Review: Etihad VIP Room Abu Dhabi Airport

Filed Under: Etihad

I had a roughly four hour layover in Abu Dhabi, as my flight from Washington arrived around 7PM, while my connecting flight to Ahmedabad was departing at 11PM.

As usually seems to be the case, our flight arrived at a remote stand.Ā I didn’t mind this too much, since earlier this year Etihad announced that they’d start offering Mercedes S-Class transfers to first class passengers who arrive at remote stands.

Etihad 787 upon arrival from Washington

When I arrived I saw a Mercedes waiting, so I figured “great.” But nope, that was just for the three locals in first class, apparently.

Etihad 787 upon arrival from Washington

Unless the S-Class was recently redesigned to be more spacious, I don’t think I got a Mercedes transfer. šŸ˜‰

Etihad bus from remote stand to terminal

Etihad bus from remote stand to terminal

While Doha and Dubai are generally beautiful airports and mostly good hubs for transfers, Abu Dhabi isn’t. The airport is supposed to have a new terminal opening soon, but at this point it seems to me like they might have just given up on finishing construction on it.

The transit security checkpoint was outrageously backed up, though fortunately there was a priority line for business class, so I was through in about 10 minutes. For those who didn’t have access to the priority line, I imagine the line must have been at least an hour long.

At that point I headed to the Etihad First Class Lounge, which I’ve reviewed before.

Etihad Airways first class lounge Abu Dhabi exterior

At the entrance my boarding pass was scanned, and then I took the elevator up to the lounge level, as it’s one floor above the main concourse.

Etihad Airways first class lounge Abu Dhabi entrance

The lounge is quite beautiful and was nice and empty when I arrived.

Etihad Airways first class lounge Abu Dhabi

Etihad Airways first class lounge Abu Dhabi

While this would be more than sufficient for my short layover, I decided to try something special this time.

In order to generate more revenue, Etihad began selling access to some of their “Residence” lounges around the world when they’re empty.Ā They started doing so earlier this yearĀ in Abu Dhabi.

The Residence is Etihadā€™s three room suite with butler service on A380s, which I reviewed last year between Abu Dhabi and Sydney:

When you buy access to that lounge you don’t receive all of the enhanced service, though it’s still a pretty awesome experience.

In order to pay for this I went to the customer service desk inside the lounge, and asked about buying access to the “VIP room” (which is what they call it when you’re not in the Residence). The attendant went to check on the cost as she wasn’t sure.

Where to buy access to the Etihad VIP room

Within a minute she returned and swiped my credit card for $100.

Receipt for buying access to Etihad VIP room

She then escorted me to my private room. When I flew the Residence I got the main Residence room, which is a bit bigger, but in reality the room I got was also a room intended for the Residence, since they sometimes have two people flying the Residence at the same time.

Was this totally unnecessary? Yes. Was it totally awesome and brought back memories of my amazing flight in the Residence last year? YES!

The room featured a dining table with four seats.

Etihad VIP room Abu Dhabi Airport

Etihad VIP room Abu Dhabi Airport

Then on the other side were two comfortable couches as well as a wall-mounted TV.

Etihad VIP room Abu Dhabi Airport

Etihad VIP room Abu Dhabi Airport

Etihad VIP room Abu Dhabi Airport

The lounge also featured a private bathroom and shower, which is a nice thing to have.

Etihad VIP room private bathroom Abu Dhabi Airport

Etihad VIP room private shower Abu Dhabi Airport

If you were flying the Residence you’d get a full time butler looking after you. Meanwhile if you’re paying for access to the VIP room, you have a lounge attendant who checks on you every so often. So while it’s not as attentive, you are still getting special treatment.

Within a few minutes an attendant came by to present me with the menu and drink list.

Etihad first class lounge menu & drink list

The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

To start I ordered a sparkling water and cappuccino, which was promptly brought to me on a tray.

Etihad first class lounge — cappuccino and water

At around 8PM I decided to head to the spa for a treatment. While Etihad recently closed their Style & Shave Salon, their Six Senses Spa is still open, and first class passengers receive a complimentary 15 minute treatment.

The spa menu read as follows:

I decided on a 15 minute back massage, and there was immediate availability. The massage was excellent.

Etihad first class lounge massage chair

Once back in my private room I decided it was time for dinner. I ordered a glass of Italian sauvignon blanc to start.

Etihad Airways first class lounge — glass of white wine

For dinner I ordered theĀ mezze with hummus, fattoush, moutabel with lamb sambousek, and potato kibbeh, as well as the tandoori paneer with naan, yellow lentil masala, and cucumber-mint raita. The entire meal was brought to me at once by two attendants.

Etihad Airways first class lounge — dinner

The mezze was good, though in my opinion there’s not that much variance in terms of the quality.

