This lounge is outdated, overcrowded at peak times, and screams for an expansion, though redeeming qualities include a great bar and barista coffee
I love visiting flagship airline lounges, as there’s often lots of space, really good food and beverages, and creative facilities. This is often true of airlines with gigantic hub-and-spoke models (i.e. most people are flying one-stop itineraries through the airline’s hub airport) – Emirates’ business class lounge terminal, Qatar Airways’ beautiful Al Mourjan (The Garden) lounge, and Turkish Airlines’ new Istanbul lounge come to mind.
Etihad joins the three airlines mentioned above as one of the four biggest hub-and-spoke airlines in the Middle East. Their flagship lounge at Abu Dhabi Airport’s Terminal 3 opened in 2014; the airport is soon looking to open “Terminal A” in November, a much larger and more modern terminal that will have an Etihad lounge of its own.
Well, I’m glad we’re going to see a new terminal at Abu Dhabi Airport, because both the airport and the Etihad lounge are far too small and outdated to handle the sheer volume of passengers that transit through the airport. The lounge has some redeeming qualities and premium features, though the experience simply isn’t comfortable, particularly during peak hours. Here’s my review of Etihad’s current flagship business class lounge.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Access and Opening Hours
The Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi is open to Etihad business class passengers and Etihad Guest Gold members. You can pay US$120 or 16,000 Etihad Guest Miles to access the lounge for up to four hours, and US$150 or 20,000 Etihad Guest Miles to access the lounge for up to eight hours.
The lounge is open 24 hours a day. If it happens to be closed before your flight, for maintenance or whatever reason (and you otherwise have access), you’ll be granted 3,000 bonus Etihad Guest miles.
Transiting Through Abu Dhabi Airport
I was connecting from my flight onboard an Etihad 787 from Bangkok, and we arrived at a remote stand. The bus pulled up to gate 19A, part of the airport’s Terminal 1. Transit security took around 10-15 minutes, and while friendly, the staff manning security were certainly quite tired at this time of hour – it was around midnight. I was similarly tired, and even forgot my watch in one of the buckets – I returned to get it, and the security staff were nice enough to give it back to me.
At this point I followed the airport’s antiquated but effective signage towards Terminal 3. There was very clear signage to the Etihad lounge.
Transit Hall at Abu Dhabi Airport
After walking past a corridor and getting through a duty free maze, I made it to Terminal 3. Terminal 3 is the current newest terminal at Abu Dhabi Airport, but it certainly doesn’t feel it. The entire airport just feels like it was built in the 1990s – in fact, it kind of reminded me of Heathrow’s Terminal 3.
Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal 3
It was an hour or two before “peak” departures time at Abu Dhabi Airport, and I couldn’t help but notice the queues to some of the bathrooms in the main area of the terminal. Abu Dhabi really needs to open their new terminal, which will drastically improve the passenger experience – I can’t imagine coming off a longhaul economy flight connecting to another, only to have to queue for the bathroom at the airport. The airport clearly isn’t big enough to accommodate the volume of passengers that Etihad is currently carrying.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Location
While the airport itself felt very antiquated, at least signage was very clear – this is in stark contrast to Doha Hamad Airport, a gigantic and stunningly designed airport with terrible signage. I had no issue finding the Etihad lounge, which was located by gate 36.
Signage to Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Airport
Once I got to gate 36, there was a wooden wall of sorts, signalling people towards the lounge.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Entrance Signage
I turned left and walked past a narrow hallway, where the Etihad business class lounge was on my left.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Entrance
There was a short queue to enter, but I was in fairly quickly.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Seating and Atmosphere
I’ll be fairly straightforward – Etihad’s lounge feels a bit like how transiting Doha Airport felt like in 2019, but the lounge was smaller and less nice. The lounge itself was actually a decent size, laid out as a long room with several partitions, and was fairly well appointed and well kept, though the pastel and bright orange colour tones didn’t age particularly well.
The pictures below were taken at about 11:45 PM – the lounge filled up quite significantly after this. Nearer to the door was some restaurant style seating with tables, as well as a good amount of high-top seating.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Seating
There was even a fairly interesting-looking Breitling branded area.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Seating
Further into the lounge were some more relaxing armchairs and sofas, which seemed to be constantly occupied during the entirety of my stay (you’ll see a couple of empty chairs below, but there were bags next to them, presumably belonging to people who wanted to “reserve” those seats).
