Review: Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi

A couple of days ago I finally had the chance to visit Etihad’s new first class lounge in Abu Dhabi. The lounge opened in May 2016, after substantial delays. While I used to fly Etihad all the time, I’ve been making an effort to review more new airlines lately, so this was my first time passing through Abu Dhabi in first class since the lounge opened.

Prior to that I visited Etihad’s Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi, which can be accessed by business class passengers. For a business class lounge it’s solid.

Etihad’s Abu Dhabi first class lounge is open 24 hours a day, and is located just past the security checkpoint at Terminal 3. So if you’re originating in Abu Dhabi you’ll find the lounge as soon as you clear the security checkpoint. Meanwhile if you’re connecting, clear transit security at Terminal 3, and then follow the signage to the first class lounge.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi exterior

Just inside the main entrance is an associate who checks your boarding pass. You can access Etihad’s first class lounge if you’re departing in first class, if you’re an Etihad Guest Platinum member, or if you’re arriving in first class and connecting in the highest possible cabin on the next flight (in other words, on most flights in the Gulf, business class is the highest cabin, so flying from London to Abu Dhabi in first class and Abu Dhabi to Muscat in business class will get you access).

Once past the entrance there’s both a set of stairs and elevator that takes you to the second level, where the lounge is located.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi entrance

Upon exiting the elevator you’ll find signage about Etihad Airways Partner airlines.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi entryway

Then you’ll find yourself in the lounge’s gorgeous main foyer, where you’ll be approached by a representative to point you in the right direction. The quantity of flowers in the entry area is impressive.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi entryway

The main part of the first class lounge is inside the entrance and to the left. As you enter you’ll see some customer service desks to the right (should you need help with anything regarding your ticket), and then the massive dining area straight ahead.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi dining area

The dining area feels like it takes up nearly half of the lounge.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi dining area

I appreciate how there’s plenty of separation between tables, and also that the dining area is separated into a couple of parts by a wall, so that it doesn’t feel like one, big exposed space.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi dining area

Then there’s more seating by the window.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi dining area

As if that’s not enough dining space, there’s another dining area with almost a dozen tables on the opposite end of the lounge.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi dining area

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi dining area

I’d say probably half of the lounge’s seats are in the dining area. Then there are a few other sitting areas. There are four seats along the wall across from the dining area.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi seating

Then there are a couple of other sitting areas with maybe a dozen seats each.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi seating

There are more seats along the windows.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi seating

Then there’s a small TV area.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi TV area

At the far end of the lounge is the relaxation room, which has a handful of seats in a room with dimmed lights. The screen has some pretty cool light patterns that are constantly changing colors, though I’m not sure how helpful that is if you’re trying to sleep.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi relaxation area

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi relaxation area

The seats recline quite a bit, though not completely flat. This is intended to be the rest area, as unfortunately this lounge doesn’t have proper bedrooms (like the Swiss First Class Lounge in Zurich and Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge Doha).

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi relaxation area

Between the main dining area and relaxation area is the bar, which has the same design as Etihad’s other new lounges, including in New York and Los Angeles.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi bar

Then in the far corner is a basic self service area with coffee, tea, and soft drinks. Given that this is a first class lounge, the intent is that most of the service is provided by the staff in the lounge, which is why the selection is so limited.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi self serve snack & drink area

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi self serve espresso machine

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi self serve Arabic coffee & tea

The lounge also has two semi-private rooms. I’m not sure if these have to be reserved or what. These aren’t rooms for passengers in The Residence, in case anyone is wondering, as those passengers get access to a separate lounge.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi private rooms

Back outside the main door of the lounge are some of the other amenities, including a gym, spa, salon, kids play area, etc.

This lounge has a “real” gym. While the Admirals Club at DFW Airport has a tiny cardio room, this is actually a fairly legitimate gym — what an awesome concept! There were a couple of treadmills, bikes, and ellipticals. There weren’t any weights best I could tell, but this is still by far the best airport gym I’ve ever seen.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi gym

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi gym

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi gym

Inside the gym were two showers — one for men, and one for women.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi gym shower room

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi gym shower room

Next to the gym were some of the lounge’s other main amenities. There was the Style & Shave Salon, where you can get a shave, haircut, blowdry, manicure, etc.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Style & Shave Salon

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Style & Shave Salon

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Style & Shave Salon

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Style & Shave Salon

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Style & Shave Salon

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Style & Shave Salon

Then there was the Six Senses Spa, offering massages, facials, etc.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Six Senses Spa

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Six Senses Spa

The spa menu read as follows:

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As a first class passenger you get a complimentary treatment from either the Six Senses Spa or the Style & Shave Salon. It used to be that you’d get one free treatment for each, but that’s not the case anymore. That seems a bit cheap to me, but whatever. The wet shave is a really cool experience, if you have the opportunity. Do note that both the salon and spa are open daily from 5:30AM until 2:30AM — while the lounge is open 24 hours, the salon and spa close for three hours overnight.

