It’s often said that the perks of Virgin Australia’s Velocity Platinum tier aren’t widely different to Velocity Gold. But there are still some key differences that set Velocity Platinum apart. And one of the better benefits among them is access to Etihad’s new First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi.
This privilege isn’t widely known, and some might even say it’s a bit ‘hush hush’. For instance, while the Platinum page of the Velocity website describes ‘Etihad Airways Lounge Access’, there’s no mention of First Class. The same is true of the ‘international lounge access’ page of the Virgin Australia website.
Over on the Etihad website, things aren’t any clearer for Velocity members. Etihad’s dedicated page about the lounges does mention ‘Platinum’ and ‘First Class Lounge’ in the same section. But then, the wording at the top of the same page suggests these comments relate only to members of Etihad Guest. For Velocity members, it’s still not clear.
But here’s the good news. Etihad’s new First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi does welcome Velocity Platinum members (and Virgin Australia Beyond, too). You just need to have an onward Etihad Airways flight, and you can bring a guest into the First Class Lounge with you.
Over the holiday break, I did just that – confirming for myself, and all of you, that everything works as described. Here’s a brief overview of the Etihad First Class Lounge and pre-departure experience for Velocity Platinum members, as well as the other ways you could get inside that lounge.
Kicking things off in Abu Dhabi
My journey begins with a pass of Etihad’s swanky new First Class check-in area at Abu Dhabi Airport. There’s no mention of Velocity Platinum on the signage, so I confirm with an attendant that I’m in the right place. As expected, Velocity Platinum is A-OK for Etihad’s VIP check-in. And there’s no drama bringing along a companion who’s travelling on the same flight – and booked on a separate reservation.
Staff quickly tag our bags and affix priority labels. They don’t bat an eyelid that mine is a good 5kg over the ticketed allowance. After all, Velocity Platinum members get an extra 20kg of baggage on most flights – matching what Etihad gives to its own Platinum members. My Velocity status also appears boldly on the boarding pass for easy reference.
Interestingly, the boarding pass doesn’t indicate anything about the lounge. And for that matter, the staff at check-in don’t mention it, even though I share that it’s my first time flying from Etihad’s new terminal. But I know from past experience to seek out Etihad’s First Class Lounge.
There’s a small entrance found along the concourse of the terminal. Interestingly, even though it’s for guests of the First Class Lounge, you emerge inside the Business Class Lounge instead. Venture up to level six – the top floor of the multi-level lounge precinct – to find the First Class Lounge. Again, there’s no issue bringing a guest through, even though my guest is booked on a separate reservation.
Inside Etihad’s new First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi
Phew, we’ve made it! With no guidance from the websites of Etihad or Velocity, and no noticeable signage about Velocity Platinum at the airport, we’ve still overcome the barriers to enjoy one of Velocity Platinum’s best perks.
You might be familiar with Etihad’s previous First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi’s Terminal 1. That lounge is now closed, owing to Etihad shifting its base over to the brand new Terminal A. That’s where this shiny new First Class Lounge is located – and it’s where most Etihad flights now arrive and depart. I’m on EY462 to Melbourne, for instance, and today, it’s boarding just a moment’s walk from the lounge.
As to the First Class Lounge itself, it’s a distinctively high-end space. Its design draws on a lot of beige and brown with wooden elements woven in. That’s all synonymous with luxury in the Middle East and done in a particularly stylish and understated way.
The lounge isn’t huge – and while I may be wrong, I get the sense that it was originally planned to be much larger. After all, Midfield had been under construction for the better part of a decade. Back during the design phase, the number of Etihad flights offering First Class was significantly greater. Now, First Class is reserved for a handful of flagship routes – with most other guests in this lounge being Platinum members instead.
Accordingly, Etihad’s new lounge doesn’t have quite as many trimmings as the shuttered Terminal 1 space. There’s no gym, for instance – and no spa. Instead, relaxation is achieved through the design as well as the lounge’s tranquil bliss. I spend about 2.5 hours here and see 10 other guests at most.
Dining in the new Etihad First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi
You’ll want to make time for the dining room in Etihad’s new First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi. After all, it’s what really sets this lounge apart from its Business Class counterpart. It’s also nice to spot the beautiful Nikko Ceramics Silk Platinum tableware – the same as Etihad uses on board in First Class and The Residence.
Given EY462 to Melbourne is a morning departure, we only get the chance to peruse the breakfast menu. It’s a relatively simple lineup akin to what you’d expect at an Australian cafe. I go for the tasty Eggs Benedict with salmon. My companion takes the DIY path. We’re both impressed when the waiter remembers every ingredient and instruction – without writing things down – and everything arrives exactly as ordered.
After an adventurous New Year in Uzbekistan with friends, I’m simply after coffee today – so I don’t even think of exploring the Champagne options. But my latte is strong and nice enough that I order a second. We retreat to one of the private curtained pods towards the back of the lounge to await our flight, relaxed and ready to go.
I hope to return to the lounge soon to bring you a full review. Hopefully, before an evening flight to get the full experience.
Other ways of accessing Etihad’s First Class Lounge
Velocity Platinum is just one way that you could be enjoying the comforts of Etihad’s new First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi. Here are the most common alternatives that can also get you through the door.
- Etihad Guest Platinum status.
- An Etihad Guest Exclusive card – Etihad’s VIP tier. This also gets you into the private room normally reserved for guests of The Residence when it’s not otherwise in use.
- An onward boarding pass for travel in Etihad First Class.
- When arriving in Abu Dhabi in Etihad First Class and travelling onwards in Etihad Business Class on a flight without a First Class cabin. Present both boarding passes.
If you’re really keen to see inside and don’t qualify as above, you can also purchase entry at the door. Here are the current rates for First Class Lounge access as of 17 January 2024, confirmed by Etihad:
- Up to four hours: 780 AED (AU$323) or 30,343 Etihad Guest miles.
- Up to eight hours: 970 AED (AU$402) or 37,734 Etihad Guest miles.
Those prices are high and apply per person. Had I not been a Velocity Platinum member, this visit would have cost AU$646 if we’d paid at the door. But remember, this is Etihad’s top-tier lounge at its home hub. Peace and quiet is one of its biggest drawcards – and these prices reflect that.
It’s not often that the perks of Velocity Platinum significantly outshine those of Velocity Gold. But if you’re flying through Abu Dhabi, it’s worth arriving early for the First Class Lounge. For us, it meant an earlier start to the day with a little less sleep. But I’d say the trade-off was well worth it.
As one final tip, sign up for Etihad Guest if you haven’t already. Etihad Guest members get free inflight messaging over Wi-Fi on Etihad flights, even if there’s a Velocity number linked to the booking instead. You just need your Etihad Guest number and password to get chatting, so be sure you have that ready to go.
Featured image courtesy of Etihad Airways. Except where otherwise credited, photography by Chris Chamberlin, who travelled at his own expense.
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