Two weeks ago I set off on what was, in retrospect, a fairly crazy whistle-stop tour of the Middle East. My original schedule was OK but, due to aircraft changes and availability issues, I ended up losing 12 hours. In the end I had a grand total of seven hours in Abu Dhabi when you exclude time spent asleep, in airports, on planes or in taxis!
My original plan was to take the early morning Etihad A380 in First Class to Abu Dhabi. I booked this before the Etihad devaluation this Summer. I used a combination of the 25,000 miles Etihad credit card sign-up bonus and some American Express Membership Rewards points, transferred during a 25% conversion bonus.
About a month prior to departure, Etihad withdrew the A380 from the morning flight. This meant I was forced to switch to the 2pm departure which had a 1.20am arrival into Abu Dhabi!
Etihad operates from Terminal 4 at Heathrow. I reviewed the Etihad lounge in detail last year so I won’t cover it again. I did pop in for an hour and it remains very pleasant, albeit not huge. The plus points are the table-service food, which is of good quality, and the free Six Senses spa.
I also decided to visit the new Plaza Premium lounge.
If you have a Priority Pass, you can choose between Plaza Premium and the SkyTeam lounge (my review of the Terminal 4 SkyTeam lounge is here).
For Priority Pass holders, you have the choice. Plaza Premium is calm and classy and fairly small. SkyTeam is huge, louder and a bit brasher. Honeymooners should head for Plaza Premium. Stag parties and families with enthusiastic children should head for SkyTeam. The rest of you need to decide which camp you are in!
The lounge is situated directly above the Qatar Airways facility which is to the left as you clear Terminal 4 security. The Etihad lounge and the Etihad gates are a fair walk away down at the other end of terminal, to your right.
What you realise as you enter is that the space is light, bright and airy.
This is helped by a large window:
and a large skylight above this table:
There are elements of Shoreditchy / warehousey styling but unlike, say, My Lounge at Gatwick, these are only light touches. The space is generally warm.
Even the work pods are ‘cosy’! If you want to use a ‘house’ computer, however, you need to sit on a stool in the reception area.
In terms of food, you certainly won’t go hungry. They were still serving a hot breakfast when I arrived:
which eventually switched over into lunch (I left before the hot lunch items came out):
What is interesting is the bar. Terminal 4 is home to many of the Middle Eastern airlines – not just Qatar and Etihad but also Gulf Air and Saudia. Possibly for this reason – or perhaps just for design reasons – the bar is in a totally different area.
You need to leave the main lounge, walk through the reception area, and into another space on the other side. It was closed when I was there.
All in all, I was impressed by this facility. Rather like No 1 Traveller, Plaza Premium know what it takes to run a good third party lounge. You don’t get the same number of bells and whistle as No 1 Traveller (no cinema, no kids room, no library) but what you do get is perfectly executed.
If you don’t get free access via Priority Pass or Lounge Club, you can buy access via the Plaza Premium website – although a cheaper option is to apply for an Amex Gold (free for Year 1) and get in using the two free Lounge Club access passes that come with it.
You can also buy tickets in advance via the Lounge Pass website.