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TRIP REPORT – First Class Apartments to the Maldives
July 26, 2017
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*GONE* AMAZING BUSINESS CLASS DEAL – London to South Africa for £1150 !*GONE*
August 3, 2017

REVIEW – Etihad Airways : First and Business Class Lounge, LHR T4

etihad lounge heathrow

Etihad Airways (EY)

  • Class: Business and First
  • Access:
    • Etihad Business and First class ticket holders
    • Etihad Guest Gold and Platinum Card holders flying on Etihad or partner airlines
    • Paid access : £40 per person, flying on Etihad in economy
  • Date: April 2016


Intro


Back when I took this trip (April 2016) Etihad was in a very different position financially. In those heady days even us peasants using airmiles to book into First Class Apartments were afforded the extra luxury of complimentary limo transfers in a BMW 7 Series.

Seeing this enormous luxury sedan pull up to my office really helped to hit the reset button on my day, making me feel like the trip to the Maldives had already begun. Which is fair enough, because it had.

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Etihad First Class Limo – 7 Series BMW

If I had my heart set on going from Central London to Heathrow by car, during the evening rush hour, this would definitely be the nicest way to do it. Grabbing an Uber Lux would have cost north of £100 by comparison. However, the journey took a hell of a lot longer than a quick hop on the Piccadilly line or the Heathrow Express. On balance, I don’t see the loss of this service as a huge loss – luxurious though it was.

An hour or so after setting off from central London, as we headed up the approach ramp to Heathrow Terminal 4, my driver radioed through to confirm that we were about to arrive. Moments later, as we rounded the corner to the drop-off area, I saw a gentleman in a suit heading towards the car with a hotel luggage trolley.

I’d never seen this mentioned in other Etihad trip reports before so this came as a nice, if slightly unnecessary, surprise (one of the downsides of obsessively reading everything about airlines is that these little surprises tend to be a few and far between). The porter walked us the fifty feet or so between the curb and the check-in counter, saving the wheels of our suitcases from undue wear and tear.

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Etihad First Class Porter

The First Class check-in area was roped off from the rest of desks and featured orchids on the counter. There were no couches or other embellishments but given how quickly we were processed this was not an issue at all. Actually, I struggle to think of a time when the sitting areas at a First Class check-in have ever come in useful. Maybe if you’re travelling as a group of four or more; otherwise I just don’t see the point, unless the check-in takes place sitting down at a hotel style desk as with Singapore’s First Class check-in at SIN T3.

 


The Lounge


Following a growing trend in the airline industry these days, particularly when it comes to outstations, Etihad has a combined First and Business Class lounge at Heathrow T4. Ostensibly this means that the bar is raised high enough that First Class pax don’t feel overly hard done by, whilst granting a halo effect that lifts the experience of Business Class passengers.

I can see why Etihad have done this. They want a dedicated facility with their own branding in order to have end to end control of the passenger experience. Since Etihad aren’t part of one of the big three airline alliances, they can expect customer numbers to be relatively manageable and predictable.

We were greeted at the entrance to the lounge by a very friendly Irish lady. I’m not sure whether this is done for all passengers or just those flying in F but she offered to show us around and explained all the various features, including the Six Senses spa where we were entitled to a complimentary treatment each.

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The entrance area of the lounge.

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More of the entrance hall. Not the cosiest area but the type and location of the furniture really helps to break up the space, avoiding the school cafeteria feel that some lounges exude.

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I really like the small Arabic touches in the lounge like this vase.

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This is the main seating area of the lounge. I really like how they incorporated the same colour scheme for the leather seats here as on board the apartments. The alternating beige and chocolate leather is something of an Etihad signature.  This area got very busy as flight time approached. (This shot was taken around 120 minutes before departure.)

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The main area of the lounge has quite a limited amount of natural light, something which the designers did their best to rectify this with the recessed lighting around the ceiling.

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Conversely, the bar and restaurant area is inundated with light from an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. I also love the white dining chairs; they are really comfortable, which means you can linger over your meal, plus they don’t make a loud scraping sound when you get up – a pet hate of mine.

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Terminal 4 at LHR seems to be a nesting ground for all the oddball airlines that don’t really fit in anywhere else. This makes for some very interesting plane-spotting (out in the gate areas, the people watching can be quite special too!). This was the view from our dining table.

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Just beyond the bar and restaurant is another seating area, which didn’t really fill up for some reason. I actually much preferred this to the main room with the beige and brown seats. The layout is a little weird but the seats were comfortable, the space felt more private and the lighting was far better thanks to to those enormous windows.

Our first port of call, after our brief tour of the lounge, was the restaurant. Our server was a little clueless and but very friendly and enthusiastic. We ordered a glass of champagne each and a couple of dishes from the menu.

Our server suggested that we should try a few items from the buffet whilst our food was being prepared:

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Etihad LHR Lounge – buffet selection

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I was quite impressed with the variety of hot and cold options available. I’m a big fan of lounges that give you a healthy and delicious option (QF at HKG immediately springs to mind). Here, there were a variety of salads with a strong emphasis on Arabic specialities. The presentation on the vine leaves was particularly appealing, with a delicious flavour to match. The heart of palm salad was another firm favourite.

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I ordered the steak from the menu and unsurprisingly it came out as a tough little piece of leather. Lounges that freshly cook their meat to order are few and far between. Etihad at LHR is most certainly not one of them. I’m also a man who likes his salt, under-seasoning food is a senseless gastronomic crime. Still, I draw the line at meat that is crunchy with sodium crystals. Etihad’s lounge caterers do not. (Kamara ordered a watery and insipid soup – which did not merit photographing).

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Whilst the made to order food was highly disappointing, the espresso martinis (gin not vodka please) were absolute perfection.

After the food and a couple of espresso martinis I made my way to the Six Senses spa for my complimentary 15 minute bamboo massage (which would otherwise have cost £15 if flying in Business Class, or taking it as a second option after your initial free treatment, whilst flying in First). The therapists were all very nice but the massage was barely perceptible. This is probably my fault though, anything other than a deep tissue massage tends to just bounce right off the deep knots I’ve developed after a decade of Jiu Jitsu sparring!

The ginger tea that I was given post massage was absolutely delicious though.

 


Conclusion


For a First Class passenger this lounge doesn’t necessarily feel like a huge compromise. I’d much rather spend time here than the dilapidated old Concorde Room in Terminal 5. Nevertheless, the a la carte food could do with some serious improvement and the spa seems like a bit of an afterthought.

As a Business Class passenger you are getting much better buffet food than most other lounges in Heathrow as well as having access to cocktails from a properly staffed bar. The fact that there is table service at all puts this well above most Business Class lounges globally.

However, this is not the best Business Class lounge at Heathrow airport, that title still sits firmly with Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse – where I would happily arrive 3 hours early to experience. The Etihad lounge is very comfortable but there isn’t a whole lot to do, it is a pleasant place to sit if you’re an hour early for your flight but certainly not worth arriving any earlier for.


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