Review: Etihad First Class Lounge and Spa, Abu Dhabi
The experience at Etihad’s First Class Lounge and Spa at the Abu Dhabi International Airport was absolutely superb in every possible way. By far the best lounge experience I have ever experienced–with food, service, and amenities all beating my high expectations!
Below, read about the Etihad experience starting with the complimentary chauffeur service from the hotel, the arrival at the first class check in area, and finally the lounge itself.
Etihad Chauffeur Service
When I originally booked my Etihad First Class ticket using 90,000 American Airlines AAdvantage Miles and just $37 from Abu Dhabi (AUH) to New York (JFK) I was excited to see that I also qualified for complimentary chauffeur service in both Abu Dhabi and in New York. This is a perk when purchasing a first class ticket, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to qualify with an award ticket. As a point of reference, Emirates does not offer its chauffeur service on award tickets–but Etihad still did!
Etihad’s flight from AUH departed at 3:30am, which is a slightly awkward time to plan your travel around. So, I arranged to have the driver arrive at my hotel around 7pm, since I had checked out of the hotel earlier in the day to avoid paying for another night that I was only going to be able to partially use. My plan was to eat dinner, enjoy a complimentary massage, and relax in the lounge for several hours prior to the flight, rather than try and get a few hours of sleep, then get up and go to the airport in the middle of the night.
The chauffeur was right on time to the hotel, arriving in an Audi A6 sedan. The drive to the airport was uneventful and took about 35 minutes. The arrival section of the international terminal is divided into the economy check in area, and then a very separate area for First/Business customers.
The driver pulled past the economy check in area, and seriously…before the car even stopped two guys with hotel-style brass luggage carts were running to the trunk to get our bags and our doors. We were whisked inside before I could even get a picture.
Inside, the first class check-in area was more like a luxury hotel than an airport.
The check in area was impeccably clean, with shiny tile and some areas of carpet. There were several vases of fresh flowers throughout the area and leather chairs available to sit while agents checked your documents. Best of all–absolutely no lines.
Just beyond the first class check-in area was the dedicated First/Business class security area–again, plenty of agents and no lines.
After breezing through security, the entrance to the First Class Lounge and Spa was right there staring me in the face–definitely could not miss it!
The Etihad Flagship Lounge and Spa
Inside the lounge, an attendant checked boarding passes then we took an elevator to the 2nd floor where an enormous fresh floral arrangement greeted visitors.
There was a main hallway leading back towards the spa, salon, and children’s area, then just to the left was the entrance to the main part of the lounge. We were welcomed to the lounge and the food and beverage manager, Mr. Taisir Alfaouri, and he started to show us around. We mentioned that we had not yet eaten, so he immediately showed us to a table by the window and said that he would be available to continue the tour at any time after our dinner.
Inside the main lounge was a large dining room and bar area. Each table was set with china and linen.
The lounge was pretty empty when we arrived, as most of the international flights were departing closer to midnight. Mr. Alfaouri presented us menus and offered us drinks. I decided to start with a glass of Bollinger Grande Annee, 2005 Champagne (retails for about $150/bottle in the US). He guided us through the food choices on the expansive menu and made suggestions.
The kitchen prepares all dining in-house. I chose the “Emirates Palace Dining Menu” which included 5 courses, developed by chefs from Mezlai at the prestigious Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi. It started with an absolutely fantastic soup.
The next course consisted of pan fried scallops and mughrabia infused with saffron and herbs.
The main course was local sourced lamb and saffron rice. The lamb was extremely tender and flavorful. The presentation was flawless. By now I had decided to also try a glass of red wine–Chateau Du Tertre, Grand cru classe from Margaux 2007.
I can honestly say that the service throughout dinner contributed to what was hand-down one of the best dining experiences I have ever had! The food was exceptional, and the service was beyond impeccable. Granted, the lounge was still relatively empty, but it truly felt like we were the most important people ever to walk into the dining room.
Before dessert was served, I decided to try one of Etihad’s signature cocktails named for and inspired by some of their international destinations. I chose the “Los Angeles” based on its unique ingredients–namely cotton candy. Check this out–the Los Angeles contains tequila, rice milk, cocoa nib, chili liquor, sugar, coffee, dahlia (the national flower of Mexico for a garnish), and candy floss (cotton candy). It looked like no other drink I have ever ordered! It tasted quite interesting–but I think one was enough as it was very sweet!
Finally dessert was served. It was called a Batheata and it consisted of layers of special dough made from dates, saffron, and cardamom, then filled with fresh cream. Again, delicious!
Shortly afterwards, our waiter brought out a SECOND dessert–we hadn’t ordered one, but he told us that this was a special dessert that we had to try. It consisted of fresh fruit, some chocolate mousse and some sort of pastry. Now I was already full, but that didn’t stop me from eating everything on my plate of second desert!
Now that I was barely able to stand from all the delicious food–I knew that it was time to take a tour of the huge lounge area.
I headed back towards the relaxation area first, which featured 6 comfortable leather recliner chairs and a large video wall made up of 27 individual screens, soothing sound and lighting. The screens displayed ever-changing designs kind of like a big computer screen-saver. There were only a handful of chairs in this area, so as the lounge began to fill up with people, this area was normally completely full with people sleeping.
Next to the relaxation area was a sitting area with some televisions and power readily available at every seat.
There were several different sitting areas throughout the lounge and from what I saw, plenty of space for all of the customers.
If you weren’t interested in a sit-down meal, there was also an area where you could help yourself to light snacks and refreshments.
The lounge has both a spa and a salon area. The Six Senses Spa comprises three treatment rooms with shower facilities. First Class guests are invited to enjoy a complimentary treatment, while guests in The Residence are offered two complimentary treatments. The salon area is staffed by talented barbers offering a series of hair and shave services, including one complimentary express treatment and a shoe shine service. The nail bar provides hair and nail services, including nail art, and one complimentary express treatment.
While I was wandering around, I made an appointment for a complimentary Swedish massage to further relax prior to the flight.
According to the Etihad press release from May 2016 when the lounge was first opened, “the lounge is actually divided into 16 unique zones designed to ensure that guests can relax, re-energise and be entertained in total luxury before boarding their flight. An à la carte restaurant, showcase bar, fitness room, cigar lounge, Six Senses Spa, Style & Shave barbers, nail bar, TV room, secluded relaxation room, prayer room and children’s play room.”
Even the children’s play room was huge and had ton’s of toys and activities!
The cigar lounge was a nice touch and offered high end scotch and cognac as well as both complimentary cigars and some available for purchase.
I enjoyed my complimentary massage and then used one of the shower rooms to freshen up before the flight. I ended up spending a total of about 6 hours enjoying all that the lounge had to offer before starting the boarding process. The entire experience was exceptional!
The food and service were by far the best I have ever had in an airport lounge–and quite honestly, rivaled the best restaurants I have ever eaten at. If there was one thing I would say that the lounge was lacking, it was no private sleeping rooms and not enough recliner or lie-flat type chairs for napping. Other than that, everything was superb.
Considering I had access to all of this, plus complimentary chauffeur service for 90,000 miles and only $37 out of pocket–I don’t think there are many awards with higher per mile value.