Back in January, Abu Dhabi became the first Middle Eastern airport to open a US customs and immigration pre-clearance facility. That seemed like an odd and somewhat political move, since no US airline actually flies to Abu Dhabi. It would seem much more logical to add such a facility to Dubai, which has much more US bound flights, including on US airlines.
Per Bloomberg, the pre-clearance facility concept will be expanded to Dubai Airport within a year, apparently:
Another post is planned in Dubai within a year as part of a push to combat terror threats before would-be perpetrators even board a plane that will also fast-track travelers through a routinely arduous entry process.
The U.S. drive to tighten immigration security with overseas posts stands to deliver an advantage to Emirates and other fast-growing Persian Gulf carriers because the overseas checks can shave hours from border crossings at major U.S. gateways, the typically vexing finale to a long-distance trip. Passengers in Abu Dhabi can instead make use of the dead time between flights to complete the process, enhancing the allure of the luxurious Gulf airports as global travel hubs.
By the time the new facility opens, there will be nonstop flights from Dubai to Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington Dulles.
Since I have Global Entry this doesn’t really impact me much one way or another. The UAE government picks up 85% of the cost of this facility, so it shouldn’t cost US taxpayers that much. I can certainly see the lure of this for those without Global Entry, though, since the time savings of a pre-clearance facility can be huge. As far as the claim that this will combat terror threats goes, meh, I guess?
Presently pre-clearance facilities are available in Canada, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Aruba, Dublin, Shannon, and Abu Dhabi.