I kicked off my relaxing trip to the Maldives with a first class award redemption on Etihad.
The first flight was Los Angeles – Abu Dhabi, and I had Etihad’s chauffeur service pick me up at the Sheraton LAX. I realize that the Sheraton LAX has an airport shuttle, but the chauffeur service is complimentary and — though my recent visits the shuttle has been reliable, I have a history of waiting for shuttles to come by there that have been full. Utterly gratuitous I suppose, but coming clean — yes I did that.
For DC departures I’ve had the car service (Empire CLS) ring me 2-3 days before. For this trip it was just one day prior. They’ll usually show up early to be absolutely sure they’re there on time for you. And indeed they did.
For my 3:55pm departure I scheduled a 1pm pickup. I figured that I’d visited the new Tom Bradley International Terminal’s oneworld lounge but I wanted to give the Star Alliance offerings a thorough go.
Etihad currently uses the Star Alliance lounge, and first class passengers have access to both the first class side and the business class side.
On arrival I entered the terminal and checked in with Etihad. The agent at the counter explained access to the Star Alliance lounge and let me know that she would come to collect us from the lounge and escort us to the aircraft at boarding time. There’s no escort to the lounge but they do assist from the lounge.
Once through security (there’s no PreCheck and I opted out of the nude-o-scope for the first time in quite awhile) I was inside the really quite nice new Bradley terminal. It’s gone from one of the worst airport experiences to the look and feel of a proper world airport. Unfortunately that sense is limited to only that terminal, and navigating the airport grounds to get there is an experience in itself. Still, they did something that I did not think possible for Los Angeles World Airports.
Head upstairs to the lounges, and there’s an entrance to the Star lounges – and then separate doors for business (with check-in outside the lounge) and first class. The business side is the one with the line.
First class is straight ahead. There’s a checkin desk and around the corner just one reasonably-sized room. Nothing architecturally impressive about it.
There are sit down dining tables and there’s an area of comfortable seating.
There’s both a self service bar and buffet, and there’s menu service.
Here’s the menu:
Here’s a little dessert.
Frankly it’s a nice and quiet room with a bit of food and plenty of power outlets. But it’s a holding room more or less, not a place I’d want to while away the hours.
The business class lounge on the other hand is certainly impressive.
There’s a door between the two lounges. The first lounge opens right into the business lounge. The door on the other side requires a code (which is posted inside the business lounge) in order to get back through.
On the business class side of that door was something much grander, and much busier.
The first space you encounter coming through is the business class dining room.
That’s all buffet, of course.
Beyond the dining area are several lounging areas.
That includes an indoor deck looking out over the departures level of the terminal.
The space is just interesting and well-adorned.
There’s a bar, naturally.
And there’s a media room.
There are showers.
Most impressive of course is the outdoor deck.
Not only is it an outside space overlooking airport operations, but there’s a bar outside as well as a water feature.
You can even keep yourself warm from those brisk Los Angeles afternoons with fire.
I think the key is to eat and drink in the first class lounge away from the hordes (it is a large and busy lounge where a whole lot of people have access) but relax out on the deck of the business class lounge on a nice day.