Review: Etihad Airways Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Airport

Introduction
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I won’t rehash everything here, but suffice to say that the day leading up to the inaugural Etihad A380 flight was one of the most stressful travel days I’ve had. See these posts:

Anyway, I arrived at Abu Dhabi Airport at around 10PM for the 2:35AM flight to London Heathrow. I had a day room at the Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi so I could sleep, given that I didn’t get any sleep the night before and wanted to be well rested for the flight.

Upon arriving at the airport I headed to the premium check-in area at Terminal 3, which is where most of Etihad’s longhaul flights depart from.

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Etihad terminal exterior Abu Dhabi

Etihad’s first class check-in is quite personalized, in that you can be seated across from the agent while your check-in is being processed. I quickly had my boarding pass printed and headed towards immigration and security.

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Etihad business class check-in Abu Dhabi

I was through both within about 10 minutes. Just past security was the entrance to the old Etihad First & Business Class Lounge, which is presently being transformed into the Etihad First & Residence Lounge. I’ve been told that the new lounge should open around April, and based on what I’ve heard it should be spectacular.

The fact that they’re transforming the entire First & Business Lounge into just a First & Residence Lounge suggests they’ll have space working in their favor, if nothing else.

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Etihad’s future first class lounge under construction

In the meantime I headed over to the new Etihad Premium Business Class Lounge (it only opened last year), which is located near gate 35.

Abu Dhabi Terminal 3 is reasonably nice — there’s lots of duty free shopping, though it’s not quite as “grand” as the A380 concourse in Dubai, for example.

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Terminal 3 Abu Dhabi Airport

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Terminal 3 Abu Dhabi Airport

Enroute to the lounge I passed gate 33, where the Etihad A380 inaugural flight would be departing from in a few hours time. I couldn’t help but smile, knowing I’d be on it.

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A380 inaugural flight departure gate

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Terminal 3 Abu Dhabi Airport

The signage for the lounge is quite good, and the new Premium Lounge is located just before the US Pre-Clearance facility. So around gate 35 you turn left, which brings you down a neon-lit hallway.

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi signage

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Terminal 3 Abu Dhabi Airport

Then the Etihad Premium Lounge is located on the left.

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi entrance

There was a bit of a queue to get in, though once they saw I was a first class passenger they brought me over to a separate desk. Since there’s not presently a first class lounge, Etihad instead has a partitioned off section of the Premium Lounge for first class passenger, with a special menu and more personalized service. It’s actually a pretty cool setup.

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi reception

Suzanna, one of the first class agents, escorted me to the first class section.

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi

It was partitioned off from the rest of the lounge with a rope, and there were maybe a few dozen seats. It was a comfortable area, and for the most part stayed empty. I can’t say enough about how attentive the service in the lounge was — Amal, the lounge manager, is a class act, and together with his team they really do a hell of a job. Suzanna checked on me every few minutes to see if I wanted anything to drink or eat, if I wanted to schedule a spa treatment, etc.

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi first class seating

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi first class seating

My one major complaint about the first class section is that there’s a shortage of power plugs. They literally had to unplug the lamp in order for me to be able to charge my laptop. Kind of ridiculous for a newly designed lounge, in my opinion.

For what it’s worth, right next to the first class section is the Residence section of the lounge. Since Etihad only has one A380 as of now, it’s just a single small “private” partitioned off area of sorts. It features a dining table for two, two couches, etc. Presumably service in there is super attentive, and they even have a special menu just for Residence passengers. I can’t wait to see what kind of a Residence Lounge Etihad introduces when the new First & Residence Lounge opens in a couple of months time.

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi The Residence seating

In terms of the rest of the lounge, I do think it’s really impressive for a business class lounge. There’s tons of seating, both in the dining area and in the more “relaxed” area.

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi dining area

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi dining area

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi dining area

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi seating

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi seating

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi seating

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi seating

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi seating

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi seating

There’s also a pretty blingy looking bar in the center of the lounge.

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi bar

Then there’s a business center as well, with several computers and a printer:

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi business center

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi business center

And then there’s what they call “The Den,” which are basically semi-private areas from which to watch TV.