Also near the spa are the individual shower rooms, which are spacious.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi shower room

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi shower room

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi shower room

The shared restrooms are equally nice.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi bathrooms

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi bathrooms

Across from the spa is the play area for kids.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi kids play area

Now let’s talk more about the actual lounge, including the service and food & drinks. Within a minute of us sitting down, one of the friendly servers came by to offer us a snack and drink menu. The service in the lounge is top notch, and I noticed them being equally attentive as each guest arrived.

While there’s a restaurant with an extensive dining selection, there’s a more limited bar menu, which read as follows:

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On top of that there’s an extensive champagne and wine list:

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Then there are a bunch of signature cocktails, each named after a city. This is the same concept you’ll find at the other Etihad lounges around the world. That list read as follows:

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There were also more traditional cocktails:

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And even mocktails:

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Here’s the rest of their liquor selection:

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And then their juice, water, and coffee selection:

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We sampled the Paris and Los Angeles cocktails, both of which were excellent.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi cocktails — Los Angeles & Paris

Despite not being hungry, we took one for the team and decided to eat in the lounge as well. The menu in the dining room read as follows:

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There’s also a signature Emirates Palace tasting menu, which read as follows:

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To fully experience the dining in the lounge we decided to share a tasting menu.

So we had a seat at one of the beautifully prepared tables.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi dining area

We were offered a selection of bread.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi breakfast selection

To start we had the amuse bouche, which consisted of dates with chami, which was excellent.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Emirates Palace tasting menu — dates with chami

Next I was served the soup, which was a chicken and barley soup. The liquid was poured into the bowl right at the table, so kudos to them for the presentation.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Emirates Palace tasting menu — chicken and barley soup

The next course consisted of scallops with saffron.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Emirates Palace tasting menu — scallops mughrabia

The main course consisted of roasted lamb with tomato chickpea stew and saffron rice. Personally I’m not a huge fan of lamb, but Ford said he really enjoyed it.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Emirates Palace tasting menu — lamb medfoun

Dessert consisted of layers of dough made of dates, saffron, and cardamom, with cream. I love Arabic desserts, and this one had an especially unique taste.

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Etihad First Class Lounge Emirates Palace tasting menu — batheatha

Despite not being hungry, I can confidently say that the food in the lounge was exceptional, both in terms of taste and presentation.

The service in the lounge in general was great as well. Every staff member was friendly, proactive, and accommodating. Actually, I’d say Etihad’s onboard crews could learn a thing or two from their lounge staff.

In terms of other random things, I should note that wifi in the lounge was fast. Also, the lounge has views of the interior apron of the airport, though it was tough to capture that at night. So at least the lounge has some views, though they’re not amazing.

Etihad Airways First Class Lounge bottom line

I’m so happy to have finally had the opportunity to visit Etihad’s new first class lounge in Abu Dhabi. The lounge is a massive improvement over the business class lounge that passengers previously had access to. This is definitely one of the top 10 first class lounges in the world.

This lounge is really an industry leader in terms of their gym, incredible tasting menu, creative cocktails, and unique spa facilities, including wet shaves, haircuts, etc. (it’s just unfortunate that only one 15 minute treatment is complimentary).

There are also a few downsides to the lounge, or perhaps the overall experience, though. The lounge doesn’t have any real nap rooms. Furthermore, while the lounge felt high end, I found aspects of the design to be pretty boring. Lastly, while the lounge itself is great, Etihad drops the ball when it comes to first class ground services otherwise. There are no escorts, true priority queues, golf carts, etc. That’s unfortunate, especially since so many of their flights leave from remote stands.

So overall this is a fantastic lounge. Given the lounges I’ve tried lately, it’s time I revisit my list of the world’s best airline lounges.

If you’ve visited the Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi, what was your experience like?

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Comments

  1. @Lucky, great review, thanks! When we flew last year March JFK-AUH in F (apartment), AUH-DEL in J (highest cabin available), we were not permitted in the old First class area of the premium lounge (and were not granted a complimentary spa treatment). Is this a new policy that you can access the F lounge when connecting to a J ticket? If so, awesome! That was really annoying before.

    I can’t believe they serve Parker’s Heritage Collection bourbon. It’s impossible to find at retail and goes for $400-500 a bottle on the secondary market. Can’t wait to visit and try it.

  2. “There are no escorts, true priority queues, golf carts, etc.”

    No true. Fly Residence then—-you have your own butler.

  3. We spent almost 7 hours in the lounge before our flight to Melbourne (where we were the ONLY guests in dust Chas :-)) ). About 4-5 hours we were the only guests in the lounge. It was just an incredible experience. We had a great time at the bar and were served individual cocktails based on the ingredients we asked for. We had dinner and lunch at the restaurant and both times were served in a highly professional manner. Can’t wait to get back.

