Airlines of the Middle East: Etihad
The past decade has heralded a transformation in air travel – the rise of Middle Eastern airlines has been an extraordinary story of rapid growth and expansion. Many of these airlines have revolutionised in-flight service and defined “best in class” product offerings. By raising the bar in service and quality on the ground and in the sky, travellers are reaping the benefits.
In this series we review each of the major airlines from the region and dish the goss on what they have to offer the flying traveller.
Hub: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Fleet size: 66
Blinked and you would’ve missed it. The emergence of Etihad on the aviation scene has been rapid and successful. Its focus on clever marketing and a modern attractive product for travellers has bought Etihad to the world stage. Its hub of Abu Dhabi has quickly become a tourist mecca which is quickly catching up to its neighbour Dubai as being the place to be and be seen – Etihad has no doubt been core to Abu Dhabi’s success story.
The airline has a network that spans the globe and like Emirates, its hub and spoke model allows most travellers to get to their destinations with only one stop.
On the ground
Like its Emiratea cousin, first and business class passengers are whisked to the airport in the relative comfort and privacy of a limo. At the airport, guests in the premium cabins and those with status are welcome to use the airlines lounge (though in some cities the airline uses partner lounges so the quality of each lounge may vary). The Abu Dhabi first class lounge is luxury at its finest with restaurant style food and beverage offerings, a champagne bar and a cigar room – why would you want to leave?
The business class lounges at Abu Dhabi however have a reputation for being overcrowded and mainstream in comparison to the first class offering, though as at the end of 2011 renovations were underway to expand these facilities.
All first and business class travellers are able to enjoy a massage treatment in the specially designed ‘Six Senses Spa’ facilities in some of Etihad’s lounges – and I can tell you that from experience these massage angels are welcome after a 14 hour flight.
Etihad Diamond First featured in our ‘7 Heavenly First Class Experiences‘ article.
Etihad brings bling to the skies with its first class suite – the closest I got to the suite was exiting the aircraft after a long flight from Sydney; I can assure you that the first product looks as good as the pictures.
Those lucky enough to be travelling in Diamond First will be fawned upon by gracious hosts and tempted with top shelf wine and sprits. The meals look fantastic and we can probably assume it tastes pretty good too. Guests in Etihad’s premium cabins can enjoy a ‘dine anytime’ service where they can order anything from the menu at any point of the flight.
Other perks include:
- 23 Inch Inflight Entertainment screen
- A seat that converts into a 6ft 8″ flatbed
- Private cabin with doors that close
- A large bathroom and ‘change room’
- Personal mini-bar
I flew with Etihad in business class to Europe last year and it was good but it wasn’t my favourite. The flatbeds (whilst nice) were too short and I was unable to stretch out my legs and I’m only 5ft 11″. This made for an awkward few flights and honestly I just couldn’t get comfortable. Since then the airline has started revamping the business class cabins so travellers can expect a more comfortable ride.
Like first class, the business class cabins get a great choice of food and wine and access to ‘Dine anytime’. The TV screens, whilst not as big as Diamond First, are 15″ and therefore good enough to watch a few movies on. The seats are arranged so that every seat has direct aisle access which is a nice feature because you don’t need to climb over your seat mate to get out. Check out more on the Etihad website here.
We had Diamonds and Pearls in the premium cabins and what does Etihad title economy? Coral! Yes – pretty to look at in the ocean, but not something you want to be sleeping on for a long haul flight. Etihad pumps in 10 seats abreast on its long haul 777 aircraft which makes for uncomfortable long haul flight. The benefits however include a 10.4″ seat-back screen that you can immerse yourself in whilst being ‘sardined’. Find out more about Coral Economy on the airlines website.
The entertainment screen size in all cabins are all a good size and the content available is generally extensive, but not as much as some other carriers like Emirates ICE system. Connectivity is good on Etihad with plugs and ports for most appliances and there is also a inflight internet facility on some flights. The Etihad website’s ‘Inflight Entertainment‘ page gives you the low down on what to expect.
The Etihad cabin line-up is certainly at the upper end of the market in terms of quality – the downside is Coral Economy but then again, what economy class is good these days? The airline is often having sales for their business cabin and therefore Etihad is often a cheaper way to experience business class. The other benefit of flying Etihad is the ability for passengers to stop over in Abu Dhabi (and for those with money to burn can stay at the Emirates Palace – a stunning property). Etihad puts a lot of focus on the premium cabins and economy therefore doesn’t get much attention, so my advice to all reading is to fork out the money for business class to ensure you get a more comfortable trip.
Have you flown with Etihad before? What did you think?
Read our other stories in this ‘Airlines of the Middle East’ series: