Etihad’s Abu Dhabi First Class Lounge and Business Class Service to the Maldives

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Even though I was staying right at the airport, and had already been checked in for my flight to Male (at Dulles, a day earlier, and just needed to re-check my bag) I left the hotel about 2 1/2 hours prior to my flight.

I checked out at the front desk on the way out and asked them to email a folio to me. The Premier Inn doesn’t have the capability to do that inside their system, but the agent at the desk was kind enough to offer to scan the receipt and email it to me from her own account. I was skeptical this would happen, but it actually did.

Then I stopped for a coffee at the coffee place inside the hotel, something to drink on the way over to the terminal to get me started for the day.

I walked through the retail corridor and instead of taking the long trek through the tunnel to the terminal I simply walked outside and across the street directly into the first/business class check-in area.

There was a decently long line, about 5 people deep and not moving quickly, to get to a business class check-in agent. I was in no hurry of course. I dropped off bags, and then walked straight forward to the premium immigration queue that took only about a minute.

Directly in front of premium immigration is security, also fast, and directly in front of security is the entrance to the terminal 3 first and business class lounges.

I had actually expected that my Male flight would depart terminal 1 (my last Male flight, and also my Thanksgiving Chennai flight, departed from the old terminal), but I looked at the departures screen as I left the hotel and saw it was scheduled for terminal 3. That’s great because the terminal 3 lounges are better!

I had saved my boarding pass stub from my inbound Washington – Abu Dhabi flight the night before, and walked up to the desk in the lounge and showed that first. I said I can arrived in first class, and was continuing on a flight that had only business and could I use the first class lounge? I was told that was not a problem, and was escorted to the desk in the first class lounge.

The attendant from the front desk told the first class lounge attendant “he arrived in first class.” I was then asked for my continuing boarding pass just so they would know what flight I would be leaving on, but there was no pushback at all, no comment about my inbound flight being the day before.

I suspect that they didn’t look at the date on the boarding pass stub, but I also am not clear on whether that would have been a problem. My layover was short enough that Etihad checked me in all the way through and originally wanted to check my bags straight through too. So it seems reasonable to me that it’s just a connection and I ought to be invited into the first lounge, which I was.

This is really why I wanted to leave the hotel early (that, and that I had gotten a night’s sleep and was up and ready to go, I might as well be in the lounge with food and drink rather than in my dorm-style hotel room).

The first class lounge features a restaurant, service at your seat, and a spa. It gets busy, but not so busy that there aren’t seats available. There weren’t many people in the lounge when I turned up around 7:45am, but it was much busier when I left just before 9.

I sat down by the window with a view of airport operations, and a server immediately came over and took a drink order (coffee please, and some orange juice) and brought a menu.

    (Click to enlarge)

I tied to get online, and was reminded that I’ve never successfully managed to get internet access on my (Windows) laptop. I’ve only been able to get internet connectivity with my (Android) phone. Googling around on my phone about the error I was getting with my laptop, I saw some speculation that the internet there isn’t Windows-compatible somehow, that Macs and AndroidOS are fine. I’m not sure if that’s right, just that I haven’t had success

Food was brought over quickly.

After a bit of breakfast I headed out to the gate. I had hoped that leaving from terminal 3 would mean an actual gate and not a bus gate to an apron position. No such luck.

Etihad’s regional Airbus service is similar in some ways to domestic first class within the US, but with more legroom, a foot rest, and reading lights. Plus better food.

You can read more about Etihad’s regional business class service:

The flight had 12 of 16 business class seats taken, and one of the 12 was a nonrev.

Between eating and watching some shows on my laptop (which has plenty of juice on its own, I get a good 12 hours’ of use on a charge, but the seats have power ports).

    (Click to enlarge

    (Click to enlarge

The time passed quickly and we landed in Male.

It was my third time in 27 months arriving in the Maldives, and the first time there was much of a line at all for immigration. And this time it was crazy. They have a fast track queue now, we had been given fast track cards on the flight. The fast track line took 40 minutes. The other lines looked worse, although the agents staffing fast track themselves appeared to be working more slowly.

Given how long it took to get through immigration, all of the baggage from our flight was already out by the time we got through. It wasn’t even still going ’round the carousel, it was just piled up at the end.

With bags in hand it was time to walk through customs, which in Male entails putting all of your bags through an x-ray machine where they can look to see if you’re bringing in any contraband. While alcohol is expensive at the resorts (transportation costs and heavy taxes), this means you aren’t going to take advantage of duty free…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Nice report so far.

    I highly doubt they’d ever give anyone on that itinerary much grief over FCL access and the fact that you’d arrived the night before. If it was all ticketed through as one itinerary then it shouldn’t matter if the connection was 1 hour or 14.

  2. QR certainly does not :(. Well in their old premium terminal when u arrived in F and departed in C u only had access to the C side. Hoping this changes with the new airport and lounges though!

  3. I had a 4 night stopover in AUH, and they still let me in the F lounge before the MLE flight (departed from same bus gates) by showing the IAD-AUH ticket from 5 days previous.

  4. EK did not allow my wife and I in the First Class lounge when we flew JFK-DXB-HKG because the last leg was in Business. Was kind of sad as I was looking forward to checking out the lounge. Had to settle for Business. 🙁

  5. Gary,

    Regarding Internet connectivity issues in lounge, Etihad uses WEP (Wireless Encryption Protocol) for WiFi. WEP is no longer secured. Windows prevents you from connecting WEP based WiFi by neither asking for password nor letting you connect automatically.
    Solution: Sometimes the following has worked for me. Go to “Network and Sharing Center” and manually connect to wireless network.

    Have fun.

  6. “where they can look to see if you’re bringing in any contraband. While alcohol is expensive at the resorts (transportation costs and heavy taxes), this means you aren’t going to take advantage of duty free…”

    Does this mean you can’t BYOB, etc?

  7. Have you been to Bora Bora? How would you compare to Maldives?
    We live in California. Thanks for any advice.

  8. @Nancy I’ve been to Bora Bora, it’s certainly closer to California, Los Angeles – Papeete is ~ 8 hours. Award seats are tough especially in premium cabins, there aren’t a lot of flights. Bora Bora is beautiful, stunning. Also less remote, you have the main town of Vaitape close to the resorts.

  9. Am flying lax-auh in F and auh-doh in Y (was all they had) on same itinerary. I only booked the second leg on EY to be able to use the lounge — the “real” flight I’m taking is auh-doh-far on QR (in Y), so essentially double booked and planned to cancel the second leg on EY once comfortably in the lounge.

    Think that will be an issue?

  10. @Gary:

    Land at 8:10pm on EY from LAX in T3. (No bags checked)

    “Fake” EY flt leaves 9:55pm from T3.

    “Real” QR flt leaves 11:50pm from T1.

    So… land in T3, go straight to lounge (presumably in transit), negotiate first class entry, then cancel the “fake” flight in lounge and at some point head to T1 for the real flight. Thoughts? How long’s it take to get there?


  11. @Patrick that should work, actually. Qatar leaves out of terminal 1, which is a decent walk but there’s no security to go through or passport control between terminal 3 and terminal 1. Instead, security is handled with each bank of gates there, so there won’t be much of a line (the opposite is true going terminal 1 -> terminal 3). I’d probably leave the lounge an hour before the qatar flight to be safe, if you’re already checked in in advance. And I assume you aren’t checking bags…

  12. Thanks @Julian and @Gary. This is my first time taking a long flight with my wife since I started this hobby a year ago, so I want to make a statement. It will help solidify that my midnight runs really were to CVS, for points, and not to avoid relationship talk.

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