    @Luxky, you didn’t mentioned the cigar lounge. Did you miss it?

  4. @VirtuosoEric I also couldn’t believe that they served the Parkers. It’s the 8th Edition, which is the Wheat Whiskey. So,technically not a bourbon. But still nice to see something different than Woodcord.

    Fdw

  5. I have been very disappointed with the Etihad First Class lounge. The fittings are fine but the service is atrocious and the staff probably the most unhelpful jobsworths I have encountered.

    The main issue I have is their completely inflexible attitude towards what time you have to leave the lounge and stopping service before that. On A380 flights they list boarding as 75 mins before departure (seriously? 75 minutes for the grand total of 8 passengers in First Class to board???) and they won’t provide you table service unless you have 30 mins before boarding starts. And there is no self service buffet any more for a quick snack (eliminated as part of the cost cutting). So if you want even a quick bite, you have to arrive 2 hrs in advance or else they send you to the old Premium Lounge to use the buffet there.

    At the end of the day, I have always left the lounge more stressed than when I entered it which is never a good sign. I prefer just going to the old Premium Lounge directly now where it may be a bit more crowded and less fancy, but I can still grab a quick bite and a drink within 2 hours of departure.

  6. I didn’t find food to be gourmet there. Visited two times on my way to MLE and back.
    Emirati Palace menu and the next time ala carte.
    I’m not foodie, but probably tasted enough in my life to tell the difference.
    The service was good. Massage sadistic, put that in my other post on Etihad.

    In comparison food in A380 F Apartment was way better than in the lounge. Both in outbound and inbound flights.

  7. I flew SYD-LHR F on Etihad a couple of years ago and noted that they listed an old New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a Hunter Valley Pinot Noir which to my way of thinking is silly as the NZ sauvignon blanc style should be younger the better as most have a 2 year shelf life and its far too warm to grow Pinot in the Hunter Valley. I believe these to be gross errors of judgement and ignorance.
    On your list above they have a Nautilus Estate 2013, so 4 years old and now a Pinot Noir from South Africa who famously grow Pinotage because they know its too warm to grow Pinot Noir so it would appear they have the same fool in charge.

  8. As a Platinum, I must have been in the lounge around fifteen times. My biggest source of irritation is the discontinued buffet during breakfast and dinner timings. Even with time on my hands, I sometimes don’t want a full dining experience and would much prefer helping myself to this and that from the buffet. I spoke to the F & B manager about it and he gave me an email address to complain to. Needless to say, I just got a standard generic response and nothing since then. The manager did tell me that many people have complained especially those with a tight connection where they are basically advised to go to the business lounge. That is very poor service in my opinion and not worthy of a first class product. Quite simply, it’s cutting costs and nothing else. I find the service hit and miss and more often than not the staff are busy gossiping amongst themselves. On one occasion, ten minutes after entering the lounge, nobody acknowledged me so I went to the bar and made my feelings known. The quality of the food is generally good and as a beer drinker I can’t complain.

  9. @ Melissa — In case the title of the post didn’t make it clear, the review is of the First Class lounge & experience, and not the Residence lounge & experience.

  10. Hey lucky

    It seems that they have removed the top shelf stuff from the alcohol menu vs my previous trip there last year in July. I noticed a few stuff gone, see these 2 pages of the menu – https://imgur.com/gallery/6PtWj

    No more – Evan Williams 23 years old, Elijah Craig 18, Chivas 25, Yamasaki 12, Hennessy paradis, Martell Creation…

    Also- did you not go into the cigar lounge where they were giving free top shelf cigars? Or is that gone now too… :O

  11. I was just there 2 weeks ago and arrived 5 hours before flight to Melbourne. We got the private room as they are first come first serve. The food was excellent and I liked the 2006 bollinger grand Annee ( better then the billecart on the flight). Spa is great but a full massage like Thai lounge in BKK would be nice. Ground service once you leave the lounge is about the worst for first class I have experienced. Boarding is unorganized and just a big mess.

  12. But Lucky, you are gay, and the UAE hates the gays OMG weren’t you guys constantly harassed and beaten up on 3 separate occasions, how can you support a country like that, etc.

    Yeah, I’m being sarcastic. I’ll admit, I did expect to see more comments like that here, but oh well.

    Back on topic, now that you’ve experienced all 3 of the ME3 first class lounges, how would you rank all 3 of them or compare them?

  13. @Lucky “This lounge has a “real” gym. While the Admirals Club at DFW Airport has a tiny cardio room, this is actually a fairly legitimate gym”

    No free weights equals no legitimate gym. Period.

    Also, “especially unique” is not a thing. It’s either unique or not. Maybe it’s more rare or more special or more exquisite but unique is a binary quality.

