Etihad Plans New Abu Dhabi Pre-Clearance Facility For US Flights

Etihad Plans New Abu Dhabi Pre-Clearance Facility For US Flights

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In late 2023, we saw the opening of the gorgeous Terminal A at Abu Dhabi International Airport (now referred to as Zayed International Airport). Passenger operations at the airport have almost entirely moved to this new terminal, and it’s a massive improvement to the passenger experience, especially with the new Etihad First Lounge and Etihad Business Lounge.

However, there’s one major snag with the new terminal, which involves the current US Pre-Clearance situation. In this post I wanted to take a closer look at that, as there should be a positive update on that front in the coming months.

The basics of Abu Dhabi’s US Pre-Clearance facility

A decade ago (in 2014), a US Pre-Clearance facility opened at Abu Dhabi International Airport. For those not familiar with the concept, the idea is that US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents are based at the foreign airport, and conduct immigration formalities before passengers board their flight to the United States.

This serves a couple of main purposes:

  • It’s intended to increase security, since passengers are screened for their eligibility to enter the United States prior to flying, rather than after
  • Airlines market it as a benefit for passengers, since you land in the United States as a domestic passenger, meaning you have an easier experience on arrival

Personally I don’t love the concept of US Pre-Clearance facilities for a couple of reasons. For one, for those of us with Global Entry, clearing immigration on arrival actually isn’t much of a hassle at all. Furthermore, these US Pre-Clearance facilities can lead to flight delays, since you have to wait for all passengers to be screened before departing.

Anyway, the US Pre-Clearance facility in Abu Dhabi has been less than ideal, ever since Etihad switched terminals. While Etihad almost exclusively uses Terminal A for its flights, the US Pre-Clearance facility is located in Terminal 3.

The new Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal A

So the current procedure has been that passengers have had to take a bus from Terminal A to Terminal 3, making for a much less pleasant pre-departure experience. The airline even advises passengers to arrive at the airport four hours (!!!!) early to complete all of this. Note that currently Pre-Clearance is only available for two of Etihad’s daily US frequencies, based on the hours of the facility.

The current Etihad Pre-Clearance process

Fortunately this should all be simplified soon…

Abu Dhabi US Pre-Clearance moving to Terminal A

Etihad is in the process of moving its US Pre-Clearance facility from Terminal 3 to Terminal A, and the expectation is that a new facility will be open by September 2024. I wouldn’t bet on that timeline sticking, but it’s at least good to know about the general plans for this to improve, and I’d imagine this will at least be live before the end of the year.

The airline also plans to introduce a special premium lounge for first and business class passengers in the US Pre-Clearance facility, just as there is now. That’s because people are told to clear immigration early, so it’s nice to have somewhere comfortable to sit, rather than just being in the gate area.

I’m curious about where exactly in the terminal the airline plans to open this facility. After all, the logistics are complicated. This needs to be a fully separate, sterile area of the airport, with a large enough space for all immigration procedures to be conducted. There also needs to be space for a lounge, and this also needs to offer access to A380, A350, and 787 gates, based on the aircraft that fly to the US.

Once this facility opens, it should make for a much more pleasant experience on flights to the United States.

Etihad’s US Pre-Clearance will soon be simplified

Bottom line

In late 2023, Etihad moved from Terminal 3 to Terminal A at Abu Dhabi Airport. While this has been fantastic for the most part, the catch is that the US Pre-Clearance facility hasn’t yet moved. Fortunately that’s expected to change soon, and Etihad is aiming for a facility to be open in Terminal A by September 2024, along with a new US Pre-Clearance lounge.

What do you make of Etihad’s plans for an updated US Pre-Clearance facility?

Conversations (23)
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  1. Henry Guest

    EY may still not realize what kind of burden they brought themselves in with this facility that literally has
    No benefits on anyone.

  2. Patrick Guest

    My understanding is that the new Pre-clearance facility will be at the end of Pier C. The area from Gate C36 up is closed off, and construction has been going on for at least a few months now.

