After disembarking from our Etihad 787 First Class flight from Malé, Jessy and I briskly proceeded through Abu Dhabi International Airport’s transit security, aiming to reach the Etihad Airways First Class Lounge as quickly as possible.
Indeed, I should preface this review by saying that, normally, when I’m visiting the First Class Lounge of one of the world’s leading airlines, I do my best to allocate at least four or five hours of time – if not more – to fully indulge in all of the lounge’s offerings.
However, on this trip, we only had a three-hour layover in Abu Dhabi between our Etihad Airways flights – and after going through security, that left just over two hours of time to sample the Etihad Airways First Class Lounge.
This review may therefore be on the shorter side compared to my experiences in other First Class Lounges around the world. But don’t worry, I’ve already lined up a second experience on the Etihad Apartments using Aeroplan miles, a journey which I hope is feasible to embark on in April 2021.
For now, enjoy this review of a short-but-sweet visit to Etihad’s flagship First Class ground experience in Abu Dhabi from back in March 2020.
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi – Entry & Access
The First Class Lounge was easily accessible via the signage in the airport terminal, its entrance marked by the geometric golden triangles that underpins the design identity of Etihad’s premium service.
Access to the First Class Lounge is granted to Etihad Guest Platinum members, passengers departing Abu Dhabi in Etihad Airways First Class, as well as passengers who arrive in Abu Dhabi on First Class and are connecting in business class on a flight without First Class. Given the round-the-clock nature of Etihad’s global schedule, the First Class Lounge is open 24/7.
A short distance down the hallway, a lounge representative will check your boarding pass and verify your eligibility. From there, it’s straight up to the First Class Lounge via either the elevator or the stairs.
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi – Interior & Seating
The entryway leads to the lounge’s gorgeous foyer, where there’s a small spread of flavoured water, Arabic coffee, and a selection of dates to help yourself to.
Compared to some of its peers around the world, Etihad’s First Class Lounge is perhaps on the smaller side, which is to say that you could walk around its premises in about two minutes’ time, rather than 10 (I’m looking at you, Emirates).
The lounge is arranged roughly in the shape of a large rectangle divided up into individual rooms and spaces, so let’s take a walk through to get a lay of the land.
Turning left from the entrance, you arrive at the dining area, which fills up the entire length of the room with two-person and four-person dining tables. À la carte dining is served around the clock, and you’re free to take a seat anywhere and a server will be on hand to take your order.
A separate room is walled-off in the middle of the dining area. This is the cigar lounge, where I’m told that several top-shelf cigars are available for sampling. As I’m not much of a cigar person myself (or perhaps I haven’t yet developed a taste for them), this feature was somewhat lost on me, but I impinge it’d certainly be of interest to many other patrons of the lounge.
In the far corner of the dining area, you’ll find one of the lounge’s two gorgeously decorated bars. The soft pink lighting of this first bar is subtle and brooding, as though you’d retreat here for a glass of fine aged whiskey while losing yourself in your thoughts.
Then, turning the corner from the dining area, you’ll arrive at the second bar of the Etihad First Class Lounge – in contrast to the other bar, this one is brash and bombastic in its beauty, the sharp triangular design motif once again oozing a sense of contemporary luxury. Just look at how those shapes are incorporated into the bar shelves!
While the other bar seemed like a superb spot for savouring some smooth scotch, this one seemed built for breaking out a bottle of bubbly instead.
Unfortunately, our short stay in this lounge meant that we didn’t have a proper chance to do either, but the next time I visit, I definitely plan on indulging in a bit of bar-hopping to do this place justice.
Continuing through, we arrive at the general seating area, which consists of individual clusters of leather chairs spread out across several zones.
Some seats are more open-air, others are positioned by the windows for optimal tarmac views, while yet others are situated in their own little alcoves for more privacy.
A separate wing contains some more varied seat types, including a row of booths with especially tall seat backs.
Near this wing, you’ll find a simple self-serve spread of water, soft drinks, coffee, and tea.
One weakness of this lounge is that it lacks dedicated nap rooms or private bedrooms of any sort; instead, it offers what’s called a “relaxation zone”, which is really just a row of four recliner chairs in a walled-off carpeted area with mood lighting and ambient patterns morphing across the screen.
Jessy and I retreated to these seats for most of our time in the lounge, although I feel like I’d really struggle to get any rest if I was really trying to take a nap here.
That concludes our tour of this “side” of the lounge, and the rest of the facilities are accessed by turning right from the entrance. These facilities are mostly focused on wellness, consisting of the bathrooms, shower rooms, spa, and gym (yes, there’s a gym in this lounge!) We’ll take a closer look at these later in the review.
There’s also a kids’ play room located here, to keep your little ones occupied as you go for a workout in the gym (or, let’s be real, go bar-hopping).
Finally, one thing you’ll notice as you pass through the lounge is a series of frosted-glass sliding doors dotted around the lounge, almost mysteriously. These doors require special authorization to open, as they provide access to the dedicated private lounge for Etihad Residence passengers: lounges-within-a-lounge with a private living room, dining room, shower room, etc. – all for the Residence passenger themselves.
