VIP Airport Service: My First Trip on Etihad Airways

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to fly Etihad Airways for the first time.  This is the national airlines of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) and known for having a very luxurious First Class product. Normally you would spend spend a princely sum on a First Class ticket.  Fortunately for me Etihad is a partner of American Airlines and I was able to cash-in 90,000 AA frequent flier miles for an First Class Award. Etihad is one of the few airlines that gives a free chauffeur driven car ride to all its First class passengers including those on Award tickets.  Starting my trip off with a complimentary car ride was pretty cool, but it was only the start of a truly memorable trip.

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I was picked up in a large Cadillac SUV at my home in Fairfax VA and driven the 12 miles to Washington Dulles.  The driver showed up promptly at my home around 6PM.  He helped me with my luggage and offered me a bottle of chilled water and a newspaper for our short trip to the airport.  I suddenly felt very important and was giddy for getting a chance to sample how the other-half lives.  Despite being a free ride to the airport, I did tip $20,  which seemed to be the appropriate amount based on other trip reports and advice on the web. Once at the airport I met up with my travel companions (My sister and Brother-in Law) who had travelled from their home (Arlignton, VA)  in another black SUV courtesy of Etihad Airways.

All three of us quickly checked-in for our flights and after clearing security, made our way to the Etihad Airport Lounge.

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Etihad has only one daily flight from Dulles that leaves in the evening.  Despite having only one daily flight, Etihad has built a marvelous lounge to service their First and Business class passengers.  Now unfortunately for my brother-in-law,  I has only able to get 2 first class seats on Etihad flight.  His ticket was in coach and Etihad did not allow him to enter that lounge as a complimentary guest.  They did allow him to buy entry for $50.  Under most circumstances its not worth anywhere close to $50 to gain entry to an airport lounge, but in this case, it was money extremely well spent.

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This lounge was not only the best lounge I’ve visited at Dulles, but among the best I’ve visited anywhere int he world.  Now it does not have a cigar room, or private cabanas with bathtubs, or free Thai massages.  But its definitely worth coming to airport early to experience and also to have a nice meal before your flight.  In this case it was by far the best dinner I have ever had in an airport lounge.

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The food was restaurant quality ordered off the menu below

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I ended up having the Lamb which was excellent.

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After we had our fill of food and beverages we relaxed the in the comfortable seating until boarding time for our flight.  The lounge is connected to the gate that Etihad uses for its flight,  so we exited the lounge directly to our plane.

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I could not have asked for a better start to a trip than being picked-up by a chauffeur and having a fine dining experience at the airport. As it turned out, there were a number of pleasant surprise to come on this trip.  Expect more details shortly.

-TK

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