Review: Etihad Preclearance US Premium Lounge, Abu Dhabi

The Etihad US Premium Lounge makes the wait for your flight after proceeding through US immigration preclearance and extra security much more pleasant.

Previous Installments:

I spent the night at the Premier Inn attached to the airport. My bags were checked through all the way to New York by Qatar in Doha, but my Etihad flight was delayed by 5 hours due to bad weather in New York — turning a planned 5 hour connection into a 10 hour connection. I grabbed by boarding pass at the transit desk and made the most of it by spending the night in the on-airport hotel.

In the morning I grabbed some coffee at the Costa coffee shop in the lobby of the Premier Inn, got ready, and then headed across to the terminal.

All U.S.-bound flights departing Abu Dhabi require check-in at least 2 hours in advance. I already had my boarding pass, but I still wound up heading over a couple hours before our rescheduled departure.

I walked outside the shopping concourse across from the terminal that the hotel is attached to and crossed the street to terminal 3 check-in and passport control. It’s faster that way than making the trip underground.

Since I was checked in and my bags were already with the airline I just walked past the checkin desks to passport control. That took just a moment, and security just beyond passport control another moment as well. Then I was inside the terminal.

There was a little bit of time to kill, so I headed to the airline’s premium lounge. This was before the recent re-opening of the Etihad first class lounge that encompasses the old first class lounge and the space of the old primary business lounge.

I’ve written about the Premium Lounge — Etihad’s new-ish primary business class lounge before. I sat in the dedicated roped-up first class area, which wasn’t special in any way except there’s someone who will bring you drinks. I had a cappuccino.

An hour and 15 minutes before departure I made my way down to the US preclearance facility. You have to go through security screening again, and then clear U.S. immigration. And you’re required to present yourself at the Customs and Immigration facility no less than 60 minutes prior to flight.

There’s a premium security line, but there wasn’t any sort of backup going through security (I’ve been here many times where there has been, including in the premium line).

I used the Global Entry kiosk for immigration, but here you actually do have to speak to an immigration agent when you turn in your slip. This time I wound up with an agent who reads this blog. He chatted with me briefly about American AAdvantage redemption rates for travel on Etihad, the need to ring up American’s Australia reservations to book Etihad award seats sometimes, and whether I’d stop flying first class with the March 22 devaluation.

Once done with that chat (with almost no one waiting in line) it was time to head to the US departures lounge. That’s a nice addition by Etihad — basically a small version of their premium lounge that’s past security and immigration for US flights. Since you’re supposed to clear long before departure, given the possibility of delays, there’s a good chance you’ll wait on the other side for awhile.

etihad us premium lounge

etihad us premium lounge

I entered Etihad US premium lounge, showed them my first class boarding pass, and was welcomed inside. The lounge is available to premium cabin customers and when there are multiple US departures around the same time — and one of those is on a packed full Airbus A380 — the lounge certainly gets crowded. There’s a decent amount of seating, but not enough space to spread out or have any privacy.

It’s much better than the sterile waiting area, but it’s not a place you want to spend more time than you need to. I was through earlier than most who were getting on my flight and the Los Angeles flight expected to leave a little after New York. So when I entered there were choices of where to sit.

There’s plenty of refreshments and even bottles of water you can take with you if you wish. (And you’re already through security, landing as though off a domestic flight, so you can take it onto your connecting flight in New York if departing from the same terminal!)

There are plenty of cold food items, but the lounge doesn’t duplicate the hot offerings you’ll find prior to clearing US security and immigration.

There’s a small business center, and dedicated restrooms.

I scoped out a seat with a power outlet, though I’d have one inflight. I got a bottle of water, and caught up on e-mail.

Unfortunately my 8:10am rescheduled departure was delayed about another hour and people were leaving for the Los Angeles flight before New York.

Our flight was eventually called, though and we headed to the gate.

The Etihad US premium lounge is not the greatest lounge by any measure, but having a lounge after immigration near the US departure gates is still very much appreciated and a big improvement.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Interesting to see it after being there last week as well. Spent a good 4+ hours in the premium lounge before pre-clearance. The lounge after pre-clearance was packed full of people and little kids running around making a lot of noise. Its a really small space. I could say the same thing about the premium lounge as well.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Gary! My wife and I are travelling to Pakistan at the end of the week. I redeemed AA miles for us to travel in business class from IAD to LHE via AUH. Thanks again for the tips on how to do this, and for sharing this very thorough and timely series!

  3. אלוהים אדירים Gary its a disgrace you live in 21st century please invest in a good camera as Lucky did and have quality photos. Half of your shots are grossly blurry.

  4. @Steve there shouldn’t be any and I’m not seeing any, if I come across this i will report it and get it stopped. [any links, details on product, would be helpful. thanks!]

  5. i came back and now I don’t have any either. Perhaps something rogue loaded in one of the ads – because I had to do that “hunt to find the audio” and it was definitely from one of the google boxes on this page. If I should notice again Ill try to capture more detail. Just fyi.

  6. When I was there in April all of the Global Entry kiosks were broken. Pre-clearing customs is great. I believe the facility in Abu Dhabi is the only one outside of North America and Ireland. Why was Abu Dhabi selected as a location? Will the US open facilities like this in other countries?

  7. A question about pre-clearance for US bound flights. Is pre-clearance available for flights departing from Abu Dhabi to the US at all times during the day and night? I had previously heard that the pre-clearance facility is only available for flights departing from Abu Dhabi during day time. Please confirm. Thanks!

  8. @SRT it’s open 11pm – 2pm. When the facility first opened it was closed prior to the departure of the San Francisco flight if I recall correctly but hours have been extended.

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