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Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi entertainment zone

For a business class lounge the food spread was especially impressive. Not only was there a huge variety, but everything actually looked tasty, which is rare in a lounge, in my opinion.

There was a buffet with mostly appetizer and dessert options.

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

And then a buffet with hot dishes and other more substantial items.

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

From Western to Asian to Arabic, the spread really was top notch.

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi buffet

In addition to comfortable seating and a great food spread, the lounge has two other cool features. First of all, there’s a Six Senses Spa.

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Six Senses Spa

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Six Senses Spa

Both first & business class passengers receive a complimentary 15 minute massage or facial treatment, from the following options:

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Six Senses Spa menu

As a first class passenger, Suzanna took care of the appointment for me. She brought me the menu and asked me what time I wanted the massage, and it was taken care of immediately.

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Six Senses Spa

I had a fantastic 15 minute back support massage, which was awesome. As usual I tried to tip after the treatment, and was told “that’s really not necessary.” I guess it’s their policy to say that, but when I insisted the masseuse took the tip.

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Six Senses Spa

Another cool feature is the Style & Shave Salon, which offers everything from hair treatments to shaves to manicures to blow drys. What an awesome idea!

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Style & Shave

Here’s the menu of services (first class passengers receive one complimentary treatment, while business class passengers have to pay):

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Style & Shave menu

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Style & Shave menu

There’s even a shoe shine station.

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Style & Shave menu

Once back at my seat in the first class lounge I decided to get some food from the buffet. While the champagne on offer in the business class lounge is Lanson, first class passengers are offered Billecart.

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi dinner

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi dinner

I also asked for a cocktail that most closely resembled me (sweet and sassy, of course!), and was brought a goblet of delicious juice along with a cheese plate.

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi dinner

And then I was offered a fruit plate to finish off the meal.

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi dinner

Shortly after midnight some festivities emerged in the lounge in celebration of the A380 inaugural. Two lovely waiters offered me a glass of rose and some canapes. They said “this is in celebration of our first Airbus A380 flight to London.” Who knew? ­čśë

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Etihad A380 inaugural festivities

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Etihad A380 inaugural festivities

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Etihad A380 inaugural festivities

At around 1AM it was time to head down to the departure gate, which was only a two minute walk away.

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Etihad A380 inaugural festivities

There were a ton of suits in attendance, which is sort of impressive for 1AM.

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Etihad A380 inaugural festivities

There was even a ribbon cutting ceremony with the Chief Operations Officer of Abu Dhabi Airport, as well as five executives from Etihad (including the SVP of Network Operations, VP of Guest Services, COO, SVP of Technical, and VP of Guest Experience).

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Etihad A380 inaugural ribbon cutting ceremony

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Etihad A380 Abu Dhabi Airport

There was a ton of anticipation as boarding was about to begin, as it became apparent that almost everyone in first class was an “enthusiast.”

The highlight was Gino Bertuccio (one of the coolest guys I know), the first Residence passenger, being introduced to “his” butler, Georgina.

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The first Residence passenger and the first Residence butler

Here’s a video Gino did before the trip about his expectations of the flight:

At 1:35AM, an hour before departure, boarding finally commenced. Off we were onto what was possibly my most anticipated flight ever!

Etihad Premium Lounge bottom line

This is definitely one of the better business class lounges out there. Between the comfortable seating, fresh interior, Six Senses Spa, Style & Shave Salon, and excellent manager Amal, this lounge is a winner. Even as a first class passenger I thought it was really nice, given how personalized the service was — I almost prefer it to the old Etihad First Class Lounge.

Now I just can’t wait to see what Etihad has in store for us with their new First & Residence Lounge!

If you’ve visited the new Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi, what was your experience?

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Comments

  1. When we have used the Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi ahead of a USA departure in first class, we didn’t experience the level of attention and service you seemed to have received while in the lounge. Is that standard?

  2. There definitely was not any special recognition or sectioned off area for F pax in this lounge in Dec or early Jan when I was there. It was a great J lounge but in terms of F experience at their “main base” lounge, it was pretty disappointing.

