They helped me with my small carry-on into the check-in area. There was a line in the first class area, so I checked in at the regular counter.
I was through security in under 5 minutes after entering the airport, and was off to find the lounge.
Unfortunately, the brand new Etihad First Class lounge was not yet opened. It opened May 30, so I missed it by 12 days. The lounge was huge, but all Etihad premium passengers were in one lounge, so it was quite crowded. Luckily for me there was an area of the lounge that was roped off and reserved for First Class customers. Overall I liked the modern style of the lounge. It had TVs in various areas, and a business center with computers if you had to get some work done before your flight.
The lounge had 3 bars, and 3 buffets with food and drinks. I didn’t try any of the food because I was excited to try the on board dining, but also because it was about 1:30 in the morning.
I had a glass of wine and then went back to the spa to see what they offered. First class customers can receive one complimentary barber or spa treatment. I decided to try the 15 minute back and neck massage. The service was nice, but not spectacular. I didn’t really know what to expect since I never received an airport lounge spa treatment before.
After my spa treatment I went back to the first class area and had another glass of wine and bid Thad safe travels on his Alitalia flight from Abu Dhabi to Rome. Interestingly enough he was also spending time in an Etihad premium lounge over in Terminal 1. I hadn’t realized Alitalia had a partnership with Etihad until then!
There were no announcements in the lounge, so at about 2 AM I went towards my gate. Abu Dhabi is one of the few international cities that has US Preclearance, so upon arrival in New York, or one of Etihad’s other US destinations, you do not have to wait in line to clear customs. I went through customs quickly, but going through security again I unfortunately had SSSS written on my ticket. SSSS stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection, so I had to almost completely unpack my carry-on. After that was taken care of and I explained why our trip to the UAE was so short I was through and on to the Pre-Clearance Etihad Premium Lounge. The lounge after preclearance was much smaller than the main lounge, and served as a waiting area for passengers before their flight boards.
The lounge offered food and drinks, although the selection was much more limited than the main lounge. I spent about 30 minutes in this lounge then they announced our flight was boarding and my journey home began!
Overall the Etihad Premium lounge was a nice place to hang out for a couple hours before my flight, but lacked the personal touch that most other aspects of the First Class Experience with Etihad had. I’d imagine this has probably changed with the opening of the new Etihad First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi. I hope to have another chance to fly Etihad’s first class so I can see if the new First Class lounge lives up to all of the hype.