Flight Review: Etihad First Class BOM-AUH
Review: Etihad Premium Lounge AUH
Review: Etihad First Class AUH-LAX
On our way back from our adventure in Asia, my father and I had detoured via Mumbai and Abu Dhab. We did this so we could try Air India and Etihad. We had a great experience on Air India’s 787 Business Class. At Mumbai Airport, I had a wonderful culinary experience at the GVK First Class Lounge. Yet, I cannot say the same about the massage I had there. Now we were on our way to try an Etihad 777 First Class product. This would be a treat, because it was on a Jet Airways 777.
Etihad has leased a couple of Jet Airways 777s while it awaits theirs. This means that the aircraft are configured with Jet Airways cabins, but have Etihad crews. Also, all the soft product was from Etihad.
777-300ER (Jet Airways)
After walking to the gate from the GVK First Lounge, we waited for a while until we were called up to the counter by the agent. She asked us if we were continuing on to the US. When we said yes, she handed us our boarding pass for our flight from AUH to Los Angeles.
Boarding was called on time at 3:50am, with First Class and Business Class called first. Upon boarding the aircraft, you could definitely tell it was a Jet Airways aircraft. Not only because of the livery, the aircraft also had Jet’s Business Class herringbone seats.
These seats were revolutionary in their day, but now a days have been improved. For example, Virgin Atlantic and Air New Zealand offer a similar but improved product. When you turn left at the boarding door, you enter the First Class cabin. It consists of 8 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.
First class consists of fully enclosed suites. They are maroon and about 30 inches wide. The seats have an Ottoman and various storage places. On the inside side of the seats there is a small table where you can place your landing cards as well as drinks during flight. The seat is controlled via a small screen (that still said Jet Airways) or by a series of buttons on the left of the seat.
As soon as I was settled in, the purser came over and offered me all the cool stuff. She offered me pajamas, an amenity kit, noise canceling headphones and a welcome tray. The seat already had a pillow and a blanket, but if I wanted to sleep they would make my bed for me.
The amenities on Etihad are top-notch. The amenity kit contained all the basics. From toothpaste to razor, it had it all. The kit also came with Bergamote creams and products. The pyjamas were a bit on the small side, so I recommend ordering a size larger than what you usually wear. The welcome tray came with a hot towel, a ramekin of dates, juice (which I had ordered) and a welcome note. Probably my favorite Etihad detail is the note. It is printed, but hand signed by the pilot and the cabin service director. To me, those small details make a flight special.
Departure and my Weird Breakfast Order:
We departed a few minutes behind schedule at around 4:26am. After a quick taxi to the runway, we were off to Abu Dhabi. Quickly after takeoff the pilots turned off the seat belt sign. The flight attendants sprung into action as soon as they could. The distributed menus to those passengers who were still awake. I took a look at the menu, because I wanted to sample the food in every flight.
Something really cool about Etihad is that they offer an inflight chef. As soon as I was ready to order, he came over. He asked me what I wanted from the menu, and when I told him, he looked perplexed. I ordered the asparagus soup, with the tandoori chicken. Yet, I also ordered the hazelnut pastry crown.
There was a wine list, alongside other alcoholic beverages. I usually don’t drink when I travel, so I skipped those options, but here are pictures of what the list included.
I started off with a latte, which came in a beautiful metal tray with cubed sugar. Now, I know cubed sugar is fancy, but I don’t like it. It takes forever to dissolve, and I would rather just have a small packet of sugar. It also came with a small chocolate praline.
The flight attendant soon prepared my table with white linen cloth. She placed a bread plate, salt and pepper shakers as well as cutlery. She brought the selection of breads, which I picked one of each. My favorite was the French baguette. She also brought raspberry jam and sweet butter.
The asparagus soup was pretty good, but nothing out of this world. I have to say, they used a little too much creme fraiche for my taste. Otherwise, it was a good soup.
Having come from eating my favorite Indian meal, the tandoori followed up a tough competitor. At this point I ordered orange juice and water, in order to down the food. The tray came in a nice presentation. The chicken was cooked thoroughly, but was not extremely flavorful. The naan was very soft, and I prefer sturdier naan. The clear winner was the sauce. A mint yoghurt sauce went wonderfully with the chicken and it made me very happy.
The Best Breakfast I Have Ever Had on a Plane:
Finally, hazelnut pastry crown was unlike anything I have ever eaten. It looked, well, like a crown. It had a similar texture to really good french toast, and had a similar taste. For those of you that do not know me, I do not like breakfast food. Imagine, then, how I feel about airline breakfast. THIS DISH WAS THE BEST BREAKFAST I HAVE EVER HAD ON A PLANE. It was maybe the best breakfast dish I have ever had. The caps are warranted, because I ended up wanting to order one more, but I was so full I could not eat it. The pistachios on top, the compote, the everything about it was wonderful. My mouth waters remembering the dish.
After a very good meal, a happy, fat me wanted to sleep. I asked for the bed to be made, and I changed into the PJs offered. While my bed was being made, I made a quick trek to the Business Class galley. There I noticed that there was a bar area lit up with cool colors. I was sad it was not being used for either the business class or first class passengers. The crew was using it to store water bottles and keep the carts in place.
When I returned, my seat was made into a perfect bed. It was pretty comfortable, and the mattress was thick enough to allow me to sleep comfortably. I was able to sleep for about an hour and a half before the pilot woke everyone up for landing. I rate the bed a solid 9/10.
As soon as I woke up, I was offered a hot towel, and landing cards for US Immigration. Yes, Abu Dhabi has a US Pre-Clearance Border Patrol. It expedites screening, and allows you to enter the US as a domestic arriving passenger.
I cannot say enough good things about this crew. It was one of the most proactive and kind crews I have experienced. One of them noticed my backpack loaded with airline tags and asked why I didn’t have an Etihad one. When I explained we were connecting passengers, she literally went to economy and business and took one of each forme. She, somehow, found some and brought them over to me so I could place them in my backpack. This gesture set the tone for the whole flight.
Every 10 minutes while I was awake, the crew would pass around the cabin to make sure that we were all good. Most were sleeping, and a man on the other aisle was working, but they were not intrusive. They simply walked around, looked at us, and if we needed anything, they would have it there in a flash. They also encouraged me to use the call button if they were not there.
We arrived at AUH with the crack of dawn. After a very long taxi, we made it to our gate on time. I bid good-bye to the great crew and my Suite 2A. The flight landed on a US Pre-Clearance gate, which I later figured out it would be heading onwards to San Francisco.
This crew blew me away. I had heard that Middle Eastern crews are a toss up. Yet, this crew far exceeded my expectations. They were more similar to what you would find on a Japanese carrier. The seat was very comfortable. Yet, some of the controls looked worn. The Suite next to mine had a broken door, and would slide on its own when there was turbulence. Nonetheless, the Etihad amenities and food were also very good. Although the soup and chicken were nothing to write home about, I still dream of the hazelnut pastry. This flight gave me really high expectations of my future flights on Etihad. Stay tuned to see if my flight to the US met the same standard as this flight!