A Quick Jaunt to Southern India: Etihad Business Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi and the Flight to Chennai

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After walking from terminal 3 to terminal 1 as a transit passenger, I arrived at the terminal 1 business class lounge. I would have been entitled to use the first class lounge, but there is no first class lounge in terminal 1 where my flight would be departing from and I preferred to be closer to the departure gate.

There’s no security or passport checks heading from terminal 3 to terminal 1. Security is done at each bank of gates, rather than for the terminal as a whole. (Since there’s one screening as you enter terminal 3, you do go through security when transiting the opposite direction from terminal 1 to terminal 3, before getting to the lounge.)

I went upstairs to the lounge and was welcomed inside. It’s busy, there wasn’t a ton of open seating, I settled in the least densely populated portion of the lounge.

The food offerings here are salads, fruits, meats, cheeses, some sushi but not much in the way of hot food.

I decided to catch up on e-mail since I had been offline for about 15 hours, and it was now several hours into the business day. That meant no chance for a shower, but the flight ahead would be short and I could look forward to showering up on arrival at the Park Hyatt.

Internet was spotty, though, I couldn’t maintain the connection for more than a few minutes at a time. That’s consistent with my last visit to this lounge, when I never actually managed to log on. I suspect it’s just because the connectivity setup can’t handle the volume of traffic, since the lounge is full, full, full.

All US flights depart from terminal 3. When I’ve departed for Europe it’s been from terminal 3. On the other hand, short and medium haul flights to India and surrounding countries have left from terminal 1, and indeed from terminal 1 bus gates. This would be no exception.

About 35 minutes prior to flight I left the lounge and headed back down to the main terminal level and again down an escalator to the bank of gates I’d be departing from where security was handled for just those three or four gates. As a result there were only a couple of people in front of me, and I was through in moments.

People were queued up to board buses, and unlike the last time I left from these gates there was no separate designated business class bus. I got in line, had my ticket checked, and then got on the bus.

We drove around what had to be the bulk of the terminal until reaching our A320 for the four hour flight to Chennai.

Business class on these regional flights means recliner seats with legrests. They’re better and with more legroom than US domestic first class, but are far from lie flat.

Here’s the menu for the flight:

I had the chili crabmeat tian and chicken biryani served together on a tray with focaccia.

Here’s the Gulab jamun dessert.

It’s not what I had, I ordered the ice cream.

Meal service took perhaps half an hour, I watched a television show on my laptop for nearly an hour. I slept on and off for two, and I woke up as we were descending into Chennai.

Getting off the aircraft in business class, we were at the very front of the immigration queue. In fact, the agents were just getting themselves ready for us, and through in an instant.

The immigration process at the airport was easy of course only because I had already gone through the arduous process of getting a visa in the first place. I had to renew my visa before this trip. If you find yourself in need of a visa for India my advice? Get a multi-entry visa with the longest validity possible. There’s no reason not to request a longer one if you have any guess that you might go back. Anything to avoid going through the process more frequently than you absolutely have to.

The last time I submitted documents they went to the Indian embassy and I recall having to send in an actual birth certificate, I’ve imagined because they want to see proof of parental surnames (making darned tootin’ extra sure they aren’t Pakistani names). This time the Embassy worked with an outsourcing company, but that just meant a layer of bureaucracy added on between me and the folks issuing the visa. They had an online form that required listing all of the countries I’d been to in the previous several years. The form allowed space to list three countries…

I snapped this photo after immigration, at baggage claim, the Indian aviation market is interesting (largely for the bloodbath in domestic markets until airlines do enough time to be allowed to fly internationally — and then they get very excited).

I walked outside of baggage claim to find my driver from the Park Hyatt who would be providing complimentary transportation to the hotel.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. So, just hypothetically (because I’m sure neither you nor I know anyone to whom this would apply), if you were applying for an Indian visa and had visited a country with whom India had friendly relations but that your own government would not allow you to visit, would you use four characters of the allotted space on the Indian visa application to list that country?

  2. @LarryInNYC – what I did was attach an extra sheeting listing all of the countries but my sense is this didn’t have to be 100% complete to get the visa. Furthermore, it is not illegal for US citizens to visit the four-letter country, just to spend money in that country without a waiver to do so.

  3. ” I’ve imagined because they want to see proof of parental surnames (making darned tootin’ extra sure they aren’t Pakistani names)” and might I ask how pakistani names look like?

  4. @Gary, it is an ignorant statement.India has more muslims than pakistan and they have similar names and customs. By just looking at a name, one would not be able to say the country of origin, contrary to your assumptions.

  5. @MikeKs: You can say that if you wish, but I’m fairly certain that India was pretty straight-forward about why they required a birth certificate (checking for Pakistani names) when they were doing so. People of Pakistani origin continue to have more hoops to jump through to get an Indian visa (and I have no idea if that continues over to more of them being denied a visa or not).

    @Gary: Not sure exactly when this trip was, but the outsourcing company very recently switched from Travisa to BLS. I was worried that with the switch it would take more time getting a visa (as I had heard about additional delays and the BLS website isn’t exactly inspiring), but having applied for a visa in both December 2012 and December 2013 (one year validity), I didn’t notice an additional delay. That may have been because my company uses a visa concierge, but once it goes to Travisa/BLS it should be just like any other application.

    Also, are there multiple locations of the visa application? I just took a look at the last two I completed (I save scanned versions, no idea why really), and I had no problem with getting the 10 or so countries I had visited in the box… This is on the electronic fill-in version (which I thought was the only one they accepted).

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