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September 4, 2013 / oneworld82

Etihad Airways’ First Class Lounge – An oasis to set you up right for a long flight

Alright, time for the last leg of this unusual and very personal Kangaroo Route. 3 First Class segments in three days is no small feat – if you ask me. Just think about it. Flying DFW-FRA-DXB and AUH-SYD is a staggering 9.5+6.5+14 hours in First Class. That equals 30 hours in more or less 48 hours. That means A LOT of food, unhealthy drinks, and R&R with basically zero physical activity. Really, it’s more than a normal person can possibly take in. And my body felt it. But no worries. I am an ethical writer and for the sake of writing a good, exhaustive, and unbiased trip report I have not subtracted myself from my eating/drinking/watching movies/sleeping duties. After all, Etihad Airways has been recently chosen as best first class by Skytrax at the annual Airline Awards. To say that I was eager to see by myself how that happened is an understatement. Is this accolade deserved? Read on and judge by yourself…

I am ready. Are you?

I am ready. Are you?

Etihad is an airline that has fancied my imagination for a while, and I was very excited to finally try its Diamond First Class, even more so after winning the First Class of the Year 2013 Skytrax award (like I mentioned above). Private suites and on board chef are two among the many things I was very eager to try; the sense of luxury that the airline emanates through its commercials and communication campaigns allured me. Etihad – and Emirates – are the epitome of excess in the sky. Think about the latter: that unnecessary minibar or snack basket that they put on and off your seat, for instance; it’s totally superficial, and offering Pringles isn’t properly luxurious. Still, this excess is something that fancies many travelers. Many complain about Middle Eastern carriers’ lack of personal touch – think Cathay Pacific for instance. And I found that to be true on my previous experiences with Royal Jordanian and Gulf Air economy class, for instance. But the fact that Etihad had won that Skytrax award had sneaked a thought on my mind: what if Etihad Diamond First Class was different? What if a Middle Eastern carrier had achieved to blend both excessive luxury and personable service? Well, I was very eager to find out…

The Etihad Chaffeur service that I booked online worked perfectly. The day before my flight I received a text message confirming the pick time. My driver actually arrived 15 minutes early, which was a good sign. The car (a sort of minivan but with only 3 passenger seats) was comfortable and spacious; the ride to Abu Dhabi smooth. In about a hour I was at the First and Business Class check-in area at Terminal 3 of Abu Dhabi’s airport.

Porters took care of my luggage (how nice), and a bottle of orange juice was offered. The First Class check-in area was somewhat crowded but I was served immediately. My flight had been delayed one hour, which made me worry that I might miss my connection in Sydney. The staff assured me that I would likely still make it (and they were right in the end). After a quick security check I headed to the First Class lounge.

Etihad's First Class Check In

Etihad’s First Class Check In

My impression of this lounge was simply: WOW. It might not be as big as the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, but what it lacks in size is made up by superlative service. There is a restaurant area (everything is a-la-carte), a lounge area (with view over the tarmac), a Six Senses Spa, a TV room, and a cigar lounge.

Once I stepped in I proceeded to the TV room to send some emails. After 10 seconds (no kidding!) an attendant approached me and asked whether I wanted anything to eat/drink and that he would be glad to serve me breakfast there if I wanted to. I just ordered a coffee, as I highly needed one.

A(nother) coffee to start the day right!

A coffee to start the day right!

I booked myself a treatment at the spa (among the various ones on offer) before heading to the restaurant for some breakfast.

Table set up. Only a-la-carte dining here

Table set up. Only a-la-carte dining here

Shakshouka and foul madames

Shakshouka and foul madames

The choice was easy: shakshouka and ful medames. I had the former dish for the first time in Israel last year, and it was a total winner. Think eggs cooked in a thick tomato sauce (to simplify it) and rich of flavor. This version was a bit disappointing, not because it wasn’t tasty (it was!) but because the whole dish looked and tasted more like scrambled eggs with some tomatoes here and there.

How shakshouka should look like...

How shakshouka should look like…

...and how mine looked like. Disappointing.

…and how mine looked like. Disappointing.

The ful medames – pureed fava beans with lemon juice and parsley and a breakfast staple in the Middle East – were instead perfect.

Ful Medames

Ful Medames

Some pita was also served to accompany and scoop the food. I asked for a cappuccino, which was decent; overall, a very good breakfast – although one of the two dishes ordered was pretty different from what any Middle Eastern would think is a real shakshouka.

Once the time came, I went to the spa for my treatment. My masseur was a Middle Eastern young man who was very polite and helped me with my hand luggage. The room was private, with soothing music, but a little small. I was asked to bend down on one of those massage chairs where you sit on your knees and let your arms float on the side… more or less. Let’s say that Qantas has a more comfortable massage bed, as I would discover afterwards, although this one wasn’t by any mean uncomfortable.

I asked for something to relieve my shoulder and neck tension, and I got exactly what I needed (i.e. 15 minutes of bliss with a male masseur playing with my upper back). It felt so good afterwards, but unfortunately the treatment was all too short. Though life. Right before my treatment I had the chance to take a look at the restroom/shower inside the spa. I am pretty sure there are other shower rooms as well, but this one in particular was very spacious and nicely decorated with Arabic tiles.

Six Senses Spa - A much needed massage before a long flight

Six Senses Spa – A much needed massage before a long flight

Restroom within the spa

Restroom within the spa

 

I love the tiles!

I love the tiles!

Shower

Shower

Once the massage ended, I proceeded to the main lounging area, which enjoys a nice view over the tarmac. Here a spa attendant came and put a warm sort of blanket around my neck and served me delicious ginger tea. Splendid!

Lounging area

Lounging area

Etihad Airways First Class Lounge

Tarmac view

Tarmac view

Ginger tea

Ginger tea

Nice way to relax

Nice way to relax

After purifying my body… I proceeded to the cigar lounge, of course! Although it’s much smaller than its counterpart in Frankfurt, the selection of cigar seemed better.

Rich cigar selection

Rich cigar selection

Cigar lounge Etihad

I had the pleasure to try a Montecristo – my first ever – and to say I thoroughly enjoyed it is to understate it. Rich in flavor, yet smooth – perfect to puff even in the morning. Good stuff.

My Habanero

My Habanero

Who's the boss? Part II

Who’s the boss? Part II

Unfortunately, my all too short visit at the lounge came to an end at around 10:45, when boarding for my flight started. I quickly went through the First and Business Class lane, and in a matter of seconds I was at the plane’s door. A flight attendant greeted me and handed my boarding card to another attendant  who escorted me to my seat, 2K. Another adventure was about to begin.

More soon!

One Comment

Leave a Comment
  1. Hugo F. Melo / Sep 25 2014 1:33 am

    This is a very good article, it sounds very interesting you must have done quite a bit of research on this. Thank you very much for the info.

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