Possibly the world’s best first-class airport lounge, the Etihad First Class Lounge & Spa in Abu Dhabi has finally opened and this is my review of the facilities on offer.
Located just around the corner from the T3 security checkpoint at Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Terminal 3, Etihad’s First Class Lounge & Spa is the airline’s best lounge, designed for the world’s most discerning luxury travelers. This follows the launch of Etihad’s “The Residence” – their “better than first-class” cabin on its A380 aircraft.
On my recent trip transit through Abu Dhabi, I got the chance to visit the Etihad First Class Lounge & Spa which recently opened at the end of May 2016. I arrived there in the afternoon, which is usually a slow period for Abu Dhabi. The entrance to the lounge is located in the duty-free area, in between Hermes and Fendi. The lounge is open to passengers flying The Residence and First Class on Etihad. Platinum elite members on Etihad Guest, Etihad Airways Partner airlines and Virgin Australia are also invited, along with one guest.
Lounge Amenities and Layout
The actual lounge is located one floor above the entrance. Upon entry, there is a small lobby like area with a group of attendants. I was greeted by name by one of the attendants who approached me. She also took my luggage and stored it with another attendant in the cloakroom storage area. I was also asked if I needed my clothes to be pressed. I didn’t, but it was a good perk to have, definitely! Noting that it is my first time in this new lounge, the attendant offered to show me around the lounge.
The entrance lobby leads to a long walkway. Walking down this walkway, you will see the Style & Shave salon first on the right side, and the entrance to the main lounge area on the left. There is a counter in front of the salon. The salon provides manicure and nails and hair blow dry services to female customers, while male customers can opt for the shaving service or a simple haircut.
Next to the salon counter is the fitness center. The fitness room has a few cardio types of equipment and free weights and yoga mats at the back. While this space might not be a full-fledged gym like some fitness centers in other airports, this is the first fitness center within an airline lounge! Of course, most people do not come to the airport lounge to work out.
Walking further down the walkway, there is a brightly lit and colorful children playroom on the left. There is also a trained nanny on duty at all times to look after the young children, so that the adults can enjoy the lounge with a peace of mind.
Opposite the children’s playroom is the Six Senses Spa. There is a range of services provided here, from massages to facials. The shower area for the lounge is located also here. First-class passengers and Etihad Guest Platinum members can opt to receive a complimentary 15-minute service either at the Six Senses Spa or at the Style & Shave salon. Passengers flying The Residence are entitled to 2 services. Anything beyond that is subject to payment. At the end of the walkway are the bathrooms on the right and the prayer rooms on the left.
After checking out the amenities along the walkway, I entered the main lounge area through the door opposite the Style & Salon counter. There is a concierge table at the right side upon entry where the staff will assist with flight changes or other requests. The main dining area is located after the entrance/concierge area. The area is nicely decorated and feels like a high-end restaurant. Food and drinks are ordered off the menu. There is also a small bar here. On the right side of the dining area are 2 large family rooms which can be closed as well. At the back of the dining area is the enclosed Cigar Lounge.
The dining area extends to the back behind the Cigar Lounge as well. There are more seating areas there too. Walking past the dining area, you will see the main bar in the lounge. The bar space is huge, with an Etihad style geometric shelf at the back displaying all their liquors. There is a nice lounge seating area opposite the bar for passengers who wish to not seat at the bar.
After the bar is the back of the main lounge area. There is a TV room on the left. In the middle is the Relax and Recline room, where customers can sit on comfortable reclining chairs. Unlike other first-class lounges where there are private or personal rooms to sleep in, Etihad First Class lounge does not have that. Instead, this area is the main sleeping area for customers. This area is generally darker than the rest of the lounge, although there is a huge display screen spanning the entire wall which plays some soothing video and sounds. I did not try to sleep here during my visit. Lastly, at the right side of the Relax and Recline room is another small dining area. This area has a small buffet spread for those who do not wish to order food from the menu.
Drinks, Cigars, Spa and Food
After touring the lounge, I immediately went to the bar. The bartenders on duty were a few friendly Ukrainian guys who asked about my alcoholic preferences to come up with a tasting menu for me. I must point out that the drinks menu at the bar was extensive and superb, with a wide range of premium liquor, wine, special cocktails, a good selection of beer as well as non-alcoholic choices such as mocktails, tea, and coffee. The champagne served are similar to the ones on board – the Bollinger La Grande Annee 2005 and the Duval Leroy Rose.
I started my tasting with a cup of the $700+ USD Hennessy Paradis, served with a piece of chocolate. After that, I had a glass of Chivas 25 and a Woodford Reserve. I then ordered a Melbourne cocktail, as it was my flight destination. On top of the regular classic cocktails, Etihad worked with a beverage consultancy to offers specially crafted signature cocktails named after some of the cities that they fly to – Melbourne, Sydney, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, London, Dublin, Mumbai, and Shanghai. After my delicious Melbourne cocktail, my bartender Dmitry then made me a special off the menu cocktail. Basically, if you do not find what you fancy, you just need to discuss your preferences with the bartender to create a special customized drink.
After a satisfying round of drinks, the floor manager Mikhel then suggested that I go try out some cigars in the Cigar Lounge. Once again, Etihad pushes the boundaries of a lounge. The lounge offers a selection of 9 premium cigars, with the usual Cubans such as Cohibas and Montecristos dominating the list. You can also enjoy the cigar with whiskey or cognac, or really, anything you feel like off the bar menu.
After 2 cigars and scotches, I decided to get a quick 15 minute back massage before having my dinner. The massage treatment was soothing and good, and I felt refreshed after the session. I then proceeded to eat my dinner in the main dining area.
As mentioned, the main dining area is styled like a fine dining restaurant. I was immediately seated at one of the small tables for 2, and a waitress approached me to give me the menu and recommendations. There are some breakfast options, as well as a regular menu and a special four-course menu created with the fine dining restaurant Mezlai at the Emirates Palace.
I opted to mix and match my dinner from the menu. I started with the Lobster Sweet Corn soup and Foie Gras Terrine from the regular menu. My waitress recommended a glass of New Zealand Dog Point Vineyard Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2008 to go with the appetizers. A palate cleanser of mango sorbet followed, along with a selection of freshly baked bread.
I was then poured a glass of Chateau de Tertre Grand Cru Classe Margaux 2007 to go along with my main course of Lamb Medfoun from the Emirates Palace menu. The marinated lamb with saffron rice dish was very tender and succulent. After my satisfying main course, I ended dinner with the Batheatha – a local pancake-like dish where the dough is made with dates, saffron, and cardamom. The dish was served with fresh cream and was delicious yet not too sweet.
Overall, the lounge was indeed spectacular, and definitely one of the best in the world. While the lounge could have done better with private sleeping rooms, those who do not require naps could definitely spend hours indulging in the fine selection of cigars, alcohol, and food.
After my dinner, I proceeded to leave the lounge and head towards my gate for my flight. I left with a heavy heart, satisfied and very full. I hope to be able to visit this space more often in the future!
This review was written by Luxury Travel Diary contributor Lenard Lim.