One day, one day, I’ll have to try out the Etihad Residence. For now, I was only an unwashed plebeian travelling in the Etihad Apartments, and it was on that note of resolute determination mixed with mild envy that I headed to the dining area to try out the lounge’s pre-flight dining service.
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi – Dining
Jessy and I had already eaten a full meal on our 787 First Class flight just a few hours ago, and fully intended to continue indulging in Etihad’s excellent catering onboard our Apartments flight in just a few hours’ time.
But what about the lounge? There was no way we could squeeze in a main course here as well, and yet I didn’t want to leave the lounge without sampling one of its signature services. Therefore, we sat down and each ordered ourselves a glass of Charles Heidsieck rosé – the same as what Etihad is currently serving onboard – and I also helped myself to a bowl of the lobster and sweet corn soup, just to try one of the items on the menu.
Here’s the full menu in terms of what’s served for lunch and dinner in the lounge:
And here’s the drinks menu:
In addition to the usual champagne, wine, beer, and spirits, the Etihad First Class Lounge also had one of the fullest cocktail and mocktail menus I’ve seen in an airport lounge, which I think will make for another welcome stop on my bar-hopping adventure the next time I’m here.
Our server offered us our choice of still or sparkling water, before returning to pour the champagne a few moments later.
Then, the cream of corn soup was served with the individual lobster chunks and veggies deconstructed, followed by the sweet corn soup being poured directly into my bowl. What a spectacular show of service, which left me wondering what the full multi-course dining experience would be like here in the lounge.
The soup tasted amazing as well, and it certainly took a fair bit of restraint not to be tempted into ordering another portion.
From my light meal, I was pretty confident that the quality of Etihad’s catering on the ground fully matched its impressive offerings in the air, and like many of the lounge’s other features, left me looking forward to returning here in the future to spend some more time savouring everything properly.
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi – Gym & Spa
As far as I’m aware, the Etihad Airways First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi is the only airport lounge in the world that offers a fitness centre within the lounge.
Yes, some airports (like Toronto Pearson) have a GoodLife Fitness within the concourse, while other airport lounges (like Cathay Pacific’s The Bridge in Hong Kong) offer yoga mats for passengers – but a dedicated space for sneaking in a full workout before your flight? That’s a brilliant idea, and I couldn’t help but grin ear-to-ear as I took a peek at the gym here.
Okay, maybe a “full workout” is a bit of a stretch, because the gym is really quite tiny, consisting of a single exercise bike, a single elliptical, two treadmills, a small rack of free weights, and just about enough floor space in-between everything to actually use those weights for a workout.
You’d certainly be able to work up a sweat in here, but at the same time, I don’t think two people would be able to use the gym at the same time without bumping into each other. (And in the post-pandemic era, I’m certain that it’d be limited to one occupant at a time.)
After your workout, perhaps it’s time to hit the Six Senses Spa for a complimentary 15-minute treatment, which is offered to all First Class passengers.
Alas, while I had stopped by to schedule a spa treatment upon arrival in the lounge, we ended up running out of time and didn’t make use of this benefit in the end. Yet again, more to look forward to for next time.
It’s worth noting that this lounge had previously offered yet another unique amenity: a Style & Shave salon, where passengers could stop by for a complimentary haircut, shave, manicure, etc. Unfortunately, this perk was eliminated in 2018 as part of ongoing cost-cutting on Etihad’s part, and it’s a great regret of mine that I never got to try it for myself.
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi – Shower Rooms
Finally, I also had time to scope out the lounge’s shower rooms and bathrooms, which are situated further down the same hallway as the gym and spa. Of course, since I’d be travelling on the First Class Apartments on the Airbus A380 later, this wouldn’t be the only shower I’d be taking tonight. 😉
The shower rooms aren’t the biggest, but are certainly gorgeously appointed, with stone floors and marble walls combining to achieve a luxurious look.
Those design elements continue into the bathrooms as well, which are fitted with toiletries by Acqua di Parma, the same provider as the amenity kits on Etihad Airways First Class and business class.
Speaking of which, after an all-too-short stay in the First Class Lounge compared to what I usually like, it was time to gather our belongings and head downstairs towards the boarding gate, where the latest mammoth item on my First Class bucket list awaited me: the Etihad Airways A380 First Class Apartments, en route to London.
The Etihad Airways First Class Lounge is a top-notch First Class ground experience, and it’s worth far more of your time than the two-and-a-half-hours or so that I managed to give it on this occasion.
In some ways, this lounge doesn’t hit every high note that it possibly could: it’s not the largest space compared to the Emirates First Class Lounge or the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, it lacks the private nap rooms of Qatar or Swiss, and its snazzy and modern decor is perhaps a bit on the gaudier side compared to the serenity and elegance of Cathay Pacific’s The Pier.
Nevertheless, even despite its limited size and some recent rounds of cost-cutting, the Etihad First Class Lounge still absolutely has no shortage of outstanding amenities to keep you occupied.
Between hitting the gym for a quick pre-flight workout, soothing yourself in the Six Senses spa, freshening up with a shower, and then enjoying a full sit-down meal of the highest quality followed by a drink at one of two gorgeous bars, I’m convinced that the Etihad Airways First Class Lounge will never leave you bored, even if you find yourself here for six hours or more. That’s exactly my intention the next time I’m passing through Abu Dhabi onboard the Etihad Apartments.