If you ever stood in the line for immigration and custom clearance at any major international airport, you will understand the agony one has to go through. And, if you are at a US airport going through CBP (Customs & Border Protection) clearance…well, less said the better. I have heard of 4-hour queues to get through the customs clearance.
The US allows customs preclearance at 16 airports across the world, of which 9 are in Canada, 4 in the Caribbean, 2 in Ireland and recently 1 has began working in Abu Dhabi, UAE. There is one more proposed in the UAE, at Dubai (Code DXB), which many are looking forward to. Many savvy passengers take advantage of this and fly in to the US via Ireland (take a low cost flight from anywhere in Europe to Dublin or Shannon airport). This has dual advantages – one is the saving time. The other is lower taxes, since taxes and allied charges are lower in Dublin than at say, London Heathrow or Munich which are very busy airports.
The airline lobby in the US had protested opening of this facility at Abu Dhabi, since their contention is that it will give an unfair advantage to Etihad Airways, the national carrier of UAE. Their fear is that since Etihad is state-subsidized and hence economical than most airlines, passengers flying through Abu Dhabi (Code: AUH) will opt for Etihad rather than their airlines, now with the cherry of CBP preclearance.
CBP or customs preclearance entails all immigration, customs and agriculture inspections in Abu Dhabi prior to departure and on reaching the US, passengers will be treated as domestic arrivals, which enables faster processing at their arrival airport.
What does it mean for Us?
Since, US is one of the busiest outbound route for Indian tourists and other travellers (business, students etc) , it will be preferable to fly via Abu Dhabi to the US. Moreover, Etihad Airways operates out of most major cities in India, unlike many other carriers. Now, add to that the relatively cheaper fares, newer airplanes, including the Boeing Dreamliner fleet, you begin to see the value of flying through Abu Dhabi. Less cost, more convenience and stress free flying!
Is there a caveat?
There always is, isn’t there? You must be aware of all the rules and regulations including documents required for for entry and also be aware of restricted and prohibited items you can take to the US. You are advised to be very clear on these requirements, lest you be stopped from boarding the flight to US.
So go ahead and take advantage of this new development. I would love to hear from those who have availed this facility or have faced some difficulties. Please post your comments for fellow passengers from the country.