Abu Dhabi US Pre-Clearance Facility To Be Discontinued!!!

Filed Under: Etihad, Security/TSA

I’ve written extensively and passionately about the US Pre-Clearance Facility in Abu Dhabi.


For those of you that haven’t seen my rants on the situation, see here:

Basically for select US-bound flights, Etihad offers a facility whereby you clear US customs and immigration prior to boarding your flight. This is a model that works quite well in some other countries, like Canada and Ireland, but works horribly in Abu Dhabi. It has literally been consistently delaying US bound flight by hours. Hours.

For me the most offensive thing was that even after it was implemented, Etihad’s CEO was quoted as bragging about how damn great the operation was performing:

“This is a game changer as far as Etihad is concerned. The facility has made a huge difference and really couldn’t have gone better. It’s great not just if you are flying direct to the US from Abu Dhabi but also connecting from elsewhere in the region.”

I’ve yet to hear from someone that used the facility that was pleased with it. As far as I’m concerned it’s a reason to avoid flying Etihad from the UAE to the US.


It looks like Etihad may actually be learning their lesson. Abu Dhabi Airport is in the process of building their new Midfield Terminal Building, which is set to open in 2017. Etihad will operate primarily out of the new terminal, including their US bound flights.

And they don’t have plans to add a US Pre-Clearance Facility there. Via Runway Girl:

But the United States Border Preclearance currently offered on five of Etihad’s seven USA flights will not be included in the new terminal, the airport’s VP for capital projects, Sulaiman al Siksek, revealed today to Runway Girl Network in Abu Dhabi. The system currently allows precleared flights to arrive as if they were domestic services, with all the necessary paperwork done before departure.

“The preclearance facility is currently just by Terminal 3,” al Siksek said, referring to the latest terminal, completed in 2009 and the home of most of Etihad’s flights. “We’re looking at the plans, possibly, for a future preclearance, probably in the satellite.”


We have to wait at least another three years, but this is fantastic news. Fantastic!

  1. we used the facility last month … Not a soul in line for security or immigration… Literally zero line. This was about 1 hour before the IAD departure. Still stinks to be in the sterile area with nothing to do instead of the lounge, but not that bad…

  2. Now if they close Nassau and Toronto that will be great news. Its easier to concentrate personnel in Us international gateways, than trying to have a pre-clearance in each country.

  3. @Nic Close-in preclearance facilities make sense for as long as key US arrivals airports like DCA and LGA have no international arrivals facilities (nor any room to add them, nor much rationale to do so since they handle only a few international flights).

  4. Ben, I found the preclearance to work flawlessly on my recent experience connecting in Abu Dhabi to LAX from Delhi. There was no wait and with Global Entry the whole experience took no longer than 10 minutes. So, being pleased, I am sorry to learn it is being discontinued.

  5. I loved it as a non-US passport holder flying F or J. Have chosen Etihad several times just because of this. The blog post is incorrect in assuming this will be discontinued – Etihad might choose to operate certain flights out of the old terminal in 2 years. There is nowhere its said that this will be stopped.

  6. It seems like building a new terminal would give them the opportunity to do this correctly with restaurants, stores and lounges beyond pre-clearance a la Toronto.

    Lucky, if you could use GE to clear immigration and then go sit in a special US first class lounge for two hours, you would be happy with that, correct?

  7. You care more about a US pre clearance facility (and middle east airlines) where your homosexuality is a) crime b) is not welcomed. Yet, you berate Koran Airlines for preventing you from making your weekly/monthly donation to a homosexual political action group (never mind that its legal/safe to be a homosexual in South Korea).

    You sure have your priorities ‘straight’.

  8. I have to totally disagree with your article, sounds like you are jaded about this….but it works and works well. Sad that you are being so negative about this and writing only your views instead of reporting in a non judgmental and unbiased fashion in which you should be reporting in.

  9. @ Tom — Sure would be, ultimately. If it were done correctly it could be decent, but I still don’t see it as a huge selling point or see the benefit in this case. But it could at least be less sucky if done correctly.

  10. Am I the only one lost on what Barbara is talking about?

    Lucky seems too nice to respond, but its annoying to read Barbara’s random comments bringing up Lucky’s sexuality for no reason. Repressed much, Barbara?

