Etihad Airways is pulling out the stops on its new first and business class lounges at Abu Dhabi Terminal A, with everything from a rooftop cocktail bar and dining room to private Armani Casa suites with day beds, a games room and even a smoking lounge with Chesterfield sofas.
The lounges span three floors of Terminal A, nestled between Piers C and D, with access to three gates providing speedy and convenient direct boarding of selected flights.
All Etihad flights will operate from Terminal A – formerly dubbed the Midfield Terminal – by November 14, and the airline promises these premium pre-flight spaces will offer “an experience that will delight our guests from the moment they step through the door.”
“The lounge is a hugely important aspect of our guests’ journey and we wanted to curate an impressive experience that will leave them wanting to fly again soon,” says Etihad Airways CEO Antonoaldo Neves.
“In true Etihad style, we’ve been innovative with the design and will offer a selection of memorable experiences whether our guests choose to relax, indulge in various dining options or enjoy a refreshing drink at the signature Constellation Bar.”
That Constellation Bar – located with the Rooftop Lounge on the top floor of the complex – is decorated with a 172 piece, 25m long bespoke glass lighting sculpture depicting the Abu Dhabi city skyline.
In addition to buffet dining within the Rooftop Lounge, there’s also an exclusive First Lounge Dining Room with an à la carte menu and fine wine selection, with a private elevator to whisk high flyers up from the first class lounge.
The business class lounge’s equivalent is Liwan Global Dining – an informal all-day dining restaurant with live cooking stations, Emirati and Middle Eastern cuisines alongside international favourites.
For long transits or early morning flights, the business class Relaxation Rooms provide private spaces complete with day beds and plush Armani Casa furnishings, with 18 shower suites where they can freshen up before their flight.
The Smoking Lounge sports mood-setting Chesterfield sofas; things are more upbeat at the Games Room, which is fully equipped with table football, air hockey and digital gaming, while the Family Room’s games, toys and books will help parents keep little ones entertained.
There’s even a spa and salon where you can get a haircut, manicure or pedicure.
The first class lounge raises the bar even further with The Parlour offering a selection of pastries, desserts and “signature” tea and coffee experiences.
Passengers booked into the Etihad A380’s three-room The Residence also enjoy complimentary access to Private Suites where they can work, relax and dine in complete privacy; the suites can also be booked by other first class lounge guests.
Etihad’s new Terminal A business class lounge welcomes business class flyers, of course, along with Etihad Guest Gold and Virgin Australia Velocity Gold members; Etihad Guest Platinum and Virgin Australia Velocity Platinum frequent flyers will find themselves on the door list for the first lounge lounge.
Both first and business class passengers have their own check-in areas at Terminal A, with an exclusive row of check-in for business class desks...
... while first class flyers can recline in comfort for a personalised check-in experience.
In addition to the first and business class departure lounges, business and first class flyers arriving in Abu Dhabi with a pre-booked chauffeur service will be invited to visit the Etihad Chauffeur Lounge to shower, refresh or simply grab a quick snack or drink before meeting their driver.
On first impressions, the aesthetic across all the new Terminal A lounges is decidedly more contemporary than the previous Etihad lounges, swapping dark colours for a lighter, fresher palette with pale timber floors and chocolate carpets throughout.
Burgundy, cream and caramel-coloured lounges are interspersed with stone benches and coffee tables, with a characteristic-yet-subtle splash of golden bling too.
Executive Traveller understands well over 1,000 travellers will be accommodated across the lounges, with the first class wing welcoming high flyers in the returned Etihad A380s, which will be darting three times a day between Abu Dhabi and London by early December.
More than a decade in the works
Beginning construction in 2012, the US$3bn Midfield Terminal project was conceived at a time when the government-owned airline, under CEO James Hogan, entertained visions of Etihad Airways becoming a globe-spanning colossus to rival the likes of Emirates and Qatar Airways.
That ambition – which was spearheaded by the Airbus A380 with its three-room Residence and spacious first class Apartments – eventually saw the airline lose some US$5b in three years, although this was also fueled by ill-fated investments in the likes of Airberlin and Alitalia.
Years later, Abu Dhabi government and Hogan’s successor Tony Douglas – now CEO of ambitious startup Riyadh Air – changed tack and embarked on a plan to ‘right-size’ the carrier, effectively shrinking itself to profitability.
Now Etihad’s back on a growth trajectory, and Terminal A will prove ample room to spread its wings.
The Gulf airline has added 11 new destinations this year alone, with a growing fleet of Airbus A350s and a fresh batch of Boeing 787s with upgraded private business class suites, while its A380 superjumbos are also returning to the skies.
Perched like a glittering jewel in the desert, Terminal A was designed by New York’s Kohn Pedersen Fox, with London-based The Design Solution handling the interior which, when illuminated, will be visible from 16km away.
Located between Abu Dhabi’s two runways, the complex has already guest-starred in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, including not just the interior of the cavernous X-shaped megastructure but as the centrepiece of an action scheme with Tom Cruise atop the wave-like roof designed to mimic rolling desert dunes.
The central 740,000m2 terminal houses a dizzying array of shops, restaurants and cafes, along with a transit hotel and space earmarked for up to eight airline lounges.
An estimated 30 million passengers will pass through each year – as many as 11,000 per hour – making their way and from 65 gates spread across the two massive piers.
Each wing of the twin piers is ‘themed' in accordance with the direction it faces – towards the city, ocean, desert and oasis – while the 50-metre high departure hall is largely column free, giving a perception of an outdoor space enhanced by the soaring glazed windows.
“Terminal A underscores our dedication to providing our international passengers and partners with a premium airport experience,” promises Elena Sorlini, Managing Director of Abu Dhabi Airports – and that experience should be a speedily efficient one, given the promise of a minimum connect time of 45 minutes for passengers transferring between flights.
Additional reporting by Chris Ashton