On the Ground: I arrived at Abu Dhabi International Airport from Dubai in no time; I used the same driver for most of my trip, and we had become fast friends. At the airport, I was immediately met by a friendly ground agent and was whisked to the first-class check-in, as the business-class counter was busy. From here, I went through security and was soon shopping at the duty-free shops. Once I made all my purchases, I went into the business-class lounge and found a single seat where I could leave my roller bag next to me. The lounge was busy, as flights depart in every direction of the world at this hour. Etihad could use a significantly larger lounge based on the traffic I encountered. The lounge cuisine was tasty, and I made sure I had a little bite pre-flight.
I know Etihad has a separate boarding procedure for business class, but somehow I ended up behind a long line of economy-class passengers after we went through additional screening at the gate. This made for a long wait at the jetway.
Pre-Flight: I was seated in one of the “outer seats.” The cabin configuration staggers single seats so that they can recline to fully flat; consequently, every other seat is either closer to the window or closer to the aisle. My recommendation is to select a seat closer to the window, as this means you are less likely to be bumped by flight attendants walking the aisles, as was my case.
I was immediately offered a glass of Champagne, juice or water once I was situated in my seat, which was two rows from the economy bulkhead. Attendants distributed newspapers and magazines — no Global Traveler on board? — as well as business-class (Pearl-class) menus with many options for dining and snacks.
In-Flight: Besides recommending the window seat, I also recommend you stay as far as possible from the economy-class bulkhead, as this is where the bassinets hang for infant travel. During my entire flight, babies were crying, with little attention from their parents. As a parent myself, I am well aware children of this age cannot simply be placed in a bassinet for the entire flight of 10-plus hours. They must be periodically walked around the cabin; this was never done. Even with earplugs, I found sleeping impossible.
The seat is comfortable, but with my broad shoulders and over-6-foot height, it was a little tight. I found myself hanging out in the aisle slightly, causing the occasional flight attendant collision. This could have been resolved with the inner seat selection.
The onboard menu offered a vast selection, including Nile perch, apricot-stuffed chicken, lamb pot roast and vegetable lasagna. I selected the perch, which was tastefully prepared. I started the meal with a selection of Middle Eastern appetizers. I skipped the dessert in favor of time to sleep but did have a snack from the extensive menu. The cheese platter was nice and not overly heavy. An extensive list of premium wines and spirits includes Drappier Brut Blanc de Blancs and Glenlivet 12-year-old single malt scotch.
The Experience: Overall, a little seat manipulation prior to my departure would have made this a perfect flight.
- Less than 10 minutes for check-in
- Friendly and helpful agents
- Priority-tagged bags
- Airport lounge
- Complimentary in-lounge food
- Priority boarding
- Helpful and courteous flight attendants
- Pre-flight beverage service
- Pre-flight newspapers and magazines
- Extensive on-demand menu
- Self-serve in-flight pantry
- Amenity kits
- Lie-flat seat/bed
- Mattress and comforter
- In-flight menu with three entrée choices
- Top-shelf wines and liquors
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