  3. CM: great question. freaky looking.

    Lucky: i don’t ever use massage or spa stuff but i’m curious, when you tip while in transit or briefly abroad somewhere, do you tip in local currency or USD/euro? also, i know this is purely subjective but how much would you personally tip for a free 15 minute treatment?

  4. @ pavel — If I have local currency I tip that, while if I don’t I tip USD. I tip ~10USD for a 15 minute treatment.

  5. @ PL — Hmmm, it definitely was in late December, and I had a friend fly through there last week and he said they still had the partitioned off area. Where you connecting to first class or connecting from first class?

  6. @ Miles Down Under — Did you get access to the partitioned off area and the service just wasn’t as attentive, or?

  7. @CM – I think it’s called a rambutan. I remember seeing them all over the place at street markets in Myanmar.

  8. Yep that fruit in the middle is called a rambutan. I agree with James. I’ve seen it all over Southeast Asia.

  9. @ Lucky – Very nice review. I’ve been to the old first class lounge which is being remodeled. I believe the new one is set to open in a couple of months and I really look forward to spending some time there between my flights this summer. Please follow our blog also!

  10. Lucky – it was both connecting from F (to J to MLE) and also departing in F (connecting from J). In both instances there wasn’t anything special nor even any recognition of flying in F. Departing in F was on Jan 2 and transiting from F was around Dec 20-ish.

    The experience wasn’t bad but it just wasn’t First class level.

  11. @ Lucky

    I have a flight from london to sydney via abu dhabi, the first segment is in economy and the other in business class, will i have access to this lounge or..?

    Thanks!

  12. Totally different experience in this lounge a week ago, no special service or menu in the first class section and plenty of people just coming in to use it who weren’t first class passengers.

    The lounge was PACKED. It’s a physically grand lounge, and there’s plenty of food. But it was chaotic, not peaceful.

    The internet worked better than I’ve experienced it in the old first class lounge and in the business class lounge in T1.

  13. Just visited this lounge (business class) last week. Physically beautiful if a little sterile. Great food choices and service.

  14. Barber is a nice Touch I’ll definitely have to have a beard trim and shave next time I go through. Very reasonable prices.

  15. We used this lounge last weekend on our way to India and I can confirm that the cordoned off area for first class passengers is still there. Although we didn’t find the service to be particularly noteworthy other than a couple of check ins to see if we wanted anything, I have to agree that the physical layout and food options are very appealing. Food was very tasty too.

    We tried the massage options at the six senses spa. My wife enjoyed her treatment but I had the worst back massage of my life which left me sore for a couple of days. My own fault for not speaking up about the excessive pressure and over use of the sharp end of the elbow but I didn’t want to waste the 15 minutes going back and forth with the masseuse and just figured it would be fine, not a mistake I’ll make again.

    I’ll also have to agree with one of the pervious commenters about EtihadÔÇÖs abysmal ground services. There was no escort or anything when we landed. You just get thrown into the crowd with everyone. When we went to board from the lounge, they had already shut the door for first and business passengers and we had to push our way through the scrum in the economy lane with dirty looks from all around. First world problems in the big picture I know, but you would think given how good the hard product is that they would put some effort into their ground service, at least at their home airport.

  16. Lucky – have you seen any sneak peeks of what the new first class lounge will look like? I am transiting end of March and want to frustrate myself with what I will be missing.

  17. Lucky,

    Any inside info yet on when they will start their A380 service to JFK and which of the two daily flights will have it?

  18. @ Mike — Unfortunately not. Haven’t heard anything further, other than that JFK service may be delayed a bit.

  19. For those looking for an update on the “First” section of the AUH T3 Premium Lounge, I can advise (due to a long transit):
    * The area towards the back of the lounge and just behind the restaurant style seating area / first buffet station after reception, is still a roped off “First” area.
    * However, this area is really open to anyone and is not access controlled *until* it’s starts to get into the evening and AUH’s peak period.
    * Etihad staff (usually two but sometimes one) then stand on the rope letting people in and out. I didn’t see much boarding pass inspection but I’m pretty sure there was control (vetting seems to happen at the concierge desk, thereafter it’s by face checking).
    * Technically ala carte menu ordering in the First area is a Residence guest privilege but if you’re travelling in First and are given some special attention, then you’ll find you’ll be offered to order off some of the dishes off the all carte menu (some require advance ordering as part of the pre-arrival Residence treatment). There is a real menu (it was offered to me, and I ordered a lovely Australian beef fillet it off it), others have reported not being offered the menu per say but given the offer of having the chef whip up a curry (not on the buffet) of some sort.
    * While in the First area, you often have wait staff offer to get you something from the bar or buffet (this can happen outside the roped off First section too).

