The United States is set to extend its immigration pre-clearance facility to include Dubai as well as Abu Dhabi within the next year, the US ambassador to the UAE has told Arabian Business.
Speaking at an event in Los Angeles to celebrate the launch of direct flights from Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways, Michael Corbin said: "We are looking at Dubai as an option for pre-clearance. It has only been operational for a few months in Abu Dhabi but has been a huge success and we want to expand it in the UAE. President Obama has made it his priority to encourage more visitors to the US and this is a big part of that."
The facility allows all passengers travelling to the US from Abu Dhabi to clear US immigration in the UAE capital before boarding their flights.
On arrival in the US, passengers are treated as domestic arrivals with no need for going through passport control.
"Dubai is more complex because you have flights leaving from different terminals and more US flights. But I think it can be done in 10 months to a year. The challenge is more logistical than political," Corbin added.
Etihad Airways president and CEO James Hogan added: "This is a game changer as far as Etihad is concerned. The facility has made a huge difference and really couldn't have gone better. It's great not just if you are flying direct to the US from Abu Dhabi but also connecting from elsewhere in the region."
Etihad launched its first flight to Los Angeles on June 1 and is hosting a major event on Tuesday night in Beverly Hills to celebrate the launch.
Separately, Hogan also revealed that there are likely to be some job losses at Alitalia, should Etihad's planned investment in the Italian carrier go ahead.
"We are looking at restructuring an airline and some staff may come out as a result of that process. It is about moving a business to profitability," he said.
11:19am, June 11: A Dubai Airports spokesperson told Arabian Business in a statement: "Customs pre-clearance is a matter for governments to decide. We are not in active discussions with any party, government or otherwise at this time."