Review: Etihad Airways Pearl Business Lounge, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Thanks to some surprise flight delays, we ended up spending more time in the Etihad Airways Pearl Business Lounge than we originally anticipated. Despite the high density seating, the lounge offered great food and beverage (including champagne); making it a worthwhile stop on any connecting travellers journey.


This post is one chapter in our trip to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Maldives on United Airlines and Etihad Airways. This trip was booked and credited to Aeroplan and Etihad Preferred Guest. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Etihad Airways Pearl Business Lounge, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

“The Etihad Airways Pearl Business Lounge was well equipped with an open bar including champagne, a full buffet, and a free Six Senses spa treatment. While it was very busy on our visit, it eventually quieted down allowing for a more relaxing visit”

Etihad uses an innovative system, called Plusgrade, to up sell passengers into business class. Ethiad Plusgrade allows passengers who have purchased tickets to bid an amount up to the next class of service. A link in an email sent to your reservation address takes you to a separate website where a sliding scale corresponding to a dollar amount allows you to bid. Each flight is a separate bid and you are notified 24 hours before your flight whether your bid was successful. 

Our Etihad Plusgrade upgrade came through ($55 per pax) for our connection from Abu Dhabi to Doha, Qatar, which then afforded us lounge access at Abu Dhabi. I was really curious to see what the lounge was like, since Ethiad, like it’s sister Emirates, had built their competitive advantage on having many flights arrive in AUH, to allow for connections to another part of the world. 

We found the discreet lounge entrance, which was right across from immigration and took the stairs up to the top floor. With a barcode swipe of the boarding pass, we were given access and we entered into the lounge.

Etihad First and Business Lounge Abu Dhabi

We entered into a packed and busy environment full of people wandering around aimlessly. The lounge offered lounge seating but was quite a densely packed experience.

Heading into the lounge proper, the layout was initially quite confusing in that the lounge appeared to offer no square angles. Around every corner there were more chairs and seating areas. The size was not too large either, in that I’d guess that the United Clubs in LAX or SFO were larger than this. I was certainly expecting more in terms of size. 

The other thing that I noticed immediately, was that the lounge was stuffed full. It was by far the fullest lounge experience that I had ever had. It was so full, that people were unable to find a seat, instead standing by the bar with their bags strewn about the floor. It actually made it really hard to sneak some photographs without irritating people. 

A busy space tonight – Etihad Pearl Business Lounge
Not many available seats when at capacity
Bar Stools were about the only spaces left

Food and Beverage in the Lounge:

Making up for this busy experience was a full service bar serving Drappier Champagne. I can’t think of the last business lounge that I had been in that served actual champagne so this was a plus in my books.

There was also a buffet of international foods. The foods were all halal and comprised a strange mix of things that were available. Spaghetti Carbonara is something that I’ve never had in a lounge, and I don’t think that it pairs well with Tabbouleh on the side. By this time, the Ethiad economy meal we had enjoyed on our Etihad Airways Malé to Abu Dhabi flight had long gone, and it was time to re-charge. We dove into Arabic Mezze including hummus, tabbouleh and pita bread over champas.

A large food and beverage area
Lots of food available
Drappier Champagne in a proper flute

Visiting the (included) Six Senses Spa:

I had read about the Six Senses spa. As part of the business class experience, Ethiad offers a complimentary 15 minute spa treatment to its business passengers. The spa entrance was immediately next to the reception. I stopped in immediately to arrange an appointment since our transfer was only 2 hours. It wasn’t a spa reception like the spas at home, more like a counter.

Six Senses Spa Reception

We were handed a quite worn Doutang menu of the services that they offered. Each service had a description next to it that was 2-3 lines long. It was a bit over the top to read it all, since it was only a 15 minute service and we weren’t picking. (real first world problems here!) We each picked our service, I took a scalp massage and MsWT73 took a back and shoulders massage. There was a 50 minute wait for our treatments (between the time that we booked) and we were given a time to return of 12:40 AM. 

We returned as scheduled and we enjoyed the experience. It wasn’t the most relaxing spa appointment but certainly along the lines of the treatments that you get in an airport; a massage punctuated with flight announcements, people and practitioners coming and going and an experience that is usually over before you start to relax. All to say, it was nice to have it as an included benefit and we certainly took advantage of it.

More (unexpected) time in the lounge:

An odd selection of late night flight departures

At around about 30 minutes prior to departure, our flight to Doha went mechnical, resulting in a delay of 1 hour while they figured out what to do. Ethiad ended up having to downgrade the aircraft to a single economy class configuration in an Airbus 319. The lounge staff approached us very apologetically, and disappeared with our boarding cards and passports as they re-arranged seating and our plusgrade situation. The end result was that we ended up being the last ones in the 24 hr lounge at 3 AM prior to our departure. I was able to snap some additional photos of the place totally empty. 

A now deserted Etihad Lounge
Cozy side – by – side seating
The cleared out dining area
Tastefully decorated corners

The Bottom Line:

The Etihad Airways Pearl Business Lounge was an enjoyable if not contrasting experience. On arrival, the lounge was very busy with limited places to sit. We mitigated this through the included Six Senses Spa Treatment and by enjoying the included buffet. In the end, the lounge emptied out making it a more hospitable place.


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