Etihad Business Class – EY403 – Bangkok to Abu Dhabi

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This is a flight review / trