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Review: Etihad First Class Lounge & Spa Abu Dhabi [Oct 19]

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This review provides an in-depth look at the Etihad First Class Lounge & Spa at Abu Dhabi International Airport. I share my latest experience (October 2019) and how to get maximum luxury out of your First Class pre-departure experience!

The Facts

The First Class Lounge & Spa is immediately after the security lane.

Eligibility: Departing Abu Dhabi in First Class on an Etihad-operated flight, Arriving at Abu Dhabi in First Class on an Etihad-operating flight AND connecting in the highest available cabin class for your route, Etihad Guest Platinum status (plus a guest), partner airline top tier status (Alitalia, Jet Airways, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles) OR finally, pay $150 for two hours (flying Economy) or $100 (flying Business).

Location: Abu Dhabi International Airport Terminal 3 right after Security

Opening Hours: 24 hours, although the spa is only open 5:30am – 2:30pm and then from 5:30pm to 2:30am.

Services: Bar, waiter service, Γ  la carte dining, spa, shower rooms, fitness center, wi-fi, relaxation area, vip room (at a cost, unless flying the Residence!), cigar & smoking rooms.

Getting Maximum Extravagance

Reserve your spa treatment on arrival: I had no problem at all getting a treatment both times I was in the lounge, but you cannot reserve an appointment before arrival and they are first-come-first-served, so to be sure, make the spa your first top and get a slot.

Check out all the areas: I wasn’t shown around the lounge and the first time didn’t even see the smoking or relaxation areas. So get a good look around or ask for a tour.

Make use of the silent extras: Again, these were not made apparent to me, but there is a little area of lovely Arabic coffee and dates at the entrance. The lounge will also press your clothes for free on request!

The Experience

The lounge is accessed immediately after the Security lane which is handy. Your boarding pass will be scanned at the entrance and you will then take a lift up to the lounge itself. The lounge is very impressive and tastefully decorated. The lounge is mostly made up of dining tables, but also has two bars, more relaxed seating and a relaxation area as well.

Dining tables take up the majority of square footage in the lounge.

The lounge is, however, a bit daunting on arrival. You have a corridor with lots of doors and exits! It was clear this was my first time in the lounge, but no one offered me a tour or to explain all the amenities. I would have appreciated this, but was pretty much left to my own devices.

Bar & Drinks

There is a small bar immediately after the main entrance and reception.

There are two bars in the lounge that you can sit at. I sat at the bar next to the entrance to begin with, not aware that there was a bigger bar around the corner. The service was extremely attentive and professional. I also appreciated on my second visit during the return leg of my trip that I was greeted with a ‘welcome back!’.

The very stylish main bar at the Etihad First Class Lounge & Spa.

The bar menu is extensive, with the standard Etihad Charles Heidsieck Champagne, plus a few wines and a good selection of spirits and classic cocktails. But there is nothing ‘wow’ and nothing that you wouldn’t get in a good Business Class lounge. I wasn’t really excited by anything and just stuck to the champagne. I think Etihad should at least look at doing some signature lounge cocktails.

Dining

What I did like was the airside dining. I took a table right at the window where I could watch the planes. There are also PLENTY of tables, so no need to feel bunched in with other guests.

My view whilst dining!

A full a la carte dining menu is offered. It was a lot more limited than BA’s Concorde Room, which I dined in earlier this year. It felt more like a bar dining menu than a proper restaurant.

Dining menu (evening) – apologies for the awful quality!

Either way, I was trying to save myself for the food on board, so didn’t go too crazy. I had the vegetable consomme followed by lemon chicken. The waiter service was incredibly attentive and the food came quickly, putting BA’s Concorde Room service to shame. I wasn’t, however, asked if I would like any wine with my meal and instead my champagne was topped up without asking. I didn’t want to waste it, so I ended up not trying the wines on offer.

The food…it was just meh, lacking flavour and entirely unmemorable. Etihad’s First Class plane food was much, MUCH better, which should not be the case! I, therefore, would not recommend filling up in the lounge.

The was also a little station of more casual snacks, but I did not try any of these. In the evening these were little desserts. When I returned again during the breakfast service, there were little pastries and yoghurts on offer.

There is always a snack station on offer as well as a la carte dining.

Spa & Showers

There was a good selection of spa treatments on offer, 15 minutes of which (and only one) you get for free. On both occasions, I was asked twice if I wanted to extend my treatment to 30 minutes (at an extra cost). I didn’t really appreciate the hard-sell. On the positive, I easily got a slot both times and there was no crazy queue to speak to reception like at BA’s Elemis Spa.

