Review: Etihad First Class Lounge

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Introduction: A Hop to the Maldives
Review: Park Hyatt New York
Review: Emirates Lounge JFK
Review: Emirates First Class A380 JFK-DXB
Review: Park Hyatt Dubai
Review: Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai
Review: Emirates First Class 777 DXB-MLE
Getting to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa
Review: Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
Review: Etihad Business A330 MLE-AUH
Review: Etihad First Class Lounge
Review: Etihad First Class A380 AUH-JFK
Review: American Business A321T JFK-LAX


 

Early last year, Etihad opened a new, dedicated First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi. I was excited to check it out, as we had a middle-of-the-night, five hour layover.

We landed from Male at a remote stand, and took a shuttle into the terminal proper. From there it was only a short walk to the First Class Lounge. Ample signage made the transfer very easy.

The main entrance was quite small and housed a small desk to check us in followed by an elevator which took us up one story to the main lounge, where we were greeted by a gorgeous entrance display.

Etihad First Class Lounge Entrance

The one drawback of this lounge, as opposed to say the Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai, was that as beautiful as it is, it’s quite small, with narrow hallways and many small rooms. It was more than adequately sized to fit all the traveller there that night,felt a little claustrophobic.

Fancy, but a little tight.

With a few hours to kill, it was time to get started checking out everything the lounge had to offer. Our first stop was the Six Senses Spa. Just like at the Emirates Lounge in Dubai, as First Class passengers we were offered a free 15 minute treatment. Upgrading that to 30 minutes was cheap, so we took the plunge and made reservations for later in the evening.

All set with our relaxation planned for later on, we continued on our exploratory mission. This lounge has everything (and then some) that you could possibly want to use during a layover. This main hallway was lined spots to check out.

Next to the spa was Style and Shave, where you could opt to get a professional shave, manicure or blow out (instead of the complimentary massage, or for a price).  There’s a gym, with cardio machines and free weights, should you be feeling a little sluggish. There’s even a kid’s room, fully decked out – though I wonder how many children ever fly First Class on Etihad.

Etihad First Class Lounge Kid’s Room

I stopped briefly in the restrooms, which were as nice as any I’d ever seen.

Etihad First Class Lounge Restrooms

From here, we ventured into the main space of the lounge, which, just past a desk with agents at your service, consists of two bars, a dining room, and plenty of seating.

Etihad First Class Lounge
Etihad First Class Lounge
Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi
Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi

The bar, as you can see, is visually stunning, and designed similarly to Etihad’s lounges in New York and Los Angeles. The geometric theme is carried through to Etihad’s livery and even the throw pillows placed at your seat on its flights. The consistency creates a compelling visual throughout your Etihad experience.

We weren’t very hungry, but I had heard magnificent things about the on-demand dining in the lounge’s formal dining room, and had to check it out, if only for a snack. If you want a more detailed description of the food, check out One Mile at a Time’s recent review of the full tasting menu.

Etihad has partnered with Emirates Palace to design its menu, and the dessert – layers of dough filled with dates and cardamon sandwiched with a labne cream in between – seemed like something we could not miss out on. We ordered some drinks, and mezze, and then enjoyed the Arabic dessert.

Arabic dessert in the Etihad First Class Lounge

At this point, we had already been traveling for more than ten hours since leaving the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa earlier in the afternoon, and it was time for a shower to freshen up before our massages. The shower facilities, located at the back of the spa, were beautiful, and offered everything one could need.

Bath time!

I enjoyed getting a massage during the middle of the night, but did not anticipate ahead of time that the specific massage I selected was a chair massage, rather than on a full bed, which would have been nicer. I’ll keep that in mind for next time (ha! next time! I can’t wait!)

It was now well past midnight, and we had another hour and a half before we would need to head toward our gate. Abu Dhabi is one of a few airports outside of the United States where you go through customs and passport control abroad, rather than once you arrive in the US. It’s nice, because you can land in the US as a domestic flight and not go through customs after a long, delirious in-air ordeal. On the other hand, it’s another stress to worry about before boarding your flight, and it minimizes the amount of time you can spend in the lounge. Costs and benefits, people.

Either way, we still had some time to kill. I checked out the Cigar Room, another service offered in the First Class Lounge. If the hour were more sane, and had I not just showered, I might have allowed myself to enjoy a complementary cigar, paired with an expensive cognac. But it was not, and I had, so I looked and passed. Instead, we headed toward the relaxation room, a slightly psychedelic area with lounge chairs on which we could rest for an hour.

Etihad First Class Lounge Relaxation Room

Soon enough, it was time to start moving. From the lounge we needed to go through US customs and then we would be able to relax in the post-customs lounge. We were strictly encouraged to head to customs no later than 2 AM (for our 3:30 AM flight), which was very aggravating, but we had no say in the matter. Needless to say, customs took 5 minutes to clear, and we found ourselves in a very-overcrowded lounge, with simple chairs and more food.

At this point, the florescent lights and 2:30 AM stopped cooperating, and I hit my wall. Before even boarding our flight, the worst thing about the A380 Etihad trip to New York was, I knew, its 3:30 AM departure time. Since we flew, Etihad has moved its morning flight to an A380 as well; in the future, I will take that plane. But, in the scheme of things, this was a minor worry. I was excited and set for the plane ride of a lifetime!

Take Away

Etihad’s First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi is beautiful and the service top-notch. The only way you’ll have the chance to check it out is if you fly Etihad First Class, departing or traveling through Abu Dhabi, so I doubt I’ll see this place very often in my lifetime, but it’s 100% worth it, and one of the finest airport lounges in the world.

My only regret is that I was not hungry enough or awake enough to enjoy everything the space had to offer at its fullest. Next time!

Coming up: Back to the world of flying with showers and on-board lounges. Could it beat Emirates?