Since I was flying out of Abu Dhabi, rather than Dubai, after staying at Al Wadi Desert Resort I had a two hour drive to look forward to. It went quickly as I spent half an hour talking to a producer for a news network, and then caught up on some emails along the rest of the way.
I did still look out the window from time to time, however:
On arrival I checked in and headed to the new first class lounge that I was looking forward to finally having a chance to check out.
Etihad opened its new first class lounge in its home airport of Abu Dhabi last year. Much delayed, it takes the space of the old first class lounge and adjoining primary business class lounge to create a single much larger lounge for first class passengers and top tier elites in Etihad’s frequent flyer program.
One slight tweak since the lounge first opened is that you can access it if you arrive in Abu Dhabi in first class and are connecting in business class on a flight which doesn’t offer first.
The lounge is immediately in front of the terminal 3 security checkpoint. So passengers originating in Abu Dhabi go through premium passport control, to security right in front of them, straight ahead to the lounge.
Walk inside and you can either take the stairs or the elevator up to the lounge where you’ll be welcomed by an agent who will check your credentials and introduce you to the facility.
The lounge features customer service desks for help with your travel, a gym with showers, individual shower rooms, a Style & Shave salon, and a Six Senses spa. First class passengers get a complimentary 15 minute treatment from the spa or a complimentary salon choice. There’s also a kids play room.
I didn’t have enough time on this visit for a treatment, so I really just had a look around and decided to try some food which is a real highlight here.
The main parts of the lounge are various seating areas and the very large sit down dining section. In fact the lounge’s restaurant is the single largest feature.
We didn’t want to overeat before our late flight from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne, so we decided to each try a dish and share a dessert.
The lounge’s bar looks very familiar to anyone that’s been in a new Etihad lounge elsewhere like the one at New York JFK.
I am happier finding myself a seat with power and an area to work because there’s plenty of service in the lounge, you’ll be approached by a staff member to take care of drinks wherever you are and there’s also a menu you can order from in the lounge without going over to sit down dining.
There are plenty of seating areas that give the lounge more a sense of having a variety of different spaces rather than just one large room with a few twists and turns.
There’s also a relaxation room with comfortable seating and dimmed lights changing colors and patterns, though it may just be too trippy to nap in there.
This is an excellent first class lounge, with plenty of space so that you never feel crowded by other passengers and very good service along with all of the features you’d expect. I’d rate dining here among the top 5 first class lounge epicurean experiences, probably somewhere around number 5 and the overall lounge itself I’d place in the top 10.
However there were no private nap rooms and Etihad’s first class ground service lacks personalized escort from check-in to lounge and from lounge to gate.