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Relax Seating
Near the back was a quiet room with armchairs, which was also packed throughout my stay in the lounge.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Seating
I didn’t even get enough of a chance to sit to look at power ports, though you should be able to find those particularly close to walls – not all seats have access to power ports, though.
The lounge is large, though it’s just not the size it needs to be at peak hours. Hopefully the upcoming new Terminal A lounge will address this, as I struggled to find a seat at all at this time.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Business Center and Den
Located near the back of the lounge is a clearly signaged business center, consisting with a few desks with iMacs and a printer.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Business Center
Tucked away was The Den, a little private cubicle with an armchair placed half a meter away from a TV. I can’t imagine this is possibly a good configuration to watch TV, though they were fully occupied during my stay, so I suppose some might disagree. Since I couldn’t take a picture (the space felt fairly intimate, and all booths were taken), here’s a photo taken by Points With A Crew.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Den (credit: Points With A Crew)
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Shower
Based on the volume of people in the lounge I knew there’d be a wait for the shower, and I really wanted to get refreshed, as I was spending quite a bit of time in the air. So after entering the lounge I made a beeline for the showers, knowing that I’d probably have to get a buzzer and wait in the lounge for my turn.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Hallway to Shower
Sure enough, I was given a buzzer, and upon asking for an ETA was given a “I don’t know, maybe 45 minutes, maybe an hour…”
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Buzzer
To the shower agent’s credit, my buzzer did go off after around 45 minutes. I can’t lie, the shower room felt quite warm, stuffy and poorly ventilated, and the unmarked toiletries didn’t feel particularly premium. That being said, it did feel good to be refreshed at this time of hour.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Shower Room
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Food Spread
Etihad’s business class lounges no longer feature a la carte dining or anything super fancy, though I did find the food spread to be extensive. There were some kitschy quirks such as individually wrapped bread rolls, though food was generally fairly high quality.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Cold Food Spread
I couldn’t stomach many of the hot options at this hour, though they did look quite tasty.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Hot Food Spread
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Bar and Drinks
The bar is located by one of the lounge’s sides, and looked fairly pretty, with orange seats and triangular patterning.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Bar
Etihad does provide a full cocktail selection here, though they do ID quite rigorously for anyone who looks young (the minimum age limit here is 21). I couldn’t really stomach a cocktail at this time, though did have an espresso – there’s barista coffee here, which is a plus. The espresso was nice and strong.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Espresso
The bar also filled up throughout the evening, though this is a nice way to spend some time during a layover at Abu Dhabi Airport.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Service
Most of the interactions I had with staff at the lounge were friendly, and the bartenders were particularly eager to please. However, I did feel that there was a general sense of tiredness from the staff members at peak hour, and the lounge felt quite understaffed, as it took a while to be served at the bar, have cups/plates cleared, etc..
This isn’t a complaint at all for a hub lounge of a large Middle Eastern airline at peak hours shortly after midnight, though I’m hoping to see better staffing levels at Etihad’s new lounge in the new terminal (and better morale too, since this isn’t otherwise a lounge to be proud of).
Etihad did use to offer a salon (which would’ve been paid for business class passengers, and free for first class passengers), though that feature is long gone.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi WiFi
WiFi at this lounge was easy to connect to, but not particularly fast, presumably due to the stretched bandwidth. It was definitely usable, though perhaps don’t plan to download large work files before your flight here.
Bottom Line: Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi
I’d say that this would be quite a nifty little lounge if Etihad were a smaller airline, though Etihad’s post-COVID comeback has come at the expense of the quality of the lounge. Now that Etihad no longer offers ultra-premium amenities such as a-la-carte dining and a salon (which were unnecessary, though did give the Etihad ground experience an X-factor), what’s left of the lounge isn’t very impressive; my main complaint is that it’s overcrowded at peak hours to the point where you’d struggle to find a place to sit. There are some redeeming qualities such as a good bar and barista coffee, though even some of the basics aren’t well-executed, such as the poorly ventilated showers, poorly thought out rest area (The Den), and underwhelming internet for a hub lounge for a top-tier Middle Eastern airline. I’d also have hoped for a more exciting food spread for an airline such as Etihad.
Until Abu Dhabi opens their new airport terminal (which will presumably come with a brand new Etihad lounge), the ground experience is the Achilles heel in the Etihad business class experience.
Have you been to Etihad’s lounge in Abu Dhabi before?