Etihad Airways first class lounge — dinner

Etihad Airways first class lounge — dinner

Meanwhile the tandoori paneer was exceptional. It was spicy and so flavorful. Mmmmm…

Etihad Airways first class lounge — dinner

The one general challenge to be aware of with the VIP room is that the private room has a sliding frosted glass door, and only a lounge attendant can open the door for you using a keycard. You’re not given one yourself, so when you decide to leave your private room (whether to go to the bar, to the spa, etc.) you’ll need to ask an attendant to open it again.

That’s not a huge deal, but I also got a lot of skeptical looks when I asked people to open it, since clearly they weren’t aware someone had paid to use that room.

Furthermore, there’s not a call button for an attendant, so while they try to check on you every so often, when you want to actually order you may have to leave the private room and go into the lounge.

Anyway, my private room had a departure monitor, which was convenient. The boarding pass indicated my flight was scheduled to board at 10:10PM, and my flight was departing from gate 28.

Etihad Airways departures board

So at around 10PM I decided to head in the direction of gate 28, which was only a short walk away.

Walking to Etihad departure gate Abu Dhabi

Unfortunately gate 28 is actually a remote stand, so I took the escalator down a level.

Walking to Etihad departure gate Abu Dhabi

Walking to a remote stand gate

Sure enough boarding did start at 10:10PM, though it was pure chaos. The gate area was small, and on top of that everyone decided they were going to be the first person on the bus.

Departure gate to Ahmedabad

While there was a priority line, there was no enforcement to ensure it was being used correctly, but rather everyone just assumed you could board via either lane.

Departure gate to Ahmedabad

It got significantly more dramatic once on the bus, which was filled to the brim. Once the bus door closed, a guy realized he had forgotten something in the terminal. He began banging on the window of the bus and causing a commotion. Then that caused an uprising among other people, who didnā€™t want to return to the terminal, so they told him to be quiet.

ā€œWe are on the runway, we canā€™t go back. We will miss the flight. Be quiet. Stop!ā€

That only made him bang on the windows harder.

It was a long drive to the gate, and by 10:25PM we arrived at the plane.

Etihad A320 Abu Dhabi Airport

Etihad VIP room bottom line

While Etihad’s First Class Lounge in general is quite nice, getting a VIP room was a special treat. It was totally unnecessary, even though this is one of the best airport lounges in the world.

So, was it worth it? This is completely unnecessary, of course, though it did bring back great memories of flying the Residence last year. Since I was traveling alone, being in the room all by myself was an isolating experience (which I quite like, especially between flights), though I imagine this could be even more useful if you’re traveling with friends or family, or have calls to make.

Unfortunately the rest of the Abu Dhabi ground experience leaves a lot to be desired, from the remote stands, to transit security, to Etihad’s inability to deliver on their premium cabin promises (including a private transfer when flying first class, and priority boarding when flying business class).

  1. @ James — Since a few weeks after the lounge opened, assuming you’re connecting same day on a two cabin plane.

  2. @ BUrg — I did use miles, but Etihad has never made a distinction for airport ground services between upgrades, award tickets, or revenue tickets.

  3. @Lucky – Is there a time limit? And if not, is the $100 a flat rate no matter how much time you spend there? For four+ hours thats a good deal, but I’m not sure itd be worth it for two hours or so.

  4. @Lucky Perhaps consider blurring out the faces of folks in certain pictures. Privacy + after a long haul flight not everyone wants to be captured for posterity on a travel blog. šŸ˜‰

  5. I distinctly remember being told that I don’t get the free spa treatment when arriving in F and departing on J (on a 2 class flight..).
    Was able to get the free service on the return though, arriving on J and departing on F.
    Has this changed?

  6. I am also wondering if there is time limit?
    also – they are not charging this per person but rather per room, right?

  7. In June my wife and I arrived 6 hours before our flight. They didn’t seem thrilled we were there so early but ultimately swiped our credit card and let us have it.

  8. First of all, looks amazing

    However Iā€™d pay double for a 10×10 sleeping room with a king size bed, alarm clock, and shower.

    I value sleep and showers Uber alles

  9. I connected from SIN to IAD in AUH on a first class award ticket the week before last and received the Mercedes transfer upon arrival in AUH. I had what was ostensibly an overnight layover. Not sure if that made a difference.

  10. Mercedes transfer is available upon arrival When your final destination is AUH, people in transit with other connexions get the executive van service to the terminal with the rest of the
    J class passengers. ENJOY IT!

  11. Moreover, this situation with flights arriving at a remote stand will Stop with the opening of the mew terminal in 2021, right now all this, it reminds me very much to Doha International Airport a few years ago.

  12. Well you got an extra review out of it so I suppose it’s justifiable – otherwise sooooo not. I would pay NOT to look at that carpet.

  13. I still have yet to find an airline which can enforce priority boarding on a flight to the Indian Subcontinent šŸ˜‰

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