Back Massage: Relieve neck and back aches after a long flight with this tension-releasing treatment. It combines a massage of the main meridians on the back with movements of pressure points to reduce tension in the spine and evoke a sense of relaxation.

The Realignment: Improve overall well-being and release tension by stimulating energy meridians in the neck, shoulders, back and arms; using energizing and stretching massage techniques.

Head Massage: Release headache and stress, and induce a deep sense of calm with a gentle massage of pressure points.

Foot Massage: This signature treatment uses gentle manipulation to release swelling, aches and pressure in your feet.

Warm Stone Foot Massage: Improve circulation and release tension with this calming treatment, using heated stones which are placed on the reflex areas of the body.

Hand and Arm Massage: Ease away stiffness and tension with this soothing massage using nourishing massage oils.

Jetlag Leg: Reduce swelling and rejuvenate tired legs with this refreshing treatment combining a scrub and cooling compressions with tension-releasing movements.

Face Radiance: A balancing treatment combining a gentle cleanse and toning with a smooth exfoliation to bring the glow back into your skin.

Eye Retreat: Revitalize the under-eye area with a soothing treatment combining acupressure with lymphatic movement.

Across my two visits, I sampled The Realignment, which focuses on your neck, shoulders and back and also the undereye treatment, which is a facial focusing on the undereye area. Both were very good, but the Realignment felt like it did a bit more. The undereye treatment, because it was so short, felt more like I was just getting my makeup taken off and a bit of a cleanse. There were also no freebies on offer, unlike the Elemis Spas which pile you with samples!

The spa also has four shower rooms which you can use to freshen up. Again, these were not made apparent to me and if you don’t ask you don’t get! Whilst you are taking a shower, you can ask for the clothes to be pressed, so you leave the lounge feeling super fresh! I like that touch.

There also used to be a hair, grooming and nail salon which got closed. This was a real shame to me. It would have been great to take a shower and then got a blowout. That would have made me feel amazing!

Also worthy of mention are the immaculately kept toilets. I spent a bit of time in the bathroom freshening up my makeup and the attendant must have come in to clean it three times in thirty minutes. Very impressive!

Facilities

The lounge on first impression seems to be mostly dining tables and not much else. But there are lots of extras hidden away that may go unnoticed for many!

Right behind the reception area is a very well equipped fitness room. I didn’t go in (I’ve never been in a gym in my life and would literally have no idea), but it was bigger than any gym I’ve seen at an airport before and seemed well equipped (to someone who knows nothing about gyms!).

There is a smoking room within the lounge and also a separate cigar room. I didn’t see anyone use these at any point, probably because they weren’t clearly marked and were not very inviting. I was not made aware that the cigars in the room are free! I would have taken advantage of this had I have known, which is my biggest gripe with the lounge, that you were just expected to know everything with no explanation whatsoever.

There are more relaxed seating areas available, but not fully private or proper working spaces.

Another negative, there are no proper private spaces. There is a relaxation area with a psychedelic screen type thing and relaxing chairs, but no cabanas or bedrooms for you to get a proper nap. There also isn’t any proper workspace, so you may have to work with your laptop on your…lap.

It is possible to get a private space when no one from the Residence is flying. Some of the private rooms used for Residence guests can be rented as VIP rooms for $100. This seems a bit pointless, as you are basically just buying an empty room to sit in (with no bed still).

Small area to watch the news with a bit more relaxed lighting.

Finally, if you don’t want to bother with the bar, there are self-service soft drinks and coffee at the back of the lounge. I didn’t really see the point of this, as there were VERY attentive waiters in the lounge at all times, no matter where you are sitting. This space could have been better used for something else.

Self-service coffee and soft drinks are also available.

The Conclusion

The Etihad First Class Lounge & Spa was BY FAR the best ground experience I had on my trip through Stockholm, Munich, Abu Dhabi and Seoul, but that is because the competition otherwise was so low. For me, the lounge was just okay. It offered most of the amenities that you will see in other top First Class lounges, but it just fell a little bit flat. There were no cool drinks or amazing food to get excited about.

The highlights were definitely the lovely bar staff and waiters who all remembered me and the very good spa treatments on both occasions. For this to be a great lounge, Etihad needs to improve its reception/welcome service, the quality of its food and add on some drinks that you can’t get in the sky!

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