We were whisked away in comfort in the Audi the short distance (maybe a ten minute drive) back to the airport
On arrival we were dropped off at the dedicated business and first class area of the terminal, and quickly made our way to the first class check in area. In similar to fashion to some of the higher end carriers, Etihad has a dedicated first class check in area with seats to sit down while you are doing the paper-work with the check-in agent:
As you can see it was completely empty, but if there did happen to be a waiting line, there were some nice couches for lounging on while waiting
Anyway our check in was quick and simple and we then went off to find the First lounge. The lounge was nice but quite small, especially considering this Etihad’s home turf. I am a little surprised they don’t have something more elaborate given their big rival Emirates now has a complete first class “terminal” but anyhow for our needs it was nice, though we took what was pretty much the last seat available.
One very nice feature was the Six Senses Spa, and I went and booked a head massage, which was available without any wait. It was a very enjoyable treat! The spa area is also where the rest and showers rooms are and is all very nice:
After the spa treatment we took a look at the breakfast menu, which had plenty of choices, but we settled on just aÃƒâ€šÃ‚ cappuccino. Service is provided at wherever you sit down.
The other nice thing with the lounge is the views of the tarmac:
Once we were done with our coffee it was time to head to the plane. Indeed it turned out to be quite a long walk to our gate and by the time we got there it looks like the entire plane had been boarded and we were the very last ones on board! Phew, glad we did not miss the plane! Note to self to allow plenty of time next time. And so we headed on board for our 15 hour flight to JFK:
Once on-board we were quickly shown to our suites. The suites are arranged in three rows of a 1-2-1 configuration on the A340-600 and we picked the center/center seats of the two center seats in Row 2. The first class cabin was quite busy… a westerner in the suite to the right, and young Arabic guy in full garb to our left. There were a lot of people with this guy and over the course of the flight and our arrival in JFK it was apparent the guy was someone of some importance. But that had no bearing on our service which from the get-go was definitely first class. The flight purser quickly came to introduce themselves and ask for our pre-departure drinks. We went with the Bollinger Rose, an absolutely fabulous of champagne:
I know that the likes of Cathay, Singapore and Emirates go with Dom Perignon but I find that a somewhat “obvious” choice and I really prefer airlines that look for more interesting champagne choices and on this front Etihad is a big winner. Bollinger Rose is a fabulous rose champagne, and the alternative is Mumm Champagne Cuvee R Lalou 1999 which is the somewhat obscure top cuvee of the GH Mumm house. While I did not try it (sorry the Bolly was just too fabulous) it is good to see something more interesting than the obvious choice (and for those that like to maximize value take note it would set you back more $$$s than Dom too)
Anyway enough of the champagne, what was also exceptionally impressive was this crazy suite we were in! Maybe we haven’t flown international first class enough yet to get tired of it or to start getting nit-picky, but I personally was beside myself with the fact we were relaxing in basically a two bed “suite” for the sky:
As we rolled around Abu Dhabi airport for take over I perused what we had at hand in the suite, some nice amenity kits and funky touch screen controls
Once we were up in the air I went to change into the provided pyjamas. This was going to be a long flight and I wanted to be comfortable from the get-go. The provided PJs were nice but they failed the tumble dryer test on our return, shrinking about five sizes! But the bathroom sure was nice, though very 1980s black:
Back at the suite it was time for the lunch service to begin. While the flight “purser” had taken care of us primarily pre-take-off, lunch was the domain on the on-board “chef” who was basically another flight attendant with a different color uniform. Still it’s a nice idea that gives off the sense that it’s really no problem to have whatever you want.
The menu was split two ways – you could either order a regular main course from a selection of a handful, or you could go a little more a-la-carte and choose a meat and sides separately. I decided to go with the latter since I’d never had that option before on an airplane. So I ordered the Arabic Mezze to start with, and then a lamb chop with fries for the main course.
The appetizers were kind of OKish, though very nicely presented
The Arabic Mezze looked great but tasted quite bland, but the main course was the opposite – looked pretty bland but tasted great:
After the thoroughly enjoyable main course I decided to go with a simple ice cream desert which was a nice way to finish off the meal
While the whole experience was not quite as extravagant or theatrical as Singapore Airlines, I found it a very enjoyable meal. After the meal I was feeling pretty stuffed so figured it was time to try out the seat in bed mode. So I asked one of the flight attendants to help prepare it and within a few minutes I had my huge bed in the sky ready for me:
Now I have to say as far as I am concerned this was the most comfortable seat I had experienced on any airline ever. While I have yet to try all the great products out there, I have done Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, British Airways and some other top first class products, and for pure comfort, this beat them all. And the ability to close the door for full privacy was a very nice addition. Both my wife and I settled back to watch a couple of movies from the extensive selection:
I found the bed exceptionally comfortable for both sitting, relaxing to watch TV and lying down. I didn’t really sleep too much, just kind of dozed a bit as it was a daytime flight, but it was very nice. And the “e-box” entertainment system was excellent with an extensive selection of movies, TV and music. Oh and the Maroon 5 and Fun! music was uncut unlike SQ’s PG13 versions 😉
At some point I went for a wonder around the plane – the Airbus A340-600 is one big, long plane so I figured would be nice to stretch my legs and walk the length. I didn’t get any snaps of the nice but cramped looking business class section but got one of coach which was less than half full – this would not have been a bad flight to be in coach with lots of empty seats to stretch into and the good entertainment.
After I got back I decided it would be nice to try one of the teas. There was a separate and highly extensive tea menu with some great choices. I went with the Arabian Mint with Honey which was absolutely wonderful. While I really love to try all the high end Champagne and fine wines, having a great selection of exotic teas for afternoon flights is just a real nice luxury.
The tea gave me a great opportunity to raid the little mini bar for candies to go with the tea:
As the afternoon whiled away we started getting close to the USA so it was time to have some dinner before the flight came in for landing
I decided to go with a pizza for my “dinner” choice – it was not a formal meal service but more just a dine-on-demand concept. The pizza was good, especially washed down with a nice Shiraz
After that and some more TV and it was soon time to land. We had an uneventful and ahead of schedule landing at JFK, and First class was properly de-boarded first. The importance of the Arabic guy in the suite next to us was highlighted by a large entourage of very official looking people at the door to meet him. And while on this trip we did not have Global Entry (my wife did her interview after we had passed through customs on this trip!) as green card holders we got lucky and got to go into an empty line, at which point we saw Mr Arabic being brushed through customs by half a dozen people. Anyway for at least the 13 or so hours of this flight we got to live that live of how the uber-wealthy get to enjoy 🙂
Overall I thought the Etihad First Class experience was exceptional. The suite was very large and comfortable and significantly more private than the open Singapore Airlines seat. I found the service courteous, efficient and friendly. It definitely was not as fussy or pampering as Singapore Airlines can be, but not everybody wants that. It was similar to Cathay Pacific than SQ and I know people have very different views on which they prefer. One thing is for sure though – they are all fantastic!
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