A few weeks ago I wrote about Etihad’s decision to begin selling access to the Residence Lounge “VIP Room” in Melbourne airport. The room was previously reserved for passengers traveling in Etihad’s Residence on the A380, an above-First-Class cabin that features a bedroom, living room, and private bathroom with shower. Since Etihad stopped flying the A380 to Melbourne, it seems logical to monetize the room that’s now empty in the lounge for the most part.
However, it appears Etihad is enabling wider access to the Residence Lounge worldwide. Earlier today, View from the Wing reports that access to the Residence Lounge at New York JFK will also be available as a pay-in option. This is available to anyone who otherwise has access to the lounge for a fee of $40; this means whether you qualify for lounge access because you’re flying First or Business Class, because of your elite status, or because you paid for general lounge access in the first place (i.e. $75 for general access + $40 for VIP room).
This is slightly more interesting than making the Melbourne Residence Lounge accessible, since Etihad still operates two daily A380 to JFK. However, most of the other time, the room likely remains unused. Obviously, Etihad is willing to remove some of the exclusivity of the Residence Lounge in exchange for more revenue.
It does look like they’re trying to be careful in advertising these, though, calling them “VIP Rooms” rather than “Residence Lounge.” Additionally, of course, if you are not a Residence passenger, you won’t have access to butlers, special dining options, etc. even if you pay for access to the VIP room. It’ll simply be an upcharge to get a private room before your flight. $40 is still sort of cheap in my mind, though I suppose not many people will pay much more for just a private room.
While researching this, I also came across a “VIP Room Experience” that Etihad is now advertising on their website, something I hadn’t noticed before. Apparently, Etihad is also opening access to the Residence Lounge in Abu Dhabi (AUH). For $100, you can get access to a VIP Room (essentially the Residence Lounge) within the First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi. You will also have access to a “dedicated host,” as well as a private dining area, private bathroom and showers, etc. while in the Residence Lounge.
This is even more curious to me, especially since Abu Dhabi is Etihad’s home base, and they operate a good number of A380 in/out of there daily. Does Etihad just not have enough Residence passengers to keep the rooms occupied, or are they just trying to squeeze as much as they could out of monetizing lounge access?
At any rate, if you have access to the First Class Lounge & Spa in Abu Dhabi, Melbourne, or New York, you now have the option to pay up for private room. I think the price is actually pretty reasonable, especially if you have a long layover or arrived early for your flight. Do keep in mind, access to the Residence Lounge or VIP Room will be first come, first served.