Review: Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco Airport
Review: Cathay Pacific First Class 777 San Francisco To Hong Kong
Review: Cathay Pacific Arrivals Lounge Hong Kong Airport
Review: Grand Hyatt Hong Kong Grand Suite
Review: Cathay Pacific The Pier First Class Lounge Hong Kong Airport
Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class A330 Hong Kong To Kuala Lumpur
Review: Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur
Review: Malaysia Airlines First Class Lounge Kuala Lumpur Airport
Review: Malaysia Airlines Business Class 737 Kuala Lumpur To Bali
Review: St. Regis Bali Pool Suite
Review: St. Regis Bali Lagoon Villa
Review: St. Regis Bali Restaurants & Activities
Review: Premier Lounge Bali Denpasar Airport
Review: Qatar Airways Business Class 777 Bali To Doha
Review: St. Regis Doha
Review: Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha Airport
Review: Qatar Airways First Class 777 Doha To Abu Dhabi
Review: Le Meridien Abu Dhabi
Review: Rosewood Abu Dhabi
Interlude: 30 Hours In Abu Dhabi
Review: Etihad US Pre-Clearance Lounge Abu Dhabi Airport
Review: Etihad First Class A380 Abu Dhabi To New York
Review: Le Parker Meridien New York
I’ve reviewed Etihad’s Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi before. The lounge opened less than two years ago, and it’s shared between first & business class passengers. Eventually Etihad is supposed to open a first class lounge, though that has been delayed (seemingly) indefinitely.
In the meantime I quite like the Etihad Lounge Abu Dhabi, even as a first class passenger. It has a partitioned off section for first class passengers with more attentive service. Furthermore, as a first class passenger you receive a 15 minute spa treatment in the Six Senses Spa, as well as a treatment at the Style & Shave Salon. It’s quite nice to get a back rub and a razor shave before hopping on a longhaul flight.
So while I look forward to the first class lounge eventually opening, I think the solution they have for first class passengers in the meantime is quite nice. I won’t review the lounge beyond that, given that I have nothing to add to the previous review.
What I will cover, however, is Etihad’s new mini-lounge, which is located past the US Pre-Clearance facility.
For several years now, Etihad has run a US Pre-Clearance facility in Abu Dhabi, where US-bound passengers clear customs & immigration prior to getting on their flight. At first the facility was a disaster and was consistently causing huge flight delays.
The problem is that if one or two people are being held up or are delayed, the entire plane needs to wait for them. So delays of a couple of hours became the norm.
Etihad’s facility seems to be getting better over time, and I was curious to check it out again.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at 3:20AM, so we left the main lounge at around 2:15AM.
The entrance to the US Pre-Clearance facility is located just past the main lounge, and requires taking an escalator to the facility.
Nowadays there’s a separate queue for premium passengers. On the plus side, the facility seemed nearly empty when we were there. Etihad has a flight to New York and San Francisco around the same time, though I guess both flights were quite empty this time around. Or perhaps we just waited long enough so that most people had already cleared the facility.
There was a Global Entry kiosk, so within 30 seconds I had the standard Global Entry slip printed. However, in Abu Dhabi you have to talk to an immigration officer even if you have Global Entry, though it was painless — I was through within a couple of minutes.
After that there’s yet another security checkpoint, exclusively for US-bound flights. It’s much more involved than the first checkpoint, as you actually have to remove all the liquids from your bag, and you even have to power on your laptop. Fortunately the queue was short, so we were through quickly.
From there it was back up the escalator, where on the right we found the Etihad Lounge.
Again, this lounge is meant to be a mini-lounge, exclusively to use once you’ve gone through the Pre-Clearance facility. I commend Etihad for operating this lounge, as it’s quite an investment for just a few flights a day for a period lasting just a couple of hours.
Our boarding passes were verified as we entered the lounge, and we were informed that boarding would be announced.
The lounge was larger than I was expecting, but still on the tight side, when you consider the number of premium passengers Etihad has on two US-bound flights. The design was very similar to Etihad’s other updated lounges (like the one at London Heathrow), so quite impressed me.
At the far end of the lounge were several couches.
Then along the back wall of the lounge was a counter with some high-top seats.
There was another area with some dining tables.
And then in the far corner was another seating area with several more couches.
One corner of the lounge had a roped off area, which I assume was for passengers traveling in The Residence. I thought the setup was rather hilarious. While The Residence is usually all about privacy, this area is completely exposed and even has a velvet rope, which attracts quite a bit of attention.
There was also a small business center, or perhaps more accurately just a single iMac on a desk.
The lounge also had a nice selection of light snacks available.
These included fresh fruit, some small canapés, desserts, finger sandwiches, etc.
Once settled in the staff came by to offer us drinks. I recognized the staff from the other lounge (they rotate between lounges). We ordered some champagne, which was Moet, due to their sponsorship of the Grand Prix, which was also going on in Abu Dhabi.
At around 2:40AM the staff walked around the lounge proactively offering Arabic coffee and dates, which I thought was a nice touch.
While boarding was scheduled to begin at around 2:30AM, it was 3AM before boarding was called.
We turned right out of the lounge.
Then we turned left, where the two gates for the New York and San Francisco flights were located. This was Etihad’s first ever A380 flight to New York, though aside from the posters in the gate area, there were no other festivities.
The gate area looked super empty for a ~500 seat A380. Come to think of it, I’m not sure how the departure gate would even accommodate ~500 people.
The Etihad A380 looked gorgeous as always, parked at the terminal’s far gate.
Finally at 3AM boarding was announced, starting with first & business class.
And boy was I excited for the 14+ hour flight in Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment!
Etihad’s US Pre-Clearance Lounge Abu Dhabi bottom line
While in the past my experiences with Etihad’s Pre-Clearance setup in Abu Dhabi were abysmal, I was impressed this time around. Now, this might partly have to do with the fact that both of the flights using the facility were really empty, or that we passed through it pretty late in the process. Either way, everything just seemed more functionally set up than last time.
While I prefer airports without Pre-Clearance (since I have Global Entry), this was a facility I was actually fine with.
Given that Etihad uses the Pre-Clearance facility, I was also impressed by the lounge they built for US-bound flights. Previously having to sit in the gate area as a first class passenger for upwards of an hour sucked. The new lounge at least makes that time a bit more enjoyable.
Have you used Etihad’s Pre-Clearance facility lately? What was your experience like?