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.
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.
Upon exiting the elevator you’ll find signage about Etihad Airways Partner airlines.
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.
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.
The dining area feels like it takes up nearly half of the lounge.
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.
Then there’s more seating by the window.
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.
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.
Then there are a couple of other sitting areas with maybe a dozen seats each.
There are more seats along the windows.
Then there’s a small 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Inside the gym were two showers — one for men, and one for women.
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.
Then there was the Six Senses Spa, offering massages, facials, etc.
The spa menu read as follows:
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.
The shared restrooms are equally nice.
Across from the spa is the play area for kids.
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:
On top of that there’s an extensive champagne and wine list:
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:
There were also more traditional cocktails:
And even mocktails:
Here’s the rest of their liquor selection:
And then their juice, water, and coffee selection:
We sampled the Paris and Los Angeles cocktails, both of which were excellent.
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:
There’s also a signature Emirates Palace tasting menu, which read as follows:
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.
We were offered a selection of bread.
To start we had the amuse bouche, which consisted of dates with chami, which was excellent.
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.
The next course consisted of scallops with saffron.
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.
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.
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?