Etihad consistently offers great service, coupled with one of the best business class seats in the skies today, discovers Nick Walton on his most recent flight with the Abu Dhabi-based airline on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Hong Kong.
I had already received my boarding pass when checking in for my Zurich-Abu Dhabi flight, so upon arriving in Abu Dhabi International Airport I made my way directly to one of the airline’s two business class lounges. The airline has two lounges at Abu Dhabi, and while the one we visited on our way to Zurich was perfectly nice, the larger of the two is a true triumphant.
We have visited this lounge before; spacious, elegant and yet functional, the lounge features a real concierge service (perfect for seat allocations, possible upgrades and the like), two dining areas, separate hot and cold buffets, a long cocktail bar, and a Six Senses spa with wellness treatments and well-appointed shower suites.
After taking advantage of the showers, I made my way to the bar and enjoyed a perfectly made vodka martini. The lounge was busy but never felt crowded and offers a thoroughly enjoyable pre-flight experience.
As the boarding time approached, I made my way to gate 57 where business class passengers were herded into a dedicated bus for the transfer out to the plane. While this is a nice touch, we had to wait in the bus until most of the economy passengers had already boarded their buses and departed, so I’m not sure how much of a perk the process really is. After a 15-minute bus transfer, I boarded the Etihad 787-9, where crew wearing facemasks (this was in February, just as COVID-19 was capturing attention outside of Asia) welcomed me onboard.
At my seat, 6K, a bottle of water, Etihad airphones and an Acqua di Parma amenity kit were already positioned and soon after sitting down crew in immaculate uniforms offer glasses of champagne, newspapers and magazines. A crew member named Aman takes post-take off drink orders and dinner selections as if we are sitting in a fine-dining restaurant and Etihad’s excellent service standards are immediately evident, as they were on previous flights.
We depart 20 minutes behind schedule, a delay due to heavy traffic over Oman, but the pilot promises an on-time arrival after 6-hours and 35-minutes.
I’m are no stranger to the Etihad business class product on the 787s and am a confessed fan. The seat balances ergonomics, intuitive design and space constraints to perfection, ensuring an environment that’s as conducive to work and sleep as it is to dining. At 22-inches wide, the seat is comfortable and accommodating, while its design ensures privacy and usability. There’s ample storage, a crystal-clear personal monitor, a massive work and dining tray that slides into the seat bulkhead and which has its own dedicated spotlight; touch screen panels that control everything from the seat position to communications and entertainment; and a series of lighting options that really allow passengers to create their own ambiance.
On late night flights like this journey east, it’s also important to have a seat that’s comfortable as a bed, and this is another point that Etihad has taken seriously, offering a superbly comfortable bed coupled with firm pillows and cozy duvets.
Dinner started with a whisky and soda water and warm nuts, which were served ten minutes after the seatbelt sign was turned off. This was followed by an Arabic mezze, a selection of hot and cold local snacks that included rice wrapped in vine leaves, tabbouleh, hummus with olive oil, and a spinach pastry.
This sizeable entrée would have been enough if you were just peckish, but the appetiser was followed by a choice of grilled chicken with mixed rice, snow peas, and a chunky tomato and olive sauce; braised beef cheeks with mashed potatoes, green beans, roasted carrots and beef jus; prawn biryani; and penne pasta in a tomato and herb sauce. Nothing says “nighty night” quite like beef cheeks and mash, especially when paired with a Yabby Lake ‘Red Claw’ Shiraz from Australia, and not long after the meal was cleared away I was sound asleep.
For passengers who wanted to snack rather than dine, the airline also offers an ‘all day’ menu that includes a range of breakfast cereals, natural yoghurt, a steak sandwich with Emmental cheese and red onion chutney; a brie and onion omelet with beef chorizo and spinach potato cake; seasonal fruit; and ice cream. There was also an impressive selection of international cheeses on offer if you could resist sleep a little longer.
Service is a key component of the Etihad experience. The crew were not only welcoming and friendly but offered consistently excellent service, whether it was the smile and greeting at the plane door, the wine recommendation before dinner, or that extra bottle of water, supplied without request, during the night. We arrived in Hong Kong during an early morning thunderstorm, meaning the crew had to perform their duties faster than usual but still, there was finesse and professionalism. Throughout the flight, cabin crew seemed relaxed and self-assured, leading to the same consistently excellent service we experienced on other Etihad flights.
The Etihad IFE system is at the forefront of the aviation scene, and offers passengers a comprehensive range of new release and classic films, as well as some great television shows, music selections, games and city guides, all of which are presented through the large personal monitor, which is easy to navigate via its touch screen or the remote.
What We Loved
The quality of the food was first class and the service throughout the flight was market leading.
What We Didn’t
I was a little frustrated to wake and find my phone, which had been charging from the USB port, to be dead. Either the USB port didn’t work or hadn’t been activated after takeoff.
Etihad offers a world-class product, both in terms of hardware and software, as well as an extensive network, and offers a compelling product on the Abu Dhabi to Hong Kong route.
Etihad Abu Dhabi to Hong Kong return in business class from US$2,060 per person.