|Flying Etihad? There is a near-100% chance that you will get to experience Abu Dhabi International Airport. Use this guide to help you know what to expect|
The Fast Track lanes are only available to “premium” customers (such as Etihad Business and First class passengers), as well as those who really befriend their flight attendants enough to get a pass themselves (like us). One guy behind us in line was told that he could also use the Fast Track lane since he had a US Global Entry card. While he was able to clear through, he may have just gotten lucky due to the long wait softening up the customs agents. After all, they never asked for our Fast Track cards. So, they may not have asked for his either. But, you might want to confirm this policy yourself before getting in line.
Arrivals terminal: You exit the international arrivals secure area into a not-so-spacious terminal space (compared to other international arrivals terminals we have seen). But, what they lack in size, they make up in glamour! There is a fancy coffee bar directly ahead, full-size cars, and a glitzy government lottery display.
A bank of 5 ATMs are located in the area to the left as you exit (in the middle-top of the picture below).
This photo is from the right side of the arrivals terminal looking back toward the point you exit the secure area (which is on the left side of the photo)
Taxis: There were probably ~100 empty black “airport taxis” outside of the international arrivals lounge. You likely will have no trouble getting a ride – although I’m not sure of the rates. I’m also not sure why they picked black as the color in one of the hottest places in the world.
Public transit: Instead of a taxi (which we had planned to use before the delay in customs altered our plans), we took public transit into town. There is a bus stop outside international arrivals, crossing the first lanes of traffic and then off to the left. You should notice the building-like structure with route names on nearby posts.
There are quite a few buses that stop at the airport, but we were only interest in the A1 that heads from the airport into the city. The bus is a coach-like bus with baggage storage underneath. This is nothing like any city bus you might be used to elsewhere! The price is just 4 dirhams.
Terminal 3 of Abu Dhabi airport seems to be an Etihad-only terminal. As noted on the airport’s website, the terminal “Opened in spring 2009, Terminal 3 is designed to feel like a luxury hotel rather than an airport. And it’s only for you.” Well… you and 10,000s of others of various nationalities and cultures! That is, unless you are there at 3 am like we were:
Sleeping in the airport: There are a few options of where to sleep in the airport during long layovers.
(1) Sleeping pods: This is located just before customs in international arrivals
Bus gates: You are looking forward to settling into your seat and getting to your exciting (hopefully) destination. Well, in Abu Dhabi, there is likely a step between your terminal seat and your plane seat…. a crammed bus ride for perhaps a mile or two with dozens of your flightmates. Just what you wanted! If your flight departs out of Terminal 3 gates 36-57, you are going to get to experience this joy.
New terminal: Not excited about taking a bus to/from your airplane? Well, you might be in luck. A new, very-large terminal is being built! Although you can easily walk between terminals 1 and 3, you might need to take a short flight over to the new terminal – which is located on the far side of the main runways that we used to arrive and depart (which themselves are a distance away from terminals 1 and 3). We were not able to figure out what the plan was for ferrying passengers between terminals. Buses would likely take quite a long time – using the roadways or tarmac – and we did not see any evidence of a tram being constructed.
Lounges: In addition to the Etihad premium lounges – accessible to Business and First class passengers – there are two general-access lounges in Abu Dhabi Airport: the Al Reem Lounge and the Al Dhabi Lounge. Both are located just inside security in Terminal 1 – either through security from the airport entrance or passing through security once you get to the terminal via bus.
As noted in the Sleep section above, we had two free passes to any Lounge Club lounges across the world thanks to my Chase Ink credit card, which include both of these lounges. We did not note the entrance price that one would have to pay otherwise, although their website indicates that prices range from 150 dirham for 2 hours to 400 dirham for 10 hours.
Smokers rejoice: There are “smoking cubes” located in the airport to help you get your nicotine fix after a long flight. This one was located right before a very long customs line: