How to Choose an Airport Hotel.. and How to Do it in Abu Dhabi (the Premier Inn)

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My flight from Washington Dulles was scheduled to land at 7:45pm, and we were a few minutes late. I’d have to clear immigration (easy enough with no line at fast track), and I’d have to be back at the airport early for my 9:35am departure.

Now, on this trip I had checked a bag. I almost didn’t need to, and a little more thoughtful packing I wouldn’t have. I was going to be gone for 12 nights. I didn’t need a large checked bag, and checking a bag I didn’t also take a rollaboard (just my laptop bag). But having done that I checked my bag only to Abu Dhabi (they would have defaulted, in DC, to checking all the way through to Male if I hadn’t said something, despite the nearly 14 hour overnight layover).

What I should have done is taken all of my overnight items including a change of clothes and put them in my laptop bag. I didn’t and that cost me a good half hour, every minute is precious on an airport overnight.

With such a short time, and expecting to be tired after a 14 hour flight that didn’t depart until after 10pm, I figured I would be exhausted and just want to sleep. So I decided on an airport hotel stay instead of going into Abu Dhabi proper. That would allow for a later morning departure from the hotel, which I valued quite a lot.

When choosing an airport hotel I generally believe that you want, all things equal:

  1. The hotel attached to the airport
  2. If no hotel attached to the airport, the one that’s most recently renovated

At the Abu Dhabi airport there’s a transit hotel inside the terminal that is fairly old and not where I wanted to spend a night.

And there’s now a brand new Premier Inn that’s attached to the airport, essentially across the street from the terminals and connected by walkway through a retail corridor.

You can just follow the purple signage in the terminal although if you know where you’re going it’s faster to walk out the front of the airport and cross the street (what I did on the return the next morning).

This hotel is generally available for less than US$100. It is basic, almost dorm-like, but brand new and clean and did the trick perfectly.

At check-in they offered to upsell breakfast to me at a discount, but I figured I would be leaving fairly early. I had saved my first class boarding pass stub from my inbound flight and planned to use it for first class lounge access in the morning despite being on an aircraft with business class as the top cabin. And I’d rather have a fresh cooked (and free) breakfast in the lounge.

Otherwise check-in was efficient, though as is common they took copies of passport as well as a credit card imprint. They were also a bit skeptical of my rate, so brought over the manager on duty who concurred that it was correct, and I was given keys and sent on my way.

The hotel only has double bed rooms, there are no kings, but the beds push together to form a king in the European sense.

One of the things I like about airport hotels is getting a view of airport operations. The view here didn’t offer that in an especially pleasing way.

But I got some sleep, which is what I wanted. The property was a bit dorm-esque. The shower had a soap/shamppo combo dispenser on the wall, something that always reminds me of the hotel my high school debate team used to stay at when traveling to tournaments in Bakersfield, California. It was a shower/tub combination, the tub was high and I found it slippery getting in and out – so be careful.

I got ready around 6am and checked out of the hotel. I asked for an email folio instead of paper, I don’t like carrying around slips of paper on two week trips and prefer electronic versions of things. The hotel’s system didn’t have the ability to do that but the woman working the front desk promised to send it to me personally, which she did.

There’s a coffee shop in the lobby, and I ordered a coffee to drink on the walk back over to the terminal.

Just outside the hotel is a retail shopping space, which includes some fast food options but I skipped past those. Soon enough I was back at the business class check-in counters. I already had my flight boarding pass, but needed to check my bag again for the flight to the Maldives.


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 Milepoint.com, 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. Your airline hotel logic is a good one, but the “all things being equal” generally means that the newest and/or closest ones are usually more expensive …

  2. @Joe price then factors in, though if you’re on someone else’s dime it often doesn’t, hence the all things being equal is about what you want the most, but then may become constrained by cost.

  3. For one that has never been to Abu Dhabi – would there be anything to see/do with that timeframe overnight? My layover will be very similar and would prefer to see something if at all possible.

  4. @ Gary. You said “I had saved my first class boarding pass stub from my inbound flight and planned to use it for first class lounge access in the morning despite being on an aircraft with business class as the top cabin” Will this work for BKK flights too? I have a flight from FRA in F class on Thai and the connecting flight in BKK is business. Have you done that in BKK. Is it possible?

  5. @caveman for Thai connecting flights they will meet you on arrival in first and take you to the first lounge, but not for overnights.

  6. I like Premier Inns. Whenever we’ve stayed at one, they’ve always been clean, and comfortable (except that one time when it was hot in England and of course the hotel had no air conditioning). And the breakfast has always been very good. The last time we stayed at one, they also had a very reasonable scheme for charging for wifi. You got 30 minutes free each day, which turned out to be per device. That was enough for us, since we were on vacation and not at the hotel much anyway. Then, to have access for 24 hours I don’t remember what the price was, but I remember thinking that the price was very reasonable if you needed it.

  7. Would the Premier Inn be comparable to the Ambassador In Transient hotel at SIN? We like them, but also find it to be dormesque.

  8. Gary – Any experience with the Yotel at Heathrow Terminal 4 – is there an issue if you arrive at Terminal 1, 2, 3, 5 getting to 4 just for the overnight?
    What’s your “favorite” for an overnight at Heathrow? Thanks.

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