Etihad Airways' new first and business class lounge at Sydney Airport is also the airline's first in Australia, with another in Melbourne to follow in early 2015.
It's part of a push to carve out a larger slice of Australia's travel market which also includes Etihad's new Airbus A380 for Sydney and Melbourne plus plans to bring its Boeing 787 Dreamliners to Brisbane and Perth.
And with two daily flights from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, feeding into connections throughout Europe, Etihad's Sydney Airport lounge is where the airline's premium passengers and frequent flyers will begin their journey.
Location & Impressions
Etihad's Sydney Airport lounge is located adjacent to gate 51 of the international T1 terminal, conveniently close to the gates which the airline uses.
So close, in fact, that you'll probably see your EY flight sitting right outside the lounge.
The easiest way to find the lounge?
When you step off the moving walkways which connect T1's central hub to the gates numbered 50 and above, veer left – opposite the gourmet gift store A Little Something and next to the National Geographic store you'll spy the lounge's elegant wooden doors.
Etihad's description of this as a two-level lounge is technically accurate, although the top floor is really just the reception desk and a room where you can stow your carry-on baggage.
The lounge proper is located downstairs, where globetrotting Etihad travellers will see a very familiar design which shares its colour scheme, furnishings and general 'design DNA' with the airline's latest international lounges such as at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport.
This also includes signature Etihad lounge touches such as Arabian coffee – flavoured with rose water and cardamom – and Arabic dates.
The lounge is fairly compact, although the way the space is used shows careful planning without trying to squeeze too many passengers shoulder to shoulder.
There are four main areas where passengers can park themselves.
The most likely is along the ranks of comfortable leather armchairs which line the windows (with a view over the airport's operation area for a bit of plane-watching, if that takes your fancy) and are also nestled into the curved wooden dividers.
At the far end of this area you'll find the bar serving all manner of drinks, from coffee and non-alcoholic tipples to a selection of beers, champagne, aperitifs, spirits and liqueurs.
On the other side of the lounge is the dining room where passengers can choose from an a la carte menu.
Also notice the tall orange barstools ranked along the curved partition – this is a great spot to perch with your laptop or tablet plus a drink and a small plate form the self-serve buffet adjacent to the dining room.
As we said, this is a compact lounge, enough so that you can stand in any one corner and see pretty much the rest of the lounge with a single sweep. But it's the right size to cater for Etihad's own flights and still have a bit of extra space to spare, and there's a certain clubby 'intimacy' you get from being in this smaller space.
However, that's not all there is to the Etihad lounge.
The kid's play room will be appreciated by children and their parents alike, as well as their fellow travellers who enjoy the lounge being a bit more of a child-free zone.
Sliding and fairly sound-proofed glass doors separate this from a small banquette just outside, which is a very thoughtful touch so that parents can relax while keeping an eye on their young ones.
Further along this corridor you'll find bathrooms and showers...
... plus male and female prayer rooms.
The Etihad lounge is open three hours prior to each of the airline's two daily flights out of Sydney, those being EY451 at 3.50pm and EY455 at 9.50pm.
The welcome mat is laid out for the following passengers:
- Etihad Airways first and business class travellers
- Etihad Guest Silver, Gold and Gold Elite members on Etihad flights
- Eligible frequent flyers from codeshare/partner airlines on Etihad's Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights, including Virgin Australia Velocity Gold and Platinum
Virgin Australia passengers travelling on the VA29 Sydney-Abu Dhabi flight can also use the lounge if they're in business class or hold Velocity Gold or Platinum status.
However, the lounge isn't available to passengers flying to other destinations on other airlines, regardless of whether an EY code is attached to that flight.
The lounge's dining options centre on a menu with a selection of western and Arabian dishes which changes every two months.
There's also a self-serve buffet area with a range of lighter snacks, salads and Tapas-style mezze dishes.
None of the dishes are exceptionally heavy, but they're substantial enough to stave off your appetite in style while leaving room for Etihad's excellent inflight business an first class meals.
A small business centre provides three Apple iMacs plus a printer/fax machine snuck away to one corner of the lounge.
But with the number of travellers who today pack their own notebook or tablet, plus the lounge's fast, free (and password protected) Wi-Fi and plentiful supply of AC and USB power sockets, we expect most visitors will be happier to plonk themselves anywhere in the lounge, especially if it's handy to the bar or buffet.