Which Flights Use Etihad’s Abu Dhabi Pre-Clearance Facility?

Filed Under: Etihad

I’ve written extensively about Etihad’s Pre-Clearance facility in Abu Dhabi, whereby you clear immigration for select US-bound flights before even leaving the UAE.

Description of Etihad’s Abu Dhabi Pre-Clearance facility

My two experiences with the facility were really disappointing. It was just a total mess, and in both cases the flight took a substantial delay because of the facility. And that was the norm for months, when US-bound flights were running next to a zero percent on-time record.

Apparently the Pre-Clearance facility has improved

First of all, based on all the feedback I’ve received lately, I think it’s worth noting that the Pre-Clearance facility has apparently improved substantially. Flights are actually departing (close to) on-time, and apparently the facility isn’t a mess.


When I spoke to Etihad’s Abu Dhabi Airport duty manager recently he admitted that the facility wasn’t properly staffed at first and that they learned from it, and insisted that it’s now actually an asset and that they get good feedback. Apparently they’ve staffed it properly, have tried to organize the queues more logically, etc.

So kudos to Etihad for working to fix the facility. I’d like to give it another shot at some point.

Not all Etihad flights use the Pre-Clearance facility

I recently wrote about the 28-hour Etihad flight between Abu Dhabi and San Francisco, and I literally received dozens of comments emails, and messages saying “Lucky, you’re missing the obvious, this flight uses the Pre-Clearance facility, which is why they couldn’t leave the plane for 12 hours.”

Except they don’t. It’s worth pointing out that Etihad only uses the US Pre-Clearance facility for their morning flights out of Abu Dhabi. That’s because the facility is only open for a limited number of hours, and that’s when most US-bound flights leave.

The following Etihad flights do use the Pre-Clearance facility:

  • DFW — EY161
  • IAD — EY131
  • JFK — EY101
  • LAX — EY171
  • ORD — EY151

The following Etihad flights don’t use the Pre-Clerance facility:

  • JFK — EY103
  • SFO — EY183

That’s because those flights leave around 2AM, when the facility is closed. It’s also worth noting that these flights happen to be operated by the Jet Airways 777-300ERs, so the hard product will be a bit more tired and not quite as good as the hard product on the Etihad Airways operated flights.

Jet Airways first class

Etihad first class

Bottom line

The Pre-Clearance facility doesn’t seem to be as much of a negative as before, though regardless it’s worth understanding which flights do use it and which don’t, so you can plan accordingly. Those nighttime flights don’t use the Pre-Clearance facility, so that shouldn’t have factored into the 12-hour tarmac delay that Etihad experienced.

  1. You know, if they would just put a lounge past immigration it would be an improvement. Look at YYZ for example: T1 has a (decent) contract lounge + an Air Canada lounge, and T3 has an AA lounge. Plus there is Global Entry in both terminals.

  2. I just used the pre-clearance facility on 1/9 for EY 101 and it was a breeze. There are even two Global Entry kiosks available. Also, as an FYI, the 9W JFK flight and the SFO flight will get pre-clearance on 1/15/15.

  3. I have an almost 4 hour layover in AUH before boarding EY101… Realistically, how long should I leave to clear pre-clearance, and do they have separate premium lines?

  4. Used pre-clearance for the first time a few weeks ago, for a EY101 departure. Left the lounge at 9.40am, and I was one of the last passengers to go through. There was barely a queue or anything at security or customs – and we ended up making an on-time departure, much to my amazement!

  5. Even if that flight had precleared, they could still unload the plane, they’d just have to send everyone back through AUH customs. I’ve done it in Canada before when a flight cancelled due to last-minute mechanical problems.

  6. Due to be on EY103 in November, shame that it’s not currently being used for that flight. For me, on a visa, pre-clearance is great even if awful. 20-30 minutes is better than the potential 30 – 60 at JFK!

  7. FYI, a tweet from Etihad this morning:
    @EtihadAirways: #News – All outbound flights to the #USA from #AbuDhabi (from 15 Jan) will be able to experience the benefits of US Preclearance! #Customs

  8. For what it’s worth a lounge post immigration has been in the works for a couple years, but efficiency isn’t a thing for some involved.

  9. Nice that there are now GE kiosks. However, I’m quite concerned about the reports that the security screening is Draconian (pulling shoes out of suitcases, rifling through carry-on bags, etc.) Can anyone who’s gone through lately comment on this?

  10. In order to use Global Entry at Abu Dhabi’s Pre-Clearance facility, does a Known Traveler Id need to be linked to the Etihad reservation or are the passport details sufficient? I did not see an option under Etihad reservation passenger detail fields or in their frequent flier program to add a Known Traveler Id.

  11. @Bri — you might be confusing Global Entry with TSA Pre-Check. Global Entry is based on your passport — if enrolled you are eligible regardless of which carrier you fly on. Pre-Check is per flight and dependent on the carrier. If your flight is operated by an airline that participates in Pre-Check, then the airline will submit your PNR to the TSA several days before the flight, and the TSA marks the PNR if you are are granted Pre-Check for that flight. There is no Pre-Check at pre-clearance facilities.

  12. Will be connecting in Abu Dhabi enroute Johannesburg. My layover is 15hrs. Am planning on checking in my luggage all the way to final destination, and booked a room at the Premier Inn at the airport. Here’s my Q: since I won’t be allowed to carry liquids over 100 fluid ounces on board, will I not have total access to my checked luggage until I reach Joburg, or is there a way to have access to them even in Abu Dhabi w/o having to carry the heavy bags all around with me?

  13. @ Cece — You could probably check them as far as Abu Dhabi and then collect them, but then you’d have to hang onto them for the entire layover.

  14. Is the preclearance only for those using ETIHAD Airways? I shall be flying to Houston by Air France which has a lay over in ABUDABHI and Paris…does this AIR FRANCE flight also has Pre clearance at Abudabhi or is it directly done at Houston?

  15. @Brian,Daniel,JD
    Currently transiting Abu Dhabi, and I’m sitting in the lounge post-immigration (the “U.S. Premium Lounge”). I hadn’t seen this mentioned on the blog, and the desk agent tells me the lounge has been open about six months. It’s small but reasonably nice, with a decent amount of seating, food, etc. Certainly better than a barren gate area.

  16. I have to travel to Dallas from Bangalore by Etihad and what flights i must choose to avail this preclearance? Next, will the connecting flight will WAIT and take off until the clearance over for its passenger? By the way thanks for your informative blog.

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