If, like myself, you’ve started trying to circumnavigate the tired old traditional ways of heading out towards Asia or Australia from Ireland which used to take us only very slightly east as far as London, Amsterdam or perhaps Frankfurt, before the bulk of the journey, then you’ve probably spent some time in Abu Dhabi Airport. Ever since the Abu Dhabi carrier Etihad started serving Dublin from their home in AD, the route has been something of a major success for them it seems – and for many of us too, who can now get about half of the journey done in one flight, and the full journey done in two flights.
But one problem with this, is that with only one or two flights a day from Dublin to AD, you might not be able to time your connections as nicely as you could going through London, or further afield in Europe where airlines fly to and from Dublin a number of times a day. This is particularly the case for one of my most-travelled routes to Kuala Lumpur, which entails somewhere around a 6 or 7 hour layover in Abu Dhabi on the way. So, what’s it like to spend 6 or 7 hours in the airport?
The answer is – not incredibly pleasant. It doesn’t benefit from the same sprawling, labyrinthine corridors and terminal sizes as say Heathrow or Schiphol and the whole place is effectively divided up into two terminals; one being a rather unusual circular affair that can feel very claustrophobic indeed with any amount of time spent in there (although I can thankfully assure you that the green tiles/colour scheme featured in my photos have since been replaced as of late 2012).
The other terminal, which is definitely where you’d rather end up waiting out your time, is only marginally better. There’s a food court upstairs where you’ll find the usual airport food options (and prices, the ATM’s are back downstairs behind the up escalator nestled in beside the duty free by the way), while downstairs the area leading from security is split into extremely high-value brand boutiques – where you’ll frequently encounter the staff actually standing out the front in the corridor, such is the inactivity in this area.
Immediately downstairs from the food court (which won’t last you long, it’s also quite clustered and compact) is the usual duty free set-up that you have to wind your way through whether you want to or not, to get to the gates. One interesting thing I’ve noted about the duty free as well, is that while there’s an absolute abundance of sales staff to help you find something you like, there appears to be much fewer cashiers to actually make the sale.
Moving onto the terminal, and I’ll give it a big plus; depending where you sit, and you may need to move around, there’s free Wi-Fi. Other than that though, it’s just a very long corridor with gates off it; there’s nowhere really to sit except in the gate waiting areas themselves. More unfortunately, there’s only windows on one side of the building which furthers the feeling of claustrophobia – especially, as I say, over a 7 hour wait.
So what to do when in Abu Dhabi unavoidably for hours on end? Plan normal things to do or something you don’t normally have time for is my advice; the Wi-Fi is solid and reliable, so let your e-mails pile up for a day or two, or deliberately don’t read the news on the plane. Don’t eat too much either on the previous flight, so you can also kill some time in the food court having a filling meal, which will hopefully leave you not too full and ready for a rest on the next flight. Bring a long book perhaps.