Saturday, January 10, 2015

Abu Dhabi Pre-Clearance for US Immigration and Customs Experience



Hope this is helpful to all who transit through Abu Dhabi to the United States. I flew EY 275 to Abu Dhabi yesterday from Hyderabad India. Our flight was delayed by 30 minutes from Hyderabad and due to Fog over abu Dhabi we circled the Abu Dhabi Airport for over an hour and landed. Once we landed we were taken by bus to Termnal 3. We originally had 4.5 hours to transit and due to the weather and circling this was reduced to 3,5 hours. Our niece who traveled with us was going to New York and her transit was reduced to 2.5 hours from 3,5 hours. My recommendations is that you need at least 2 hours to transit.
Between the wait for the bus and walk to Terminal 3 it will take at least an hour. If you have more than 3 hours I would recommend stopping at a food court to eat before you go to the gates 59-61 where US preclearence is done. At the US preclearence gates there is only a small coffee shop.
Due to the weather delays on the day we landed in Abu Dhabi they were rushing passengers to Chicago and New York and told us passengers toWashington DC to say in a holding gate to prevent the Pre Clearance area from being too crowded.
To enter the pre clearance area you will have to show your travel documents at least twice and then enter a security zone. This security cone is manned by UAE personnel and even though it sounds like it, their intention is not be rude but try to hurry you. HEre you have to remove shoes, belts etc like at any US airport and additionally also take out electronics like iPad, cameras etc. It was quick and there were several people controlling the lines.
Once you are through security you enter the US Immigration line. This is just like the Immigration counter at any US airport. Depending on the time and the lines, they may send you to a self serve Automatic Passport control if you have a U.S. and Canadian passport and international visitors from Visa Waiver Program countries.
The APC lets you answer questions instead of a paper custom form and takes your picture and gives you receipts for all family members. . Once you are done a self serve immigration officer looks at your receipts and boarding cards and then shoes you your luggage photographs. If your luggage does not arrive you will be asked to wait till they transfer the luggage.
After this you go back to the gate and wait. Boarding process is orderly and when you arrive in the US you do not have to claim baggage if you are traveling to the another destination. in Washington we went through the gates like a domestic flight.
You hear rumblings about the Pre-Clearance at bu Dhabi but the biggest advantage is that all passengers traveling to the US have a convenient way to go through US Customs and Immigration and not have to lug their luggage at their post of entry into the US.
I think there is a disadvantage for First and Business class passengers which I hope Etihad will fix. Economy passengers should rejoice at flying Eithad to the US.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Check List for traveling from India

Thought these few points will be useful if you are returning back from your trip to India.
1. Remember to carry a printed copy of your travel itinerary.  Without this you will not be allowed into the airport for check-in.  They do see Mobile boarding passes but I would advice carrying a printed copy.
2. Hand baggage  tags. While passing through airport security,  your hand baggage tags will be stamped.  At the gate a have to is done to see if the  carry-on baggage has a security seal.  If you don't have one,  you will have to go back to security.  An avoidable inconvenience.
3. No embarkation card for non-Indian citizens.  After check-in you had to fill out an embarkation card and that's not a requirement so you now save time.
4. Carry-on baggage.  Many airlines limit the weight of the carry-on baggage to 7 kgs (about 15 pounds). If they feel your carry-on luggage is heavy they may weigh your carry-on,

5. Separate lines for men and women at security.  If traveling together families can expect to go through security separately. Just don't be surprised.  I have seen kids choose to go either with  mom or dad.

Special note for OCI (overseas v citizen of India) card holders.  You must carry the  OCI card along with the passport having the  lifelong visa.  If the visa is in an expired passport,  you must carry the expired passport as well.
It is quite stress free to travel through most Indian airports.  Hope these points will help you.