This is our review of the Etihad First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi Terminal 3.
This article follows on from my review of Etihad’s A380 Business Studio seat, from London to Abu Dhabi, and the celebrations surrounding the restart of A380 flights. I also reviewed the Etihad lounge at London Heathrow here.
After just over 24 hours in the city, it was time to head back on one of Etihad’s late evening / early morning returns to London.
Like other Middle Eastern airlines, Etihad’s peak hours are overnight – largely between 9pm and 3am – with the majority of passengers connecting through Abu Dhabi and on to their final destination.
I arrived and checked into my flight in Terminal 3 around 11:30pm. Etihad has a dedicated check-in zone (really it is a separate room) for business and First Class passengers. I was able to drop my bag off and get a special Mission Impossible boarding pass printed immediately!
Immediately behind the First & business class check in is Fast Track security, which is very convenient. Again, there were no queues whatsoever and I was immediately able to walk through the scanner after popping my bag on the belt.
Whilst I flew back in business class, Etihad had arranged access to the First Class lounge for the media group covering the A380 relaunch. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a proper tour of the Business Class lounge.
The Etihad First Class Lounge
The Etihad First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi is open to anyone travelling in First Class or Etihad Guest Platinum members. That is a relatively small group of people given how few aircraft have First Class, and means the lounge is blissfully quiet.
Etihad First Class Lounge access & location
The location of the Etihad First Class lounge could not be more convenient, as it is right in front of you as you exit fast-track security:
In fact, the Etihad Abu Dhabi airport experience is one of the most convenient I’ve experienced: I can’t have walked more than a hundred metres from where the Uber dropped me off to the lounge itself.
Of course it’s probably slightly less convenient if you’re on a connecting flight as you’ll have to walk there from your gate, although Abu Dhabi Terminal 3 is not huge.
You are checked into the lounge by the staff at terminal level before being escorted upstairs to a hotel-style lobby where you’ll find a staffed bag storage facility:
The lounge is open 24 hours a day.
Inside the Etihad First Class Lounge
The lounge is one of the bigger First Class facilities I’ve seen, at over 1,700 square metres.
Once you’ve dropped off any luggage you have a number of options, including heading to the lounge gym, the shower suites, children’s room or the main lounge itself.
The main lounge space is to the left, and starts with a travel concierge desk on the right should you need to amend any flight details or need assistance.
The space opens up to a large dining room with space for more than fifty guests. Given that there were no more than about 15 people in the lounge in total during my visit at peak hours, this is, dare I say it, overkill. It does mean that you are basically guaranteed a table, no matter how busy the airport is.
At one end of the dining room you’ll find a bar, although as there’s table service throughout the entire lounge you don’t actually need to go there.
In the centre is the cigar room where you can smoke, which was a novelty. You can purchase Cuban cigars from $7.
If you turn right from the dining room you’ll see another bar with some casual seating next to it:
Further seating curves around next to the window, whilst there is further casual seating in a smaller section to the right, as well as bar seating:
Adjacent to this area you’ll also find a TV room which was occupied by a large Emirati family as well as a quiet room with recliners:
(This photo is much lighter than it was in real life. It is dark, with just enough light to see where you are going.)
Overall, the lounge feels modern and welcoming, with Etihad’s signature geometric pattern appearing throughout the design. Whilst it was dark outside during my visit, there are excellent views of the airport from the floor-to-ceiling windows and I imagine it must be lovely and light during the day.
There are six shower suites in the lounge, three for men and three for women. Each one is clad in stone and feels suitably luxurious:
Also off the central corridor you’ll find a round children’s room. This is not massive, but then I don’t expect there are a huge amount of children passing through this lounge in the first place.
Last year, Etihad partnered with Warner Bros for their children’s services and amenities and the area looks like it has been refurbished since then.
Another amenity in the Etihad First Class lounge is the gym. This is a small facility with a running machine, elliptical and cycling machine – just enough to get the blood pumping.
Food and drink in the Etihad First Class lounge
Table service is offered throughout the lounge, regardless of where you are sitting. The staff are very attentive and will stop by every 15-30 minutes to ask if you would like anything else.
There is no buffet in sight – everything is cooked to order from the a la carte menu. The lunch and dinner menu includes:
Starters and soups include:
- Arabic mezze
- Chicken liver parfait
- Roasted tomato and basil soup
- Lentil soup
For main courses you have a choice of:
- Chicken masala
- Grilled salmon
- Beef & black bean sauce
- Lamb foga
- Butternut squash risotto
- Lotus root kofta kurma
- Beef sliders
Each comes with its own accompaniments and sides.
For dessert, the choice was:
- Date pudding
- Rose milk cake
- Peach melba
- Fruit platter
- Cheese platter
Unfortunately I was still stuffed from dinner. However, I did enjoy a glass of two of the 2009 Devaux & Chapoutier ‘Stenope’ champagne from the Etihad cellar:
A cuvee rose was also available, as were four each of vintage white and red wines.
Premium spirits were aplenty and you could also ask for virtually any cocktail you fancied.
The Etihad First Class lounge is an impressive facility. Part of what makes it so impressive is that it is virtually empty. With just fifteen-odd guests when I was there I can’t imagine it ever gets crowded, which is one of the attractions of a First Class lounge.
The service from staff was universally excellent – it’s clear they’ve gone through significantly more training – and they were very attentive without being incessant.
The food and drinks menu is impressive and exactly what you would expect from a First Class lounge. I have no doubt that the food is excellent based on my experiences in the London lounge and onboard – it’s a shame I didn’t have the appetite to eat.
My only regret is that I wasn’t able to make more use of the lounge. Still, I suppose that just means I’ll need to come back! With First Class now available to and from London on the A380 fleet you’ve got an excuse to visit.
How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (September 2023)
Here are the four options to get FREE airport lounge access via a UK credit card.
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with two free Priority Pass cards, one for you and one for a supplementary cardholder. Each card admits two so a family of four gets in free. You get access to all 1,300 lounges in the Priority Pass network – search it here.
If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.
Additional lounge visits are charged at £24. You get four more free visits for every year you keep the card.
There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and you get a 20,000 points sign-up bonus. Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free LoungeKey card, allowing you access to the LoungeKey network. Guests are charged at £24 although it may be cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card for your partner.
The card has a fee of £195 and there are strict financial requirements to become a HSBC Premier customer. Full details are in my HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review.
PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.