Review: Brand New Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal And Etihad First Class Lounge

Abu Dhabi airport has a brand new terminal that opened this month, and a brand new lounge complex. This was my opportunity to experience the first class check-in lounge, premium immigration and security, and Etihad’s new sit down first class dining – and boarding of the Airbus A380 from inside the lounge.

During construction this new facility was called the Midfield terminal. My mental model was that it would be connected to other terminals, and passengers would have to travel to it. It’s actually now just referred to as Terminal A, and you pull right up to it.

Terminal 1 will be sunset, and terminal 3 will be continue to be used and future growth may require an increase in its use. But the new Terminal A will be what most passengers experience as the Abu Dhabi airport.

And a new terminal means new lounges, as well, so I was excited to experience both the brand new airport space and the new first class lounge before my flight from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow on Etihad’s Airbus A380.

The terminal has been in process for over a decade. It was going to open in 2017, then delayed to 2019 (when it was supposedly nearly complete). The terminal was featured in the latest Mission Impossible.. but still no passengers.

Now that it’s open I have to say that I quite like it. But I like it in the same way I like Doha’s airport, not that it’s somehow better than anything else already in the market. It’s bright and airy. It’s attractive. It has some local Arabian design elements. But mostly it’s just a modern terminal.

I like that there’s a separate premium check-in with its own drive, though my driver brought us up to the main entrance of the terminal. Premium check-in is at the end of the terminal, by doors 1 and 2.

Porters were available to assist premium passengers with luggage, and they brought us to the dedicated first class check-in lounge, all the way to the right inside the terminal.

There we were invited to be seated while they handled administrative details.

They offered drinks, which were accompanied by dates. And they checked our passports, took our luggage, and produced boarding passes.

Once we were ready, we proceeded through dedicated business and first class immigration and security. Staff were friendly and there was no wait at all. It was far less chaotic than the old setup with dedicated immigration but a cluttered and harried security queue.

Then we walked through duty free (natch) and onto the lounge complex. The lounge entrance is basically straight ahead, by gate C29. It strikes me a little weird too that the shops include a Victoria’s Secret.

We walked in and were pointed to the elevator up to the first class lounge, but my daughter really likes escalators so we took that up instead.

The lounge is very long, though narrow, and extends across 3 floors. There’s windowline overlooking airport operations for all of it. The first class lounge is on the top floor.

There are a variety of seating areas, a dining room, and a more relaxed tea room with modest buffet. There is also a a relaxation area with comfortable chairs in spaces that are semi-private but not really private. Staff are all around to check on you. While we were there there was only one other group of two passengers inside the lounge.

The highlight of the first class lounge is really the sit down dining room.

Here’s the lunch menu:

I loved that the utensils were even branded here. There’s a real attention to detail.

My wife had a cappuccino. I just had a water. I ordered the crab appetizer and the seafood main, while my daughter had the ravioli, and we shared the millefeuille.

Before the end of our stay in the lounge I checked out the first class shower rooms, though I didn’t take one (and would do so inflight!).

With our last bit of time in the lounge we sat in the tea area and tried a bit of dessert before it was time to leave.

The lounge also has private suites for Residence passengers, and which are available on a pay-in basis for first class passengers. I had no real interest in this, and it didn’t at all compare to the old Residence lounges Etihad used to offer – but then they no longer sell The Residence as a standalone fare, but as an upsell to first class passengers, and it’s not clear how long they will continue to operate the plane that has it.

We’d been told at check-in that our flight would be departing from gate D43, and that we would board from the lounge. This was confirmed at the lounge. I didn’t quite understand it at first but the length of the lounge explains how this is possible.

When it was time to head to our flight, we were escorted by an agent at the front of the lounge through the business class lounge to gate D43.

The business lounge has a family room with play area, and there’s also a game room that has a pool table. The spa wasn’t open yet while I was there.

The business class lounge also has a sleeping area (relaxation room) on the second floor. It’s more private than the relaxation area in the first class lounge. These come with pillow and blanket.

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At the very end of the lounge there’s a gate entrance. You scan your boarding pass as you exit the lounge, and then two escalators down you board right onto the aircraft.

We boarded our flight, excite to experience the Etihad First Apartment again for our 8 hour trip to London.

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. Etihad is a classy airline. Emirates is very decadent. I prefer Etihad a380 if given the choice. The lounge looked very contemporary and relaxing. I sure hope your flight was just as good.

  2. Can’t tell it apart from the American and United catering 😉
    Did I mention I’m mostly blind?

  3. Having visited the “old” first class lounge couple months ago would say I’m having hard time finding much difference with the new one from these photos, which goes to say the first class lounge was already very good

  4. You have a broken image link in this post. I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned it yet…

  5. “sit down dining”. Do I have to stand in the other areas to eat? Full service dining I think you mean…

  6. The old Etihad Business Lounge was like a refugee camp. I’m glad the one on the new terminal is classed up.

  7. Don’t forget there is a Terminal 2, which gives a glimpse of the dark side of Abu Dhabi. Terminal 2 is a bus ride away., and used by low-cost Indian airlines to ferry south Asian workers to and from the emirate. It is small, understaffed and can get crazy-crowded, all whilst the staff treat the passengers like cattle.

  8. Visited the new Etihad business class lounge at Terminal A about 2 weeks ago. It’s nothing too special, unlike first class (which hardly any passengers will have access to). Buffet food pretty tasteless. The best part is what one staff member referred to as the Constellation Bar (and what the sign calls the Roof Lounge) on the highest of 3 floors. Quiet, with curved roof and a nice view. A bartender mixes drinks, which are accompanied by a snack mix.

    Business class check-in is a bit perfunctory, despite the dedicated approach drive which my Uber driver did deliver me to after asking my class of service. They have a small counter with Brazilian lemonade and detox water dispensers that are hard to turn off. Nice touch though…

  9. I’ll add, in fairness, that the business class inflight catering and service on Etihad is absolutely superb. Best I’ve experienced.

  10. No doubt Etihad first class lounge is outstanding and very attractive for visitors.
    High quality of work was maintained during construction phase and I feel proud for being a part of construction team.

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