The Etihad First Class lounge Abu Dhabi is great, but I would not consider it the best lounge in the world. Although I was able to score one of the Residence lounges for my use (without the butler service, sort of), the whole lounge experience was still great overall.
The Good: The food was restaurant quality. The fact that the lounge was literally empty for two hours while I was there allowed me to meet most of the staff and basically have butler service.
The Bad: You are now limited to a massage or a Style and Shave procedure. Also, you can’t access if you are arriving in first but connecting to another airline.
The Noteworthy: The Residence Suites, which you can pay for if they are unoccupied for the day, are truly private and spacious, ideal if you are traveling with family.
Checking In at Abu Dhabi
After my flight from JFK on Etihad the day before, I had spent the greater part of the morning exploring the city. Since it was Ramadan, I wasn’t able to get any food or drinks outside while walking, so within about an hour and a half of being out in the summer heat, I decided to take a cab from the hotel to the airport.
The cab dropped me off at the wrong entrance, so I had to walk a bit to find the Etihad Airways Premium Check-in. When I got there, the agents asked me if I wanted to switch to the earlier flight, as there was one seat left. I decided not to, because I wanted to review the First Class lounge.
First Class Lounge Entrance
As soon as I was past security, I found myself about 50 meters away from the entrance of the lounge. The agent there scanned my boarding pass, and let me in. The lounge is on the second floor, so you need to take an elevator or the stairs. Once inside, there is a beautiful motif with flowers to greet you. The entrance is not as stunning as the one at their JFK Lounge.
The Residence Lounge
Since I knew I would be there for about 8 hours, I decided to ask about the Residence Lounge access. The agent told me that there was one available for the whole day, but you needed to pay a fee in order to use it. The fee was about $90USD, which I decided to pay in order to have my own room, and be able to review it. As soon as my payment went through, the Residence butler for the lounge escorted me to the room, and told me that if I needed anything to let any of the staff know.
The room is very spacious. It has two large couches, a giant flat screen TV, and a dining table. The ceiling is in itself an art fixture, and there is a bookcase with curios and books. If you asked me, it felt like a really nice living/dining room complex you see in model homes/apartments.
The suite also has its own bathroom and shower. It is stocked with the same products that the A380 apartments have. As soon as I arrived, I took a shower, and the water pressure was perfect. Temperature-wise, it was warm, but did not get very hot. (I would later take another shower before my flight, and had the same temperature issues).
While in the lounge I had two meals: breakfast and lunch. The food was excellent, and the dining area feels like a fancy restaurant, since there were only two other people while I was there. Here is the menu for breakfast:
I had the Foul Medame, and it was delicious.
For lunch, I had the cream of pea soup, the salad, an the chicken masala tandoori. The chicken was amazing, honestly one of the best meals I have had in a lounge, ever.
The rest of the menu is here:
After breakfast, I explored the lounge. It has multiple seating areas, beautifully adorned fixtures, and, of course, the Etihad bar. I must say that, since it was Ramadan, there were no liquors available at the bar during the day. (I am not sure if they brought them out at night, as I didn’t notice when I left). It looked pretty barren, but nonetheless there was a bartender serving non-alcoholic drinks there.
There is also a kids room, with a TV and toys. There is a nap room, that has comfortable chairs, as well as individual lights. The room has a giant screen that alternates motifs that can be very tenuous or very bright, so I would not want to sleep there.
The coolest part of the lounge is the gym. There is a gym with cardio equipment for use. I actually ran a two mile workout while there, and I can attest that the machines are as good and well maintained as any other in a gym.
Six Senses Spa
The lounge has a Spa, and it offers one complimentary treatment to First Class passengers. Last time I flew Etihad, I got the head massage, it was so good, that I repeated it this time. It felt relaxing and revitalizing.
Service and Staff
After my spa treatment, there was NO ONE in the lounge. Literally, I was the only passenger. In order to not get too bored, I decided to talk with the staff there. The three people I spoke with genuinely loved their job. They were from all over the world (China, UK, and South America (I can’t recall the country, but we spoke in Spanish)). We spoke about current events, the state of air travel and the issues plaguing Etihad. They were honestly concerned for the airline, but they believed they had the motivation to survive. I truly hope their enthusiasm isn’t in vain, as the personal service I had on the airline surpasses that of many other carriers.
Back to the Residence Room
After exploring, I went back to the Residence Lounge, where I asked one of the attendants if they had any bedding for me to take a nap. They replied they did not have a mattress pad, but they had multiple blankets I could use as a mattress. I took them up on their offer, and they made my bed. The sofa is a bit small, even for someone who is 5’10”, but I slept like a baby for about 2 hours.
When I woke up, I took another shower, and got ready to leave. Once I was ready to leave, about 50 minutes before boarding, I said goodbye to my own little corner of the world for the last 8 hours. I also said goodbye to the staff at the lounge, and they wished me well.
The lounge is great, even without the Residence Room access. The food was wonderful, and the staff exceeded my expectations by a mile. I found that, for my long layover, the Residence Room was worth it. I can see it being a great investment if you have kids or are in a larger group. I would revisit the lounge in a heartbeat, and hopefully get another one of those head massages I so love.