    Finally, it doesn’t seem like this one is joining The Pier or AF Paris. Sounds like it’s good but not best.

  14. I was just there 2-3 days ago, connecting from MLE to JFK. My flight landed around 9-10pm and my outbound flight was listed as having a 3:40am departure. I wasn’t hungry as I had eaten on the MLE flight, so I felt silly sitting at a dining table. I really could’ve used a buffet for something light. I didn’t feel like alcohol at that hour either. In any case, by the time I was hungry around 2:00 and sat at a table to order congee, one of the attendants in the lounge told me that I was going to be late and made us rush out of the lounge. I didn’t get my congee. This was my first time at AUH so I complied even though I had GE. I made it to the gate in about 30 minutes so I waited around at the gate until boarding. I wasn’t in the mood to enter the Premier lounge at that time, so I just had a seat with the large crowd and waited.

  15. Note that if you are in the case if connecting from F inti the highest non-F class available while they will allow access I was informed during my early-Jan visit that you do NOT get a free treatment. Apparently the computer will only allow it if it can scan an upcoming F boarding pass (or so they said).

    A few other notes:
    – they offered our group of 5 one of the private rooms without asking
    – we found the service exceptional, but it may be because we seemed to have a person assigned to take care of us in the room
    – we tried a few of the signature city cocktails and found them to be fairly universally disappointing – complex sounding descriptions with simple/bland tastes (for example, Mumbai is a more complex take on a bloody Mary, but tasted like a…bloody Mary – and not a very interesting one at that)
    – they had a nanny who took our daughter off our hands in the play room while we were there, which was fantastic

    Overall a mediocre experience – wouldn’t go out of my way to go there again, but happy to return as our travel takes us there.

  16. I am always amazed at the poor selection of beer offered in any airline lounge (except Cathay in Hong Kong). Your choices appear to be a myriad of “yellow beer” and Guinness.

    Has no-one ever heard of a draft Yorkshire Bitter or a real Ale? Never anything tasty and yummy.

    Just bland and tasteless lager or over the wall Stout.

  17. In one of the private rooms right now. Can’t say enough about how great the service is! Monika (if she’s on duty, she’ll treat you right), F/B Manager, offered me one of the private rooms and has been serving me essentially as a private butler ever since! She even had the shoe shiner come and pick up my shoes, as it closes in a few minutes. So…kudos to this lounge and their staff! I found the staff to be very proactive and helpful, not at all aloof. The wet shave rocked my world, as it always does. So…while not as architecturally impressive as Emirates/DXB or Qatar/DOH, I think you’ll find it a special experience.

  18. To add to the above, this lounge provides some special uniquenesses, or near uniquenesses:
    -wet shave
    -gym
    -cigar lounge (with free cigars, I understand)
    -most extensive selection of signature mocktails I’ve seen

    Throw in the free shoe shine, great food (try the off-menu crab salad!) & the most attentive staff I’ve met in an F Lounge, & it’s been a great experience.

    Let’s face it, every great F lounge has memorable parts to it; that’s part of what makes them great:
    -Emirates: Expansiveness
    -Qatar: Sleep rooms
    -Lufthansa: Porsche
    -Cathay: Cabanas
    -Singapore: Lobster-on the ground & in the air!
    -Thai: Massage
    I could go on, but you get the picture. Point being that Etihad has done just that: They’ve carved out a unique place for themselves in the F Lounge landscape, and a great one at that! Combined with their hard product-pretty much a slam dunk that their 380 F cabin is number 1 for commercial-I love Etihad! But gotta go, another signature mocktail is on its way…

  19. Why would anyone want to spend more than 2-3 hours in any longe is beyond me. Oh and AUH airport is so small and easy to navigate that an escort/goldf carts are completely unnecessary.

  20. I know that this a a bit off topic, but…I have a F award seat on a 77W from JFK-AUH using OZ miles in 3 weeks. Any chance EY would allow me on an earlier flight out of JFK which is A380 in a F Apartment either in advance or at the airport if I arrive on a paid connecting flight early enough? Or would I still have to go through OZ? Of course it seems that such seats rarely if ever appear under Etihad Guest as open on that A380 out of JFK…so I do not know if OZ would even see such a seat at the last minute. Do you have any thoughts or advice? Thanks

  21. My experience at this lounge (and at check-in, for that matter) was underwhelming. I was there around 1 am (admittedly a busy time at AUH) and the lounge was completely packed.

    I found out that a haircut wasn’t one of the free services, so I paid for it. I was hoping to get some change for a large bill so that I could tip the stylist, but the people at the salon told me I would have to leave the lounge in order to find someone who could make change. Also, the lounge itself was super far from my gate.

    On the plus side, the space itself is visually appealing, and I think the relaxation room is a cool concept.

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