All US-Bound Etihad Flights Now Use Pre-Clearance Facility

Filed Under: Etihad

I’ve written extensively about Etihad’s US Pre-Clearance facility in Abu Dhabi, whereby you clear US immigration before even boarding your flight to the US.


When the facility first launched it was a mess, though over time they’ve improved it substantially, and now it actually seems to function quite well.

On top of that, keep in mind that Etihad’s new premium lounge in Terminal 3 is located right by the entrance to the Pre-Clearance facility, so that’s pretty convenient.


Anyway, Etihad has two banks of flights to the US — a majority of their flights leave mid-morning, while they also have two flights that leave very late at night/early in the morning.

Up until now the Pre-Clearance facility has been operating with limited hours, so has only been available for the mid-morning departures to the US, which included the following flights:

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

However, per Etihad’s website, the Pre-Clearance facility is open for all US-bound flights as of January 15, 2015:


That means the following flights, which are operated by Jet Airways aircraft, also use the Pre-Clearance facility now:

  • JFK — EY103
  • SFO — EY183

The above departures land in New York and San Francisco early in the morning, so usually immigration queues aren’t too bad to begin with. Therefore the benefit of the Pre-Clearance facility probably won’t be as great as for those flights that land in the US later in the afternoon, which is “rush hour” for international arrivals.

That being said, assuming the facility is properly staffed, it should be even smoother than for the daytime flights, since they only have to process two flights instead of five.

Bottom line

There aren’t any huge implications here, other than that you should maybe leave a bit of extra time on departure from Abu Dhabi, or a bit of extra connecting time if you’re originating your travels elsewhere.

  1. Ben; Having just “survived” first on the EY102 JFK-AUH (jet 777, 50%+ jet crew, 75%+ jet/Indian food on scaled down menu/service, 100% jet amenity kit and sleeper suit, no slippers, no hot or cold towel service, running out of food options at the gate prior to push? Not to mention no wifi or onboard phone/communication, hopeless ground service, luggage last on belt…..yada yada.), I’m not sure I needed another excuse not to fly ethiad after that disaster, but I believe you just gave me one……

  2. @johnH
    That’s interesting news. I did not know that the Jet 777s were used on EY flights to the US .Is this something new?

    The preclearance is not optional, right? the way it’s worded “will be available” makes it looks like it’s something you can choose if you wanted to.

  3. Ben, I know you never check in a bag but would you happen to know how connecting passengers collect luggage to pass thru preclearance? Is it a long walk with the luggage before it is rechecked in? Are porters available to help with this in the facility?

    SO is going to travel with little one in a few weeks, and she always travels with a lot of checked in bags – so this is the only part I am having nightmares about. I had purposely booked her on 9W operated aircraft so that she does not have to go thru preclearance in AUH (little did I know that was going to change).

  4. @Adi-T: I don’t think it would be optional. Segregating passengers who opted for it vs those who did not (so that they have to go thru immigration and customs in the US while the others who opted in would land as domestic passengers) would be a logistical nightmare.

  5. @Adi-T, this flight has always been Jet aircraft as far as I know, as is the AUH-SFO-AUH service, but folks may not be aware and EY do not advertise, that the service is a “hybrid” of jet/EY and errs heavily on the Jet/Indian product. I connected to business class AUH-JNB also on Jet 777, the service was 100% Ethiad and far surpassed the First class pathetic product of EY102…. This airline is all over the place, and not in a good way!

  6. I agree that the “Jetihad” flights are a big disappointment. I flew AUH-SFO on EY in First in December and it was nothing like a real EY flight. Etihad describes it as a Jet Airways aircraft, but an Etihad “experience.” This is wrong, as you get an almost entirely Jet experience with Jet crew, Jet amenity kit (which is an embarrassment), Jet catering (you better like Indian food!), Jet pajamas, Jet everything. And the aircraft was beat up and old and worn, even in F.

    Did anyone see the announcement that Etihad has pulled back from its plans to go daily to DFW starting in April 2015? They are currently 3x/week and now say that will remain the case until sometime in 2016. I wonder if this pullback is a result of weak demand on the route or that EY doesn’t have the aircraft available to go daily. Maybe they are learning that this Jet-hybrid thing doesn’t work and they are (wisely, in my opinion) deciding not to extend that model any further?

  7. @ Miles Down Under — Don’t disagree, though the new business class lounge is nice, and they do have a partitioned off first class area, which has good service at least.

  8. @ Lucky — If you are flying AUH-US-XXX on a preclearance’d flight, can you check a bag through to the final destination or would you have to get it after AUH-US flight like you would on a regular international flight to the US?

  9. When the pre-cleared flight lands, do passengers disembark (“deplane”) into the airside area as for domestic flights, or are they sent groundside?

