Other posts about this journey:
Etihad had been working on its new First Class Lounge & Spa for months. This was my first opportunity to visit since it opened this summer. This stay would be brief as the Etihad A380 flight departed only about three hours after the arrival of the flight from the Maldives.
Since I arrived in bu Dhabi (AUH) in business class (the A320 had no first-class cabin), there was no Etihad rep to meet me and escort me to the lounge. Nevertheless, the lounge was easy to find once I reached the departure level in Terminal 3.
I would not have time to try many of the available services but definitely wanted to get a massage and try the restaurant.
It was nice to have a 30-minute back massage.
After the massage I went to the restaurant to order dinner. I couldn’t resist even though I knew that dinner would be offered aboard the A380 soon after takeoff.
I ordered the rack of lam from the a la carte menu.
After dinner I relaxed for a few minutes in the seating area in front of the TV wall where images are projected on a wall of TVs that must be 30 feet long and 12 feet high. Waiters patrol all of the seating areas of the lounge to take any beverage requests.
AUH is unique in that there is a US Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance facility here. Those flying from AUH to any US city clear customs in AUH. That saves tons of time when landing in the US. You simply walk off the plane into the terminal like on a domestic flight.
The downside, in this case, is that clearing customs in AUH reduces the amount of time I could spend in the first-class lounge. US passengers must clear customs no later than one hour before scheduled departure. This facility even has Global Entry kiosks.
Because of the pre-clearance requirement I was unable to sample some of the other services in the first-class lounge such as a haircut, shave, shower (I would shower on board the A380!), clothes pressing, or the fitness center.
Bonus Review – AUH Post Customs Lounge
Since all of its passengers will have a least one hour to kill before flight departure, Ethiad provides another lounge after clearing customs for those who had access to its business or first class lounges.
The post-customs lounge is not up to the standards of of the Etihad business-class lounge at AUH much less the first-class lounge. The seating is uncomfortable and there are few electrical outlets. Still, there is wifi and a decent selection of food and beverages (if you did not get enough of the better selection in the other lounges) for what should be a short wait before boarding the flight to the US.
Next, the final post on this journey covering the remarkable trip in the first class apartments 0n the Etihad A380.