    So it’s not a dedicated First lounge, but it’s a nice minor differentiator while we all await the opening of the new First lounge (except surprise and delight).

  20. I travel through AUH a lot and short stays in the business lounge at gate 33 are OK but this week i was with my wife and we had a four hour layover. The lounge is like a zoo. It is so noisey that rest is not an option as no sleeping area ( unlike the old lounge).
    After 4 hours there we had the usual Etihad abu dhabi THIRD CLASS boarding experience with no Business class segregation. When we complained the gate agent laughed at us. Nice work

  21. The lounge is spacious with tons of seating but I miss the private rooms the old lounge had where one could catch some sleep on really long layovers or before flights leaving for India at odd hours of the night. You literally cannot even put your feet up in the lounge as it’s an insult in the Middle East. So you can eat and drink to your heart’s content, shower and get a massage, but don’t expect any real rest for the weary in this lounge. Hope they change that soon.

  22. I was there Nov. 28 while departing in F Class to SYD and was IMPRESSED. My wife and I had the massage treatments and loved the experience. The buffet food was delicious and the First Class area was a nice getaway from the rest of the facility. In my mind, they’re tied with the LH F Class Terminal in FRA. They have EY beat with the car service to the aircraft. Other than that, it’s an awesome place to relax. I wish that I had asked our chauffeur to pick us up from the hotel even earlier.

  23. Ben! So excited to be flying LHR-AUH then AUH-JFK in May. Thanks to your suggestion! Setting fire to a ton of AA miles before devaluation. The US call center couldn’t find the space, read about calling Australia (thanks) and hey presto, worked a charm. Got 3K & 4K, and 3A & 4A locked in. Thank you ­čÖé

    Anyway, onto my question – looks like the F lounge in AUH wasn’t yet up and running when you flew, but given the late departure to JFK (2.55am), can we still expect it to be…open? Spa/massages and all, when we arrive at the airport that late??

    Also, did you make use of the chauffeur? Do they just operate a departure service, or can they pick us up when we arrive from LHR too? And they don’t drive you to hotels in Dubai do they? ­čśë

  24. Hello Pete,

    they operate all services, massage, hair cut etc. until your flight leaves, it is their busiest time of the night. I just was at the lounge on the 10th of January 2016 and literally got the last couch for my 10 year old so he was able to sleep (he sleeps even with lots of noise around him). We arrived a bit after 11:30pm and left close to 2:00am and it was still full. The lounge was a zoo at this time of the night. The F lounge is still the roped off area, we were in C but the F part looked as full as C.

    You can use the chauffeur at arrival and departure. on both ends of your flight.

    https://www.etihad.com/en-us/plan-and-book/book-chauffeur/

    Up to 100 miles at LHR and to any UAE location regardless of distance. We had a chaffeur pick us up from the Waldorf at Ras al Khaimah on a previous trip and this is much further then Dubai. We booked the chauffeur online but I did call to change our time in Abu Dhabi to an earlier pick up. They tend to pick later time to minimize your time at the airport but we wanted to be there earlier so your son could sleep a bit at the lounge (not easy to do there though, one of the flaws of the lounge in my opinion also considering their main flight banks being in the middle of the night).

  25. Ben, great review, I Am flying economy in a couple of weeks but I have platinum virgin Australia velocity membership which I am told will get me access ?

  26. Very useful review thank you! Just visited this lounge yesterday and would add two things. One is that they have a concierge service where you can deposit stuff in lockers. The second is that there is a rather large kid’s play room, cosily tucked away so adults don’t get any of the noise.

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