  10. Thanks, Lucky. On the one hand, it’s certainly much more convenient to land airside. On the other, it makes it more of a pain to undergo pre-clearance, since they presumably do not have Pre-Check.

  11. Would I be required to go thru the pre-clearance if AUH is a stopover and only staying in transit? Will be flying SEZ-AUH-JFK with a 7 hour layover at AUH. US citizen, 13 hour AUH layover on JFK-AUH-JFK on way there…thinking of staying at hotel in airport so don’t have to bother with picking up luggage, customs/immigration and all over again in the morning (730 pm arrival 8:30 am dept…)

  12. (a) Note that AUH-ORD has been retimed and leaves around 3am now.

    (b) This question has been asked above, but no answers…what happens with checked luggage at pre-clearance? Do we have to wait for them at a carousel and wrangle them ourselves through US Customs at AUH, just as we would previously do at the US gateway? (Seems to me that for someone who is not connecting at a US gateway, now we have to wait for luggage twice rather than once, which is a bug not a feature.)

    (c) Any news on the lounge supposedly under construction within the pre-cleared area?

  13. @ Chuck Lesker — Nope, bag is checked through and doesn’t have to be shown at customs. No lounge within the pre-clearance facility, though there is a new lounge just before it.

  14. @ Lucky

    Hi , Me and my family got US immigration, so we plan to move to US last week of may-15. I purchased the ticket of Abu Dhabi airline ticket for Chicago ORD — EY151 , so my question is that our complete immigration process at Abu Dhabi airport or Chicago Airport second if our immigration clearance at Abu dhabi air port so can we take our whole luggage at pre-clearance facility. Thanks

  15. @ ANZ — I believe that would happen in Abu Dhabi. You check your bags before you go through the Pre-Clearance facility.

  16. One of my friend said !

    Etihaad airways pre clearance is a pain in the neck even for us citizens which is why I never travel through them.. Make sure you leave time between your flights 3 plus hours because people end up missing flights often. And only your hand carry will be with you if you’re transferring . I would still suggest you travel via. Qatar Airways or Emirates if it’s a first time, I don’t know why ABU DHABI Poe has become overly strict. All the best!

  17. @Lucky
    First time traveler to the USA. So It is mandatory to clear customs at Abu Dhabi itself if I’m not wrong ? There’s no option where you can skip it and clear it in the USA itself ?

  18. Hey Lucky,
    I have a AUD-ORD-CMH flight, so assuming my luggage will be checked through at abu dabhi, i will be having a layover of 7 hrs at Chicago. So is it possible that i can leave the airport during those hours & return back 1 hour prior to my domestic us flight departure?

  19. @ Kshitij, you will have to clear U.S. immigration, collect your checked bags, clear U.S. customs, recheck your bags (just drop them on the re-check belt since they are already tagged). Once you do that, you can then leave the airport and return prior to your flight.

  20. @Lucky,
    but all the steps you mentioned above like clearing us immigrations, customs will be done at Abu Dabhi facility. So after rechecking my bags there, i assume i wont need to collect them back at chicago & check them again for the domestic flight, right?
    So as i have no bags to claim/check at chicago i can leave the airport & return 1 hr prior to my departure, right?

  21. @ Kshitij,

    Yes, my apologies, I was doing too many things at the same time. You are correct: you should arrive in ORD as a domestic flight and be able to go right into town.

  22. @lucky
    I’ve got a couple of questions:
    1. How strict is etihad in terms of excess baggage allowance for check in ( 23*2) & carry on.(7 kilos)

    2. Do they permit carrying some packed dry snacks inside the flight?


  23. Hi Lucky,

    I read thru all the comments, questions and answers here, but am still not very clear. So here goes my queries. My husband and I are flying 1st from New Delhi to AUH to LAX. I booked flight with about 8 hours overlay in AUH, but Etihad changed our departure flight From DEL, so now we will arrive at AUH with only about 2 hours connection time.
    1) Do we have to re-claim our luggage in AUH to go thru pre-clearance even if we check them at New Delhi all through LAX?
    2) Will carrying our luggage as hand carry leave us more time for the pre-clearance.
    3) how much time is saved by having the Premium lounge right next to the Pre-clearance area.? Or 1st class passengers still required to leave the Premium lounge at least 2 hrs before flight departure to allow enough time to go thru pre-clearance.

    We really wanted to experience Etihad’s Premium lounge for 1st class, Now that they changed the schedule, we won’t have time at all, this sucks!

    Thank you so much.

  24. Hi,
    Please share your experience. I have the similar situation of just 2 Hr connection time in AUH. travelling from DEL->AUH->JFK

  25. @lucky Any idea if the pre-clearence service available for flights that stop in Paris or DUS?
    It wouldn’t make sense since there will be a stop in another country in between.

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