The Empire CLS car dropped me off at Dulles airport and I went to check-in with Etihad. Etihad’s counters are on the backside of the main terminal, and signage isn’t great, so it’s worth knowing this in advance.
There was a big posterboard advertising onboard internet, but the poster was turned to the side which was my first indication that this flight wouldn’t have internet. I was flying out on a Sunday night, so wouldn’t be missing much work by not being online, and it’s no longer free for first class passengers. Not a huge loss, but Etihad has internet now on a large chunk of their long haul fleet (I had it flying Abu Dhabi – Dusseldorf back at the end of February).
There was one person in front of me in the first class check-in line, I was checked in reasonably quickly, and headed through security. It was about 745pm and TSA was fairly deserted, I was through quickly and on my way to the airport train which drops off near the Etihad gate and lounge.
Along with the introduction of Etihad’s Washington Dulles – Abu Dhabi service back in March, they opened their own dedicated lounge at Dulles airport. That struck me as odd for a single daily flight, but apparently it gets more use than just prior to a 930pm Etihad departure. It also serves as the lounge for Saudia’s 6pm departure (on a flight that alternates days between flying to Riyadh and to Jeddah).
Still, it’s a substantial investment and they’ve produced a really top-notch lounge considering that it’s housed at a US airport and at Dulles no less. Although the Dulles lounge situation has improved over the past five years, with the introduction of a Lufthansa lounge in addition to the Virgin Clubhouse and now Etihad’s own space and a new lounge for Air France.
This is a shared lounge for business and first class passengers, with no separate area for first. It’s large, with both a downstairs featuring a living room area, dining room, bar, and shower as well as an upstairs with additional seating and also a prayer room.
Since the flight was very lightly booked, the upstairs seating area was closed and roped off.
Apparently they sell single visit passes, I do not know if you have to be an Etihad passenger in coach to buy one but I overhead an agent at the desk quote the man coming in behind me $75 for a pass to the lounge.
I don’t think I’d want to pay $75, though if I was in desperate need of a shower and figured I could extract enough in meals and drink I could probably make the math work. ☺
I sat down and checked my email for the last time before my long flight. An agent came over to take a drink order, and she brought me a menu as well. I decided to order a snack.
She came back over to let me know when my order was ready, and invited me to the dining room. Since I was busy working I asked if she could have the food brought out to me, which was not a problem. She set up a place setting in front of me and brought out the food.
My Etihad boarding pass showed an 830pm boarding time – a full hour in advance of 930pm departure. They always print boarding times far in advance, an agent explained it to me on my last trip that they have to start early to get everyone corralled. Usually they don’t actually board at the appointed time (in both the Middle East and Asia airport screens often show ‘Final Call’ just as they are getting ready to start boarding). This time they actually did, and they announced boarding in the lounge at the appointed 830pm time. While lounge agents were anxious to get people out (so they could clean up and go home, no doubt), they agreed with me that there was no reason to board that early and I waited until about 25 minutes out.
Boarding is done from the lounge, since it opens up out to the jetway (passengers queue up in the lounge for Etihad agents to check boarding passes there, no need to go back into the terminal).