Aerotel Abu Dhabi
When the first Aerotel opened in Singapore last year it was the first airport hotel in the world to have an outdoor pool. Then came Aerotel Abu Dhabi and Aerotel Rio de Janeiro. Two more are scheduled to open this year: at Heathrow and Hyderabad (India).
Owned by Hong Kong-based airport services company Plaza Premium Group, Aerotel Abu Dhabi is situated "airside" (you need a boarding pass or e-ticket to access it) at Abu Dhabi International Airport, between passport control and the transfer security area. Despite a long wait before I could disembark from the plane, having to catch a bus from tarmac to terminal and another long wait to clear security, I was in checking in within an hour of landing.
A new concept in transit hotels, apparently designed "by travellers for travellers", Aerotel isn't much to look at. All you can see is its swish new reception area (open 24 hours), until you check in and are admitted to the inner sanctum of 52 rooms that come in three sizes: "small" (one single bed, no shower), "medium" (twin) and "large" (two queen beds).
My medium room, which I'd booked from 10pm to 8am, was much bigger than expected with high ceilings, two large beds, cable TV, a desk (with multi-plug power points galore) and complimentary Wi-Fi and bottled water. The bathroom was also roomy with a great shower and toiletries that come with a side-order of (unintentional) humour: there's a "mouth shiner" (toothbrush and toothpaste),"clouds remover" (cue tips and makeup removing discs), a "hair smoother" (comb) and a "head steamer" (plastic shower cap), as well as the usual shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and body lotion. While waiting for the kettle to boil (there's a basic selection of teas and Nescafe instant coffee) I discovered that my keycard holder unfolds into a handy fact sheet; there's a terminal map showing walking times to the gates, a few Arabic phrases, facts about Abu Dhabi, even tips to fight jet lag.
A one-hour pass for the Al Dhabi Lounge next door is included in the room rate and with an 8am check-out time that means breakfast. It's a pretty standard airport lounge buffet – fresh fruit, breads and pastries, cereals, tea, coffee and juice – but there are newspapers and magazines to read and it's a peaceful place to relax before joining the masses at the departure gate (all gates are less than 15 minutes away). There's no minibar in the room.
For some natural light and an airport view, settle into an armchair at the airport's new "library", which opened last year; look for the comfortable chairs on rugs beside the walkway between Terminals 1 and 3 (BYO book; there are few on shelves and most are in Arabic). There's free WiFi throughout the airport. Of course Abu Dhabi's Grand Mosque, Ferrari World, palaces and beaches lie on the other side of passport control, but if you're staying at the Aerotel chances are you're not here to explore the UAE's capital city.
You can virtually fall off the plane into bed at Aerotel Abu Dhabi, thanks to its location right in the transit area. It also has surprisingly spacious rooms, lounge access and first-class facilities and service. In short, everything you need to refresh yourself, in comfort, mid-journey.
HIGHLIGHT: The shower is one of the best I've stood under; they don't call it a "power shower" for nothing.
LOWLIGHT: You can't open the huge windows, though that's probably a good thing at an airport. A couple of towelling robes would have been nice.
Aerotel Abu Dhabi is at Ground Level, International Departures, Terminal 1, Abu Dhabi International Airport. Six-hour stays start at $82 for a small (single) room plus $US20 for a shower. Medium (twin) rooms cost $US135 for six hours, Large (two queen beds) cost $US203. Extra hours cost $US14-16. There's also a daytime rate for stays between 10am and 8pm. See myaerotel.com
Louise Southerden travelled as a guest of Intrepid Travel.