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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’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’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.
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.
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.
The highlight of the lounge space is the very unique bar, which offers seating for nine, plus a bit of standing room.
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.
There’s also a dedicated dining area with seating for about 20 guests.
The dining area can get a bit crowded during peak times, but the staff is good about moving passengers through quickly (if they wish).
There are several semi-private seating areas as well, such as this section at the rear of the lounge.
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.
And then there’s a special “VVIP” lounge that can be separated from the rest of the space with a sliding glass door.
Then, around the corner is another lounge area, just past a magazine and newspaper stand.
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).
Then there’s another group of seats across the hallway.
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.
Naturally, this lounge offers quite a few perks — including some obvious ones, like a very nicely appointed bathroom.
There aren’t any paper towels here — Etihad passengers get to dry their hands with cloth.
Both the men’s and women’s restrooms have a private shower available, so you can refresh before a long flight.
Unique to the Etihad lounge is a prayer room.
There’s even a sink with towels so you can wash up before you pray.
You’ll find everything else you need in the adjacent carpeted room.
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.
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.
Food and Beverage
Now, on to the good stuff.
Etihad offers both an a-la-carte menu and a small cold buffet. I, of course, sampled (more than) a little of each.
The cold buffet has a variety of salads, mezze items, chilled veggies and more.
My favorite cold item was the piquillo almond spread (the red paste in the image below). It’s fantastic!
The goat cheese salad was excellent as well, and very fresh.
As was the chilled, grilled asparagus.
And the heirloom tomato salad. Yum!
Here’s the sampler platter I built from the buffet items — my waitress also brought over a dish of warm nuts.
Then, moving on to the menu, I started my meal with the pea soup, which was fantastic.
That was served with a Laurent-Perrier Champagne (at my waitress’ suggestion).
And then she brought over some warm bread with salted butter.
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.
I was stuffed at that point, but you can also choose from a variety of desserts from the menu, along with cheese and fruit.
And then more fruit — all of the desserts looked fantastic.
Of course, there’s a fully stocked bar as well, including local and international spirits.
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 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.
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).
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).
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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