  3. Sameera Guest

    It is totally unfair that there is no mention of this change when we book the flight online. I chose EY over many other cheaper and better options for pre-clearance, only to know a week before that my flight to Chicago doesn't have the facility any more!

    1. Bagheera Guest

      Fully agree with the above message. The fact of facilities being available only for select flights is conveniently not stated in Etihad advertisements and in bookings online. This is a major fraud in suppressing facts to push business.

  4. Andrew Guest

    Why am I seeing a paid-for video advert picture-in-picture DEFENDING THE RECENT RAFAH STRIKE FIRE AND GENOCIDE???

    “The size of the bomb couldn’t possibly have caused the fire”

    THIS IS THE SICKENING

    1. Eskimo Guest

      ADS YOU SEE ARE BASED ON WHAT YOU DO OVER THE INTERNET.

      To attract such ads, YOU ARE SICKENING.

  5. Ryan Guest

    I hate pre clearance and actively avoid airports that have it. I have global entry and never wait more than a few mins on arrival in the US. I hate having that unpredictability at the front end of my trip or during a connection … if I have to wait, I’d rather do it on arrival when I’m not worrying about missing a flight. And in many cases, airports with pre clearance have inferior lounge and other amenities in the terminal. Will definitely avoid AUH going forward.

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      Not really sure what your issue is here:

      (1) PreClearance airports offer Global Entry as well.

      (2) Unless your final destination is a nonstop to a major US gateway, you can still just as easily get held up on the stateside end, and miss your connection, as you otherwise could on the PreClearance end.

    2. RCB Guest

      I'm with you, I'd much rather just clear immigration and customs when I get back to the U.S., I want to stay in my airport lounge as long as possible before boarding my flight, I don't want to leave it early so I can go through customs and immigrations in a different country. This is especially true when I'm flying into Dulles because I have hassle of pre-clearance before I board and then those stupid people movers when I arrive.

  6. Nick Guest

    Aug 3. BAH-AUH. 3 hour layover. AUH-BOS.

    Not sure it matters, but we have GE. Will we have to pre clear in AUH? Or smooth arrival in BOS?

    Thank you!

    1. S Gold

      The pre-clearance facilities at AUH are only available for the IAD flight and the 10am JFK flight. The other JFK flight, the BOS flight, and the ORD flight are *NOT* eligible for this and you will use GE like usual at BOS.

      Ben, I think it would be helpful to include the two specific flight numbers eligible for this at AUH. Would help some confusion. This is directly from the Etihad FAQ on it.

      https://www.etihad.com/en-us/fly-etihad/us-immigration-in-abu-dhabi#faqs

  7. DT Guest

    The new terminal is NOT gorgeous -
    Come on. Too much marketing - 3 posts in one day on an airline that barely serves the US!
    Re their AUH lounges - no they are NOT great. Not just in comparison to QR ; Doha, BKK, LHR…) but they are not even at par with JFK and LAX OW lounges. And that’s saying something.
    Re pre clearance - wonder why AUH with 3 US flights a day needs this? Vanity projects or what? Head scratcher this.

    1. TravelinWilly Diamond

      "3 posts in one day on an airline that barely serves the US!"

      Why do you care?

      Many readers care a LOT about what Etihad's plans are. If you're not interested, don't read the pieces. It's not as if the headlines don't provide an extremely clear idea of the contents of the posting.

  8. Mike O. Guest

    Since Etihad will be a new tenant at JFKs new Terminal One, does that mean that there'll be a portion of the terminal that will bypass CIQ and in turn, the ability to have domestic flights?

  9. JustinB Member

    Any idea what time the facility is open / what flights use it? Connecting through AUH to JFK next month with a 1h50 layover, AUH departure 2:40 AM. Could be close if delayed given 75m prior to departure time limit.

    1. JustinB Member

      Nevermind found the FAQ. EY3 and EY131 only.

