United Arab Emirates
Business & First
- Good breakfast spread
- AC power sockets in short supply
- Shave service
Arrivals lounges should be all about regaining your humanity after a long flight: walking in a bit tired perhaps, but leaving fed, caffeinated and refreshed.
Etihad Airways' Arrivals Lounge at Abu Dhabi International Airport adds 'looking smart' to that checklist, thanks to a barber and clothes-pressing service.
Little wonder we rate this as the world's best arrivals lounge, providing Etihad's premium travellers with a premium pit-stop between getting off the plane and heading off to a pitch meeting.
Location & Impressions
The Etihad Airways Arrivals lounge is clearly signposted once you've collected your bags.
The design palette of wood, browns, creams and greens is shared by Etihad's other lounges, as is the friendly welcoming nature of its staff, who'll whisk your luggage into a small bag check area.
The main part of the lounge serves up plenty of seating plus a buffet spread so you can refill and refuel before heading to your hotel.
The tall windows at the end of the lounge face directly onto the outside of the terminal...
... but inside it's a cosy and sedate buffer between your overnight flight and the start of your day.
Like many airlines, Etihad is more selective when it comes to access to its arrivals lounge compared to departure lounges inside the airport – you'll need to have flown into Abu Dhabi in first class or business class on an Etihad Airways flights.
This rules out Etihad Guest card-holders travelling in economy and top-tier frequent flyers from partner airlines such as Virgin Australia.
We never expect too much from an arrivals lounge – after all, breakfast should be a meal that gets you going instead of weighing you down, doubly so when you're travelling.
On the menu at Etihad's Arrivals lounge: freshly-prepared rolls and wraps, croissants...
... plus yoghurt, fruit and fruit juices, coffee and tea.
In all, it's a tasty and well-balanced spread which any arrivals lounge should consider as a starting point, with "café style refreshments" served throughout the day.
A small 'business centre' nook houses an iMac desktop and printer, but most travellers these days pack their own tablets and laptops.
As you'd expect the WiFi is fast and free, although there's not the riot of AC power sockets we've come to expect from modern lounges – you need to go looking for them and sit yourself within cable's reach.
As with any arrivals lounge deserving of the name there are plenty of shower suites (10 in all)...
... with a good selection of amenities plus powerful hair-dryers for the female flyer.
While you're showering, lounge staff can retrieve your clothes through this two-way closet to give them a quick steam-press to smooth out any inflight wrinkles, and have them back to you in 10 minutes.
But the shave service is where Etihad hits this one out of the park, with qualified barbers to get you looking in top-top shape with a free wet shave or beard trim.
The well-appointed The Shave by Etihad salon is more akin to what you'd find in a boutique five-star hotel – one of the airline's models for its bravura Flying Reimagined campaign...
... complete with quality products from Murdock's of London...
... so after a 5.30am arrival following a 14 hour flight from Sydney, what else were we to do but try it for ourselves?
This is a professional 'wet shave' which has itself undergone a remarkable renaissance over recent years.
A hot wet towel helps soften the facial hair and open the pores, followed by the application of pre-shave oil before the straight razor comes into play.
If you've never had a total stranger take to your skin with a cut-throat razor this is bound to be a little nerve-racking at first – but relax, because you're literally in expert hands.
The job's finished with post-shave balm and a dash of cologne, and you're good to go.
David Flynn travelled to Abu Dhabi as a guest of Etihad Airways.