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Not the Usual Etihad First Class Check In & Lounge Experience

a sign on a building

This time my Etihad check-in/lounge experience was one of rushing and waiting. I had the chauffer scheduled to pick me up at 5:30PM, despite a flight time of 3:30AM to save the cost of another night at Al Maha. We made good time, arriving to Premium Class entrance around 7PM or so.

There was a fleet of attendants waiting to take our luggage and it all happened so fast that I had no chance to take pictures before I was following someone into the check in area. That’s the when the agent told me that I was probably too early to get through immigration. What!?

Looking around at the sparsely furnished area, I was severely dismayed. I’d had a pleasant but long day and was really tired. The idea of sitting on a bench in the check in area for any length of time was not appealing and I didn’t feel like exploring. (Later I found out there’s a whole array of shops and food court an easy walk from the terminal). The agent didn’t seem very sympathetic, just shrugging and suggesting I give immigration a try.

Fortunately I had zero issues, no one even seemed to notice my flight time.

a sign in a airport

a sign on a building

I immediately headed to the Etihad Premium Lounge in Terminal 3 to while away 7 hours. The new First Class lounge is still under construction so I was escorted to the little roped off area which was dedicated to first class passengers.

a group of brown leather chairs in a room

I was the only one there, so I dropped off my bags which the attendant agreed to watch and headed to the spa for a free 15 minute massage to erase the aches from my first time riding English earlier in the day. I emerged and stopped by the salon to see what appointments were open.

First class passengers get one free treatment — a blow out or manicure. I opted for both, (might as well look my best for my flight home) and was charged about $20 for the manicure. I scheduled it for 11:30PM, right before they closed, in the hopes I’d be able to get some work done in the meantime.

It didn’t quite work out like that. All of the power outlets in the lounge were inset which didn’t accommodate my universal adaptor and the lounge didn’t have any to lend me. Ultimately they wound up charging my laptop behind the bar. So if you’ll be visiting the lounge, make sure you have a small adaptor!

a bar with orange chairs and a counter

It’s a large lounge, in addition to the spa and salon, there’s two bars, two dining areas, a buffet area, and various work and resting areas. The food was good with a variety of options — middle eastern, asian, european, and many many desserts.

a buffet table with food on it

a group of silver pots on a counter

a restaurant with a table and chairs

Even with all that room, by midnight it has become quite crowded and rather loud. So it was nice to escape to the empty salon where my hair was washed and styled in unaccustomed curls and I had one of the best manicures ever. It didn’t smudge and lasted for over a week of hard use.

I left the lounge early for my flight since passengers need to clear US immigration prior to boarding. All the US flights are in the same area and it was a bit of a madhouse with a long line and people on the moving walkway having to backtrack because they didn’t realize it was their line.

a group of people in a hallway

There’s no signage, so just a head’s up that premium passengers do have a separate line. Go to the front of the line and then hang left.

Even with a fast track, it was still a long wait. But I wound up with 30 minutes or so to check out the US Premium Lounge which is gate-side. Since it is after immigration and serves all business and first class passengers, the tiny space was already packed and way too hot.

a sign on a building

There was a simple food presentation and a spiffy looking bar, but people everywhere and more arriving. Because it was so crowded I decided to skip taking pictures, but I don’t recommend leaving the other lounge early to spend time in this one.

I decided I’d be happier at the gate (despite the attendant recommending I stay until the flight announcement), and enjoyed the cooler air and sterile surroundings waiting for boarding to begin!

More from this trip

Etihad First Class Checkin & the New Etihad Lounge at JFK
Flying in the First Apartment on the Inaugural Etihad A380 JFK to Abu Dhabi
Thanksgiving Dinner 40,000 Feet Above the Atlantic
First Impressions of Dubai in Pictures
Sunset Camel Treks & Champagne Toasts
Riding Arabians and Dune Bashing in the Desert
My First Impressions of Dubai in Pictures

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  1. Totally agree you were better off waiting at the gate like I did last week. The post preclearance lounge was way too crowded with only one computer and the internet was horrible.

    1. Oh that was the other thing! I never could get my laptop to connect to their lounge internet, even after restarting a couple of times.

  2. What airport is this? The article and previous comments don’t mention. I’m guessing AUH (Abu Dhabi) or maybe DXB (Dubai) since the reviewer mentions Al Maha.

    Note: I’m looking for an absolutely royal travel experience down to the tiniest detail and I’m reading articles like this for this type of experiential knowledge.

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