The Upgrade

Go Inside the First-Class Airport Lounge of Your Wildest Fantasies

PART 14: The new entry onto the world scene includes complimentary spa treatments and an opulent tasting menu.

Hello again, wanderlusters of the world. It's Ben Schlappig here, the blogger behind One Mile at a Time, and the guy who introduced you to my uber-luxury travel lifestyle all made possible through miles and points. When we last met, I was having one of the most elite commercial airline experiences: a literal flying apartment!

After landing in Abu Dhabi at around 1 a.m. I was pretty tired, and ideally would have gone straight to the hotel and to sleep. However, Etihad has recently opened a new first-class lounge in Abu Dhabi, which I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to visit.

Through my blog I review hotels, flights, and airline lounges, so I was keen to check this lounge out and be able to review it, since I wouldn’t have access to the lounge when we were departing. (That’s because we were flying business class several days later to the Maldives, which isn’t eligible for the same lounge access).

The Etihad first-class lounge in Abu Dhabi

The first thing to note about Abu Dhabi Airport at 1 a.m. is just how busy it is. While other airports are quiet (or even closed) in the middle of the night, airports in the Middle East are bustling at that hour. Actually, that’s when they’re busiest!

I remember an Emirates flight I took a couple of years ago that was departing at 3 a.m., and there were 20 planes ahead of us for takeoff. The captain announced, “As usual, it’s rush hour at this time.” Nowhere else in the world do you get a 3 a.m. rush hour!

Anyway, I was so excited to check out this lounge. I’ve visited virtually all of the world’s best first-class lounges, and had even visited Etihad’s old first-class lounge. So I was looking forward to seeing how their new lounge compared.

Airlines are consistently consistently one-upping themselves when it comes to their lounges, just as they’re doing with their first- and business-class products. They want to appeal to premium passengers, and Etihad is no exception, with their awesome new first-class lounge.

Not only does the lounge have chic furnishings, but it has tons of amenities as well. Perhaps the amenity that stood out most was the gym — the lounge has a legitimate gym, which I’ve never before seen to that degree in an airline lounge. That’s a great way to work off some of those five-course meals and champagne between flights.

Middle-of-the-night workout, anyone?

If you’re looking for relaxation, the lounge has a Six Senses Spa, and you can choose from a variety of treatments, including a back massage, foot massage, and more. There’s even a Style & Shave Salon, where you can get a manicure, shave, or haircut. It still blows my mind that all of this is possible in an airline lounge.

The salon and spa

But since I was reviewing the lounge, I also had to check out the food selection. Full disclosure: I had a bit of a stomach bug at this point in the trip, so the last thing I wanted to do in the middle of the night with a stomach bug was eat. But hey, that’s part of my job. I guess if that’s the biggest work challenge I faced for the day, I can’t complain too much.

The Etihad first-class lounge has a tasting menu, which is catered by Emirates Palace, which is known to be one of Abu Dhabi’s best hotels.

Dining room for an over-the-top tasting menu

The tasting menu was amazing — it started with dates stuffed with local yogurt. That was followed by a chicken and barley soup. Then there was an appetizer consisting of scallops with saffron. Then for the main course I was served lamb, again with saffron rice. Lastly, the dessert was an incredible local dessert with dough, dates, saffron, cardamom, and fresh cream. I only had a bit of each course, but the food was divine.

Feast your eyes...

I’d say Etihad’s new first-class lounge Abu Dhabi certainly ranks up there in terms of the world’s best first-class lounges.

To access the Etihad first-class lounge in Abu Dhabi you need to be flying Etihad first class, or otherwise it’s also open to their top-tier elite members — Etihad Guest Platinum members. That’s one of the huge benefits of elite status with an airline. You can access some of the world’s best first-class lounges if you have the right status. The best part is that if you have status, you could use lounges like these even if you’re taking a short flight in economy. I know if I lived in Abu Dhabi and had Platinum status I’d probably book a cheap ticket to a nearby city every weekend and hang out in this lounge for hours.

I'll call this first-class lounge one of the top five in the world — however, it certainly has some competition, and airlines are constantly upping their game.

Stick with me to find out more about what I mean!

FOLLOW MY JOURNEY:

See what it's like on one of the most elite commercial flying experiences: a literal apartment in the sky!

Come with me on my flight filled with caviar, designer pajamas, and luxury gifts.

Go with me inside two of the best first-class airplane lounges in the world.

How we spent a fab 24-hour layover in the best place on earth to have one: Hong Kong.

I support my boyfriend's first-class travel life (and in return he lets me pull stunts like this).

See how I booked a $12,000 flight for free.

See Bali's littler-known party side — including a hangover brunch (with a DJ) to end them all!

Glimpse the five-star life I love (and buy with miles!) in Bali.

Here's why I call Bali the ultimate place to recharge.

Check out my epic layover in the world's best airport on the way to Bali.

Read up on my Hello Kitty-themed flight to get this far...

And the Hello Kitty airport experience to match!

And here's where it all began at LAX.

Here's why airplane first-class lounges keep getting better and better:

Ben Schlappig, the blogger behind One Mile at a Time, experiences about $1 million worth of travel every year using miles and points — and covers about 400,000 miles annually this way. Ben has teamed up with Bravo’s Jet Set for a series called The Upgrade, in which he shows you how you — yes, you! — can score real-world-ready strategies for upping your travel game. Come along for the adventure!

Jet Set is Bravo's launch pad for the most extravagant, luxurious, and unforgettable travel experiences. Ready for takeoff? Then Like us on Facebook to stay connected to our daily updates.

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