Review: Etihad’s New First Class Lounge, Abu Dhabi

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.

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 InsideFlyer.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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Comments

  1. “Sex senses spa”. The trademark Gary Leff proofreading never fails!

    Place does look good.

  2. I couldn’t believe what a cluster F**K trailer brake was on earth yard on the way out and on the way back but especially on the back.

    I had a two hour connection on the way back fairly baby bike flight point only by cutting lines. A Real scrum ,total chaos! I’m surprised nobody got trampled

  3. I was just there two weeks ago!! It was one of the best lounges I have visited. On par with Sydney First Class Lounge and CX Wing. Not to be missed.

  4. I had a nap on one of the couches in those private rooms next to the dining room when I was there last month. I’m not sure if I wasn’t supposed to, but I had the door closed and no one bothered me. The place was also quite empty that night, which might have had something to do with it.

  5. The review must be a relating to a visit a number of months ago as there is now neither an Emirates Palace tasting menu, nor a Lounge and Bar dining menu. There is one basic menu for breakfast, and then there is one basic menu for the rest of the day. The current food offerings are a shadow of what they once were. Cutbacks are taking place left, right and centre all across Etihad. When the lounge first opened, you were offered Arabic coffee and a choice of either a hot or cold towel. Not any more. That is just one example of the numerous cutbacks.

  6. I really enjoyed Etihad first class in the air but, after spending 45 minutes being pushed and jostled by a crowd making its way in the security line at Abu Dhabi airport, the trip was ruined for me. Until they provide some relief for premium passengers who are transiting, I am not taking another chance.

  7. I went to the lounge in January and they had an amazing menu from the Emirates Palace. When I went back in early June, they had eliminated due to cost cutting. Not my favorite lounge. Prefer the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Cathay The Wing, Singapore First Lounge and Thai First Class over this one. I think a Etihad’s first class service is over rated and while their Apartments are cool and I’m glad I tried it I have no burning desire to try it again unless I can’t find other seats first.

  8. @Gary: as some others pointed out, the Emirates Palace option has been discontinued along with the Lounge and Bar dining menu. You might want to point that out in the review. It is still a nice lounge but I don’t think it makes the top 5 in the world. A nice feature (at least for smokers) they have is the cigar lounge. Some cigars are complimentary but others are for sale. Staff is extremely nice and attentive and the food is good but that’s pretty much it.

  9. Well that was a weird spell check correction,

    I was saying the transfer in AUH (arriving from DEL) was a real cluster f**k, the worse I have ever experienced. A two hour transfer that I only made my flight by cutting queues that were more like scrums. Crowded beyond safe conditions, surprised no-one got trampled. And this was despite having a car on the tarmac transferring me from the plane to where I had to clear immigration again.

    Does everyone take a layover in AUH or was I just unlikely in the transfer.

  10. You missed out on two of the better features of this lounge. The cigar bar, where you can smoke a free, quality cigar and meet other travelers (if you’re interested), and the private rooms. My wife requested a blanket and slept on the couch for 2+ hours while we were in the lounge two days ago.

    Cheers,
    Jake P

  11. Etihad F is completely over-rated. And by cutting the SFO route, it just shows that other options are more valued than Etihad’s.

    Service on the ground is horrendous. As soon as you get out of the plane, you fend for yourself. Insane when competing with other F products.

    Lufthansa F, Asian F all much better.

  12. My wife and I arrived in Abu Dhabi from the UK early June and found the sign posting of the lounge very confusing and ended up at the Buisness lounge where a young man escorted us to the First clsss lounge and as we were short on time offered a golf buggy to transport us to gate 62 when we completed our visit. Now that’s service.

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