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Review: Etihad First and Business Class Lounge LAX

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TO THE POINT: Etihad opened its brand new First and Business Class Lounge at LAX this week. The pros: excellent food, attentive staff and a very comprehensive cocktail menu. The cons: access is very limited.

Etihad Airways has made a name for itself when it comes to top-of-the-line travel experiences. This is the airline that operates the world’s most decked-out Airbus A380, with its $32,000 Residence (between NYC and Abu Dhabi), the Apartment (the best first class you can book with miles) and a very respectable business-class cabin. And while Etihad has yet to bring its A380 to Los Angeles, the airline just opened a fantastic new lounge at the Tom Bradley International Terminal, which I couldn’t wait to check out.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

Etihad’s First and Business Class Lounge at LAX is located just around the corner from the Star Alliance Lounge at TBIT — the lounge Etihad passengers used to access before boarding a flight in Los Angeles.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

Etihad’s exclusive new lounge just opened on Monday — it’s currently only accessible to first and business-class passengers traveling on Etihad or Alitalia, and Etihad Gold and Platinum members, who can bring in a guest as well.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

The lounge opens daily at 1:30pm and closes when the Etihad flight departs. Etihad is also considering adding access for Air Berlin passengers, but since that flight doesn’t board until a bit later in the evening, the lounge isn’t currently set up to accommodate them.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

At roughly 4,400 square feet, the lounge is smaller than some of the others in Etihad’s network, but the staff seems confident that it’ll be able to accommodate passengers comfortably. On average, Etihad expects 40 Etihad passengers and 20 Alitalia passengers daily, and there’s room for a total of 76 guests. I counted more than a dozen staff members, so there are plenty of people around to make sure you’re comfortable throughout your stay.

Seating Areas

The highlight of the lounge space is the very unique bar, which offers seating for nine, plus a bit of standing room.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

Etihad’s expert mixologists are on hand to make you anything you’d like — everything is included, of course, so feel free to go crazy.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

There’s also a dedicated dining area with seating for about 20 guests.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

The dining area can get a bit crowded during peak times, but the staff is good about moving passengers through quickly (if they wish).

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

There are several semi-private seating areas as well, such as this section at the rear of the lounge.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

There was plenty of seating available even when passengers from both Alitalia and Etihad were using the lounge, so I wouldn’t be concerned about finding somewhere to relax.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

And then there’s a special “VVIP” lounge that can be separated from the rest of the space with a sliding glass door.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

Then, around the corner is another lounge area, just past a magazine and newspaper stand.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

This separate area has seating for 12 passengers, and a view into the Tom Bradley International Terminal (note that this lounge doesn’t offer any windows, unfortunately).

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

Then there’s another group of seats across the hallway.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

During my visit, passengers seemed to move around from one area to another, so you should have a chance to try out each room if you’d like.

Amenities

Naturally, this lounge offers quite a few perks — including some obvious ones, like a very nicely appointed bathroom.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

There aren’t any paper towels here — Etihad passengers get to dry their hands with cloth.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

Both the men’s and women’s restrooms have a private shower available, so you can refresh before a long flight.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

Unique to the Etihad lounge is a prayer room.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

There’s even a sink with towels so you can wash up before you pray.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

You’ll find everything else you need in the adjacent carpeted room.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

There’s Wi-Fi available throughout the lounge, and it performed well during my test. It’s fast enough to stream content, download movies or get some work done.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

And — perhaps my favorite perk of all — there are a ton of power outlets and USB ports all over the lounge, so you can easily charge up your gear whether you’re sitting at the bar or relaxing in one of the other areas.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

Food and Beverage

Now, on to the good stuff.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

Etihad offers both an a-la-carte menu and a small cold buffet. I, of course, sampled (more than) a little of each.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

The cold buffet has a variety of salads, mezze items, chilled veggies and more.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

My favorite cold item was the piquillo almond spread (the red paste in the image below). It’s fantastic!

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

The goat cheese salad was excellent as well, and very fresh.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

As was the chilled, grilled asparagus.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

And the heirloom tomato salad. Yum!

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

Here’s the sampler platter I built from the buffet items — my waitress also brought over a dish of warm nuts.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

Then, moving on to the menu, I started my meal with the pea soup, which was fantastic.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

That was served with a Laurent-Perrier Champagne (at my waitress’ suggestion).

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

And then she brought over some warm bread with salted butter.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

Then for my main course I had the rump of lamb, which another waiter suggested I try medium-rare. Some pieces were definitely prepared medium-well, but it was still delicious.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

I was stuffed at that point, but you can also choose from a variety of desserts from the menu, along with cheese and fruit.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

And then more fruit — all of the desserts looked fantastic.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

Of course, there’s a fully stocked bar as well, including local and international spirits.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

The bar also offers a mix of international and US wines from California and Washington, such as Maisonry Napa Valley Carneros Sauvignon Blanc and Gravelly Ford Pinot Noir.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

Etihad also offers speciality cocktails, which are named for the cities Etihad serves, including Melbourne, Sydney, New York, Paris, Dublin, London, Mumbai, Shanghai and, of course, Los Angeles.

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

I ordered the “Los Angeles,” which consists of tequila, rice milk, cocoa, chili, sugar, coffee, aromatic bitters and COTTON CANDY (!). As Etihad describes it, “Los Angeles has deep roots in Latin culture and cuisine. We have taken these influences using Tequila with rice milk, spiced and enriched with our homemade cocoa nib and chili liqueur. The national flower of Mexico, the Dahlia is then used to garnish this sweet and spicy highball.” It was good, but a little sweet for my taste (especially after the cotton candy dissolved).

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

Bottom Line

In a country not known for offering over-the-top airport lounges, Etihad’s new LAX lounge easily ranks among the best. It’s certainly the best business-class lounge I’ve been to in the US (granted, I haven’t yet visited Etihad’s lounge at JFK), and it’s a close second to the Lufthansa Wining and Dining Facility at JFK as far as first-class lounges go. It’s also more luxurious than the Centurion Lounges, including the one Amex just opened at Houston (IAH).

Etihad LAX Lounge Review

The only downside to this lounge is that access is incredibly limited. You can’t purchase a day pass, and you currently need to be flying either Alitalia or Etihad to gain entry. If you do happen to be flying one of those airlines from LAX, though, be sure to arrive early enough to enjoy everything the lounge has to offer!

Have you visited Etihad’s new US lounges yet?

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