I don’t really like Dubai’s airport for many reasons, and the new one just opened in Doha, Qatar, is a little bit too sterile and characterless for my liking. But how does Abu Dhabi International Airport compare to other airports in the Middle-East region?
I must confess that Etihad Airways are one of my favourite airlines in the world, and with Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) being their home base, I really had high hopes when I was in transit recently between flights from Mumbai to Rome. Because I stayed in the airport for less than 4 hours, I didn’t need a UAE Visa, although from what I am told, if you are in transit for any longer than this (even if you stay in the airport), you WILL need a visa.
The facilities for transiting passengers are pretty good regardless of which terminal you are in at AUH. Aside from the copious amounts of duty free on offer, there are a couple of great walk-in lounges, A Dhabi Lounge and Al Reem Lounge, that offer a cosy and professional setting with some nice food on offer (all included in the price of admission). For the Al Reem Lounge in Terminal 1, I paid 250 AED for 5 hours, although I only stayed in it for about 3 hours, as I wanted to explore the rest of the airport.
Unlike much of neighbouring Dubai’s airport (DXB) – although I’ve actually only used T3, as far as I can remember – there is very little flashiness at AUH. Everything is clean and professional, without ever being over-the-top, and it is a nice chance in this part of the world. I think when you come to AUH, it is about the flying experience and passing through the airport efficiently and without problem is the main concern of the authorities here (unlike at Dubai, where they will try to sell you brand new sports cars at the departure gates).
There are really cool massage chairs and sleeping pods that are scattered around Abu Dhabi International Airport. It was nice to enjoy these while using the free WIFI that is available around the whole place (although I found it a pain to log in). You can get some great views of the tarmac in Terminals 1 and 3 (this is my main bugbear at DXB) so you can watch Etihad aircraft land and take off regularly – plus the odd “exotic” visitor like British Airways!
Nowadays, flying from Europe to Asia is always going to be cheaper with one of the big “Middle East 4”, as I like to call it, so transiting in Abu Dhabi (or Istanbul, or Dubai, or even Doha) is becoming more and more common for passengers enroute to their final destination. I don’t think any passenger should worry about spending time in Abu Dhabi International Airport. It is modern, safe, and very efficient, and if you’re lucky enough to be able to fly with Etihad then the whole experience will be top-drawer.