Etihad Airways to the UAE: Etihad Check-in & First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi

Filed Under: Awards, Etihad

Etihad offers complimentary chauffeur service for their first and business class passengers, so I requested a pick-up for the InterContinental Abu Dhabi at 7:30AM, leaving me plenty of time in the lounge. I was in the lobby at 7:20AM, though the driver didn’t show up until 8:10AM, a full 40 minutes late. That’s totally unacceptable, in my opinion, especially since he made no effort to contact me and let me know he’d be late. He didn’t even apologize, but rather just said “don’t worry, you still have plenty of time and won’t miss your flight.”

Anyway, he was friendly once we were actually underway for the ~20 minute drive to the airport. While the outbound transfer service was in an Audi, this time it was in a Volvo.

Car transfer

Car interior

The driver was from India, so we discussed my recent trip there for most of the ride.

He dropped me off at the dedicated first and business class check-in area, where I was promptly offered help by one of the porters.

Premium check-in entrance

Terminal exterior

The premium check-in area is separated into a first and business class section, with the business class section having counters, while the first class section has seating.

Premium check-in

First class check-in

First class check-in

Check-in was efficient, and I was quickly directed towards security, where I queued behind an Australian guy heading to Sydney in first class. Security was quick, though the agents were yapping on their cell phones while working.

Past security there were a ton of high end duty free shops, though I headed straight for the first class lounge to have breakfast and catch up on email.

Duty free shopping

The lounge entrance was easy to find and not far past security.

Lounge entrance

At the lounge I was directed to the first class area, which was fairly empty. A majority of the lounge consists of comfortable sofas overlooking the tarmac, so I took a seat there.

First class lounge

Tarmac views

Within moments of being seated I was offered a beverage and hot towel. At that point I decided to take a quick tour of the lounge.

The lounge features a library with more comfortable seating, though I didn’t use it.


Next is the restaurant, which consists of several tables overlooking the kitchen.


Larger table at restaurant

Next to the restaurant was the well stocked bar, though it was a bit early to enjoy it.


They were running a “promotion” with Mumm champagne, though I’m not sure what exactly that means in the context of a lounge where drinks are free. I suspect this simply means that Etihad was offered the champagne at a discounted price (or maybe for free?) in exchange for it being promoted.

Promotional display

The lounge also featured a Six Senses Spa (the brand of hotel I stayed at in the Maldives back in October), with several shower rooms.

Shower room

As a first class passenger I was entitled to a complimentary 15 minute massage, which I took advantage of immediately. While it was only 15 minutes, it was spectacular. I’m used to airlines offering short massage “teasers” to passengers, and they’re usually pretty half a$$ed given that these people are often giving 30-40 massages a day. But the massage was awesome, and I felt great afterwards. While I realize a tip probably wasn’t required, I gave him my remaining Dirham, which translated to about $20USD, and seemed to make his day.

After a great massage I decided to go to the restaurant for breakfast, given that I hadn’t eaten at the hotel. I sat down at a table overlooking the kitchen, and was promptly served.

View of kitchen

The lounge has an extensive a la carte menu, and I went with an omelet.


I ordered a Mimosa to drink, and was also served orange juice and water, in addition to some toast to start.

Mimosa and toast

My omelet was brought out about 15 minutes later, and was nicely presented.


I should also mention the one huge downside to the lounge, which is that Wi-Fi is incredibly slow.

About 30 minutes before departure I headed for the gate. As I left the lounge and asked which gate the New York flight was departing from, the agent had the widest eyes as I hadn’t yet left, and said “sir, you better run or you’ll miss your plane.”

On the whole I’d rank this as one of the better first class lounges. It’s a notch below the Lufthansa First Class Terminal and Thai First Class Lounge & Spa, though a notch above the British Airways First Lounge and Cathay Pacific Wing/Pier. I’d say it’s probably a slight notch below the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, which is my third favorite lounge in the world.

  1. Do the chauffeurs seem to typically get gratuities for those first class airport transfers? I’ve always wondered about that…

  2. “…where I queued behind an Australian guy heading to Sydney in first class.”

    I’m curious why you mention this? Someone you recognized or something?

  3. With regard to “sir, you better run or you’ll miss your plane” – did the agent offer to call the gate for you or provide any assistance? That seems the least they could do. From that sentence, it seems their ground services for First Class customers need to be improved. Great report and detail!

  4. Hey Ben,

    Just curious as to what you tipped the driver (if anything) for being 40 minutes late without calling to say he’d be late and without apologizing?

  5. @ Andrew B — I suspect it depends on the nationality/culture of the person getting driven. I assume Americans usually tip them, while “locals” don’t, but who knows.

    @ mangoMan — Hah, there was actually more to the story, though in the interest of keeping the report somewhat brief I left it out. We seemed to run into each other every step along the way — he checked in next to me, we went through security behind each other, and sat next to each other in the lounge, all by chance. He was a nice guy and together we seemed to be the only two non-Middle Easterners in the first class lounge, so it’s just something that I remembered.

    @ Ray — Nope, didn’t make any offer, though perhaps naively I thought I wasn’t in “danger” of missing my flight.

    @ Michael — I tipped the guy on the outbound, though didn’t tip the guy on the way back (given that he was 40 minutes late).

  6. Hey Lucky, nice pics, very strange that the chauffeur arrived so late, especially for a first class passenger that is very unacceptable. Especially had you chosen a much tighter time frame for your flight.

    Just to let you know when I did fly business with them the driver actually showed up early and called me to let me know he would be waiting. So I think you just got the one bad driver that morning.

    Either way thouroughly enjoyed your TR

  7. @ Jason — To the best of my knowledge all first class passengers, including those on awards, are entitled to complimentary chauffeur service.

  8. “I’d say it’s probably a slight notch below the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, which is my third favorite lounge in the world”

    It’s probably because you haven’t experienced yet the Air France First Class Lounge in CDG… the BEST lounge in the world :-))

  9. The Spa services are free to all lounge users, once spent an 8 hour overnight connection there and used it three times.
    Did you see the cigar humidor in the ‘Libary’?

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