Opened less than 12 months ago, Etihad Airways' newly-refurbished Premium Lounge in Abu Dhabi Airport's Terminal 1 is a breath of fresh air for the airline's business class passengers with a contemporary yet warm style to match the airline's newest 'Business Studio' seats and service.
It's similar in design to the 'main' Premium Lounge in Terminal 3 but is frequently overlooked by travellers who head to T3 by default, making this an often-quieter and more relaxing space, even during peak times.
For example, we visited T1 around 6pm on a weekday and could count the number of other lounge guests on one hand, but when we zipped across to the T3 lounge, we found where they were all hiding.
Thanks to the design of Abu Dhabi Airport, you're free to wander between terminals once you've passed through security and also outbound immigration, so if you've arrived in plenty of time, why not try the quieter T1 lounge before your next Etihad Airways or Virgin Australia flight?
Location & Impressions
You'll find this Etihad Premium Lounge right next door to Plaza Premium's Al Reem Lounge, again in Terminal 1. Signage in the airport is more than adequate... ... and the lounge is easily spotted from the outside with the airline's 'Facets of Abu Dhabi' styling quickly grabbing your attention... ... before you enter, follow along a walkway and then take the stairs or lift up one floor to the lounge proper. What greets you inside is a modern space with a luxurious feel, divided into mood-themed zones as we always like to see.
- Etihad and Virgin Australia business class passengers
- Virgin Australia Velocity Platinum frequent flyers travelling with Virgin Australia or Etihad
- Business class passengers and top-tier frequent flyers of Airberlin, Air Seychelles, Air Serbia, Alitalia and Jet Airways
Eligible first class flyers, 'The Residence' passengers and Etihad Guest Platinum and Exclusive members can also access this lounge but might prefer the new Etihad Airways first class lounge in Terminal 3, found within easy walking distance.
When travelling in economy, Virgin Australia Velocity Gold and Etihad Guest Gold and Silver members may instead use the neighbouring Al Reem lounge before their flight.
You'll also find a similar Etihad Premium Lounge in Terminal 3 with the same access rules as this space. Travellers are free to use the lounges in either terminal, so take your pick.
The food and beverage experience is a major element of this lounge with dining tables galore, scattered between the rear and far right of the lounge... ... plus a smaller wing closer to the buffet ideal for quick visits or a casual drink on the bench seats: There's no table service here, instead with food self-sourced from the buffet, but waiters still come by to offer sparkling or still water with your meal and barista-made coffee or tea if you'd like, which is a nice touch.
With the lounge near-deserted, we were pleasantly surprised to find that buffet fully-stocked – but more importantly, fresh – with tasty hot food including salmon croquettes, creole baked chicken with BBQ sauce and a mixed grilled lamb kofta, chicken kofta & chicken Shish Tawook... ... ample vegetarian options that would also please meat-eaters like roti, wild rice and stir fried vegetable noodles... ... a good selection of fresh ingredients for something lighter, joined by oils and dressings, crackers, cheeses and healthy crunchies... ... along with pre-prepared salads and also sushi, for which we went back for seconds: For dessert, there was no passing up the strawberry mousse with a chocolate and vanilla straw and a fresh strawberry on top, which was small enough to be enjoyed without spoiling our appetite for the upcoming first class inflight degustation: Read: Inflight degustation: sampling Etihad's first class tasting menu
You'll also find a bar and cafe amidst the main buffet area with a respectable selection of spirits served throughout the day, plus Lallier Champagne. During the Islamic Holy month of Ramadan, however, alcohol is usually poured here only between 7pm and 3am each day, but which still lets you indulge before the evening departures to Australia. There's also a second smaller buffet counter towards the far corner of the lounge...... with basic refreshments, machine-made coffee and light snacks.
Much of this lounge is given over to relaxation, although thanks to a near-abundant supply of dining tables there's always somewhere to plonk your laptop without being 'in the way'.
But many business travellers who stop by are in transit rather than beginning their journey, which means a shower and quick sync of the email inbox with ample comfy chairs for achieving this goal... ... most of which are close to power points, either on the walls behind, tucked away within the cocktail tables... ... or in fold-up compartments on the floor: Fast wireless Internet blankets the lounge with download speeds clocked at 33.96Mbps, uploads at 22.59Mbps and ping speeds of 6ms during our visit.
In a move we appreciate, the wireless network name (SSID) and security key are the same here as in Etihad's arrivals lounge and also the T3 Premium Lounge, so we found our gadgets automatically connecting to the WiFi in every lounge after a quick set-up on an earlier visit.
Start your relaxing lounge visit by dropping the kids by their own colourful play room... ... grab a magazine or newspaper if it takes your fancy from titles in multiple languages, English included... ... and settle down in one of a multitude of comfy chairs. We like that most seats offer cocktail tables which too include power points within, so you can recharge your phone or tablet without being chained to a less-comfortable desk. Some seats are also near TV zones for catching up on world news, while boarding calls aren't made here to keep the tone of the lounge quiet and peaceful, with ample flight information screens located throughout. Follow the lounge's main walkway to the very end and you'll uncover a separate TV enclave – a great place for larger groups to hang out, escaping the lounge proper. There's also a Six Senses Spa within the lounge offering a selection of massages, facials and therapies... ... and while these used to be complimentary for business class passengers and a highlight of the lounge for many Platinum-grade flyers, fees now apply unless travelling in first class or The Residence.
It's an unfortunate change given that airlines like Thai Airways and Virgin Atlantic continue to offer spa treatments for business class passengers, but we also recognise that most other airlines do reserve these for first class flyers.
Yet even without a visit to the day spa we still found this lounge incredibly relaxing and a great way to unwind before our 14-hour flight, and would certainly make the trek to Terminal 1 again to avoid the bustle of T3.
Also reviewed: Etihad Boeing 787 Business Studio business class
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Abu Dhabi as a guest of Etihad Airways.
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