Airport review: Abu Dhabi International Airport

IATA CODE

AUH

THE FLIGHT

EY454 to Sydney, economy class

THE ARRIVAL

Abu Dhabi Airport is about a half-hour drive east of the city's downtown area; however, I'm staying at Yas Island, which is only 15 minutes by taxi.  There are public transport options to get to AUH, including five bus routes from the city that all run 24 hours a day, but from Yas it's far easier to take a taxi.

THE LOOK

My flight to Sydney is leaving from Terminal 3, the newest of Abu Dhabi's triumvirate – though it's still perhaps not quite as impressive as you might expect after spending a few days being wowed by the city it services. T3 is more functional than beautiful, with a clean and slightly cramped layout, and no architectural features that bear mentioning.

CHECK-IN

There are a lot of people in the airport today, as there are in AUH every day; however, the Etihad check-in area is a slick operation, and I'm headed to immigration within 15 minutes.

SECURITY

This is where the wheels begin to come off a little – there's a fair queue for both security and passport control today, and it isn't going quickly. It's more than 25 minutes before I eventually make it into the airside section of the terminal.

FOOD AND DRINK

This is a long-term bugbear of mine: why is it so hard to find decent, authentic local food when you're at an airport? In a place such as Abu Dhabi the food wouldn't even have to be Emirati. Anything Middle Eastern would do: Lebanese, Iranian, Yemeni. Something with a sense of place. At AUH Terminal 3 though, you have the choice between such Emirati favourites as Burger King, Cinnabon, Costa Coffee, O'Leary's Sports Bar, and a Chinese place called Yumcha. Disappointing.

RETAIL THERAPY

What Terminal 3 does have, however, is shops. Cheap shops and expensive shops. European shops and American shops. Here you can whip through Armani, Hermes and Rolex before window shopping for pure gold at the aptly named Pure Gold, picking up a pen from Mont Blanc, touring the World of Cigars, and then – trust me on this – buying some incredibly good Saudi Arabian dates from Food & Candy.

PASSING TIME

AUH caters well to those with a long time to spend in the airport, which makes sense given its popularity as a transit hub. Terminal 3 has first- and business-class lounges for Etihad passengers, as well as the pay-per-entry Al Ghazal lounge. Elsewhere there's a "luxury wellness spa", a transit hotel, a children's play area, and multiple "sleep pods". The airport also has free Wi-Fi.

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ONE MORE THING

AUH actually has four terminals: three at the airport itself, and the City Terminal, in downtown Abu Dhabi. Here passengers can check in for their flights and offload their baggage up to 24 hours before departure – though at least five hours are required to ensure your bags make it to the plane. This is ideal for those flying late at night.

THE VERDICT

Abu Dhabi Airport has some excellent facilities, including the City Terminal, plus high-quality shops and world-leading lounges. However, if you're flying economy and can't afford to shop at places like Hermes, you'll more likely leave AUH annoyed by the crowds and let down by the food selection.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

3

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