, as organizations had more time to look at how to make their operations more efficient and flexible.

While there are some inconsistencies from one port to another in the exact RSP procedures, experts report that some ports have virtually perfected the process. Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport, for example, accepts reservations and payment for overtime services online, making for an almost seamless transaction.

These improvements to CBP procedures are direct products of industry/government working groups, demonstrating the value of coordination for improving efficiencies for both parties while ensuring the highest levels of security.

Review NBAA’s customs resources at nbaa.org/customs.

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