  10. VJ Guest

    These facilities are not for those who have Global Entry but are for those who have to go through ridiculously long lines on arrival in the US, so the non US citizens and permanent residents. It also means faster connections on arrival as the US requires immigration clearance even for those who are just transiting to another country.

  11. Klaus_S Member

    I still do not understand why (excluding Canada and the Caribbean), there are only 2 other pre-clearance facilities: Shannon and Dublin.
    Both airports are not exactly big.

    Why isn’t there a pre-clearance terminal at some more important airports, e.g. London or Frankfurt or Paris?

    Looking at the website of the US Embassy in Amsterdam: “As a result of the Cabinet decision on December 9, 2016 the United States and the Netherlands will formally...

    I still do not understand why (excluding Canada and the Caribbean), there are only 2 other pre-clearance facilities: Shannon and Dublin.
    Both airports are not exactly big.

    Why isn’t there a pre-clearance terminal at some more important airports, e.g. London or Frankfurt or Paris?

    Looking at the website of the US Embassy in Amsterdam: “As a result of the Cabinet decision on December 9, 2016 the United States and the Netherlands will formally begin negotiations to implement U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Preclearance operations at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) in early 2017.” I guess that this is being by the LH Allegris Project Team?

    1. STEFFL Diamond

      ha ha ha funny you Klaus_S
      i like it!
      I remember reading that too, back way before Covid hit, . . . but NEVER heard anything about it anymore.
      In my opinion, US Immigration, a joke just like LH Allegris!

  12. Evan Guest

    This whole approach is so overcomplicated in the context of large international hubs like AUH. It only works well in places like NAS where almost all the international flights go to the US.

    1. STEFFL Diamond

      TRUE!
      . . . i've done NAS many times, but exactly that airport (or better, the US Immigration process there, by Photo of your luggage and Video monitoring, clearing customs and immigration)
      .... just shows what a JOKE that entire US Immigration thing is.
      I could then still bring my Salami, raw pork, little palm tree plants or soil from any of the Bahamian Islands to the US, and no physical check...

      TRUE!
      . . . i've done NAS many times, but exactly that airport (or better, the US Immigration process there, by Photo of your luggage and Video monitoring, clearing customs and immigration)
      .... just shows what a JOKE that entire US Immigration thing is.
      I could then still bring my Salami, raw pork, little palm tree plants or soil from any of the Bahamian Islands to the US, and no physical check of my luggage ever, just a photo from the outside.
      The entire "System" is NO system in my eyes, but just to perfect that it can only be a US thing!
      Laughable.
      It's just a money making thing!
      So is ESTA for those who want to travel to the USA or even just try to transit.
      The entire Immigration of that (so far behind country) is a joke, of course a US Citizen does not care, but as you write yourself, it only works "well" at places with 95% US departure Airports only!

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TravelinWilly Diamond

"3 posts in one day on an airline that barely serves the US!" Why do you care? Many readers care a LOT about what Etihad's plans are. If you're not interested, don't read the pieces. It's not as if the headlines don't provide an extremely clear idea of the contents of the posting.

4
S Gold

The pre-clearance facilities at AUH are only available for the IAD flight and the 10am JFK flight. The other JFK flight, the BOS flight, and the ORD flight are *NOT* eligible for this and you will use GE like usual at BOS. Ben, I think it would be helpful to include the two specific flight numbers eligible for this at AUH. Would help some confusion. This is directly from the Etihad FAQ on it. https://www.etihad.com/en-us/fly-etihad/us-immigration-in-abu-dhabi#faqs

2
DT Guest

The new terminal is NOT gorgeous - Come on. Too much marketing - 3 posts in one day on an airline that barely serves the US! Re their AUH lounges - no they are NOT great. Not just in comparison to QR ; Doha, BKK, LHR…) but they are not even at par with JFK and LAX OW lounges. And that’s saying something. Re pre clearance - wonder why AUH with 3 US flights a day needs this? Vanity projects or what? Head scratcher this.

2
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