  11. @Barbara —
    Oh if only there was a country where stupidity and intolerance were a) a crime and b) unwelcome. That would be a great place to visit.

  12. @SJ — Hi! Author of the Runway Girl Network article here. As I said in the piece, Etihad’s PR people haven’t yet got back to me with comment, and one of their options (as I said too) is that they leave those five US flights over in T1 or T3.

    But the plans to which the airport is working (according to the VP of capital projects, who would know) is EY’s full operations will move over to the new MTB facility (that’s Midfield Terminal Building, not mountainbiking, although that would be a great airport amenity).

  13. Pre-clearence = exporting the unability of USBP to handle immigration at US ports of entry efficiently.

  14. @Barbara – I think this is outright rude and ill-mannered to bring up someone’s sexuality (and discriminate it in a way) just because he says his thoughts (and past experiences) and because homosexuality is taboo in our community. What you did was a) rude and b) unwelcome because you have to agree to disagree, so get your shit together and watch out how you’re talking about other people to expect other people to talk about you nicely.

  15. To Barbara’s point: As a travel hacker I’m intrigued by the high-end offerings from Middle East airlines, even for pass-thru travel, such as from Toronto to Bangkok via Abu Dhabi or Dubai. And yet, anyone who googles the name in my passport will quickly learn that I am homosexual. So, is there a safety threat for an openly gay person travelling through UAE? What about Saudi Arabia, where my partner is from? I wonder about my own safety, even as I watch YouTube Trip reports of the Emirates First Class shower. One even has a hot guy emerging from the steamy shower. But I digress…

    And what about the homophobic regimes in the region? I guess Barbara is dressing down Lucky for failing to properly punish and chastise Arab carriers for their countries’ practices. I appreciate her solidarity with me and my gay brothers. I’m not sold on the approach, though. I’m inclined to embrace those who would join the modern, civilized world, even if they do begin with Dom Perignon and Italian leather instead of Same-Sex Marriage. One follows the other, regardless of which order, as far as I can tell. When we’re all trading with each other, doing business, visiting each other and talking, eventually we will stop “othering”. Shacking up with a Saudi sure opened my eyes.

    So, kudos, Barbara, for your sincere concern for the plight of gay people in the Middle East, many of whom have been murdered by their governments. And Lucky, don’t worry, Grindr works great in Jeddah 😉

  16. @Lucky I guess we should have expected it. CA’s “lezzie” post crosses the line. Not sure this thread is making the world a better place.

  17. @Lucky-What is the recommended time prior to departure to leave the EY lounge to head for a US bound flight? I don’t want to be standing around the waiting area instead of the lounge. I would prefer to leave the lounge close to the last moment. When would that be? I know they hold up flights for those folks who are still in pre-clearance. Have you heard of any cases where they left without people who were still going through it?

  18. I guess I’m not the only one who noticed that absolutely nothing in the post itself backs up the inexplicable assumption that the pre-clearance facility is going away or being discontinued.

  19. Slightly off topic, but I just flew EY from AUH to SFO earlier this week and that flight does not use the pre-clearance facility (I think because the flight leaves AUH at 2:15am and pre-clearance is closed then). But what struck me as odd was that we still had to go through a secondary security screening and then enter the sterile area to depart from gate 60. This was a surprise and annoying because nobody from EY told us about this, even as I was the only person checking in via the First class area and the agent had plenty of time to let me know about it. Good thing I didn’t wait until the last minute to leave the lounge for my gate or I would have possibly missed the flight!

  20. @ Dan — Haven’t been paying much attention, but they typically advise to leave the lounge at least 90 minutes before departure. You might be able to cut it closer than that, though.

  21. Hey Ben & Co, I was just Googling for AUH pre-clearance cutoff times because I had an EY pax denied boarding by US CPB despite being at gate 1.5 hr before departure. He said there’s only a 45 minute window where CPB accepts pax on a per flight basis. I would take none of that as gospel truth as he’s not a very experienced traveler and seemed fairly confused. However, I am wondering if this post is still correct? Are they still planning to discontinue the AUH pre-clearance? I 100% agree with you that it can’t come soon enough.

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