The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Reimbursable Services Program (RSP) allows business aircraft operators to conduct international flights with more flexibility by allowing off-hours customs clearance, leading to scheduling efficiencies and safer operations.
Almost 50 airports are approved for the RSP for Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc., which Laura Everington, Universal’s senior manager of government and industry affairs, said meets a growing need.
“Over the years we saw a reduction in available overtime and after-hours services. Now with RSP, we’ve got that flexibility back. It’s a win-win for the industry and the agency and officers alike.”
Laura Everington Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc
“Over the years we saw a reduction in available overtime and after-hours services,” said Everington. “Now with RSP, we’ve got that flexibility back. It’s a win-win for the industry and the agency and officers alike.”
Through the RSP, operators, international service providers, airports or other stakeholders can apply to the program and once approved, request off-hours arrivals into selected ports, paying the overtime fees in advance. The requesting entity “partner” must complete an application process, undergo training and sign a memorandum of understanding with CBP.
The CBP RSP was expanded in 2016 under the Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act, making it easier for CBP to enter into service fee agreements with private entities. In 2017, the agency announced an indefinite open period for RSP applications, meaning entities wishing to partner with CBP in the RSP may apply at any time throughout the year. However, applications are reviewed just three times each year – typically in March, July and November.
Business aircraft operators and FBOs participating in the RSP report the application process can be lengthy, especially if you submit an application right after an evaluation period and must wait for the next review cycle but is not overly complicated.
CBP RSP partners say the program’s key benefits are safety and efficiencies in both time and expenses.
Elizabeth Dornak, director of aviation at DuPont de Nemours, Inc., explained that utilizing their CBP RSP program at Wilmington, DE, allows a flight to clear customs after hours and without making an interim stop solely for the purposes of clearing customs.
Dornak said the program is good for the clock, the budget and the planet. The elimination of an additional leg in what is already typically a long trip not only reduces risk but also results in a reduction in fuel usage and engine cycles.
The Netflix flight department received approval for the program in December 2022.
“We have a dynamic schedule, often with late arrivals,” said Netflix’s Walt Portillo. “Now we have flexibility, knowing we can request RSP services.”
Portillo explained using the program also helps an operator and pilots build positive relationships with ports and officers.
Signature Flight Support is a CBP RSP partner at a number of airports. Mary Miller, Signature’s vice president of government and industry affairs, said in some cases the program allows for customs officers to clear a flight at an FBO or other location away from the main terminal, removing the risks associated with business aircraft attempting to taxi among larger airline traffic.
“Our industry seems willing to help subsidize the cost structure if the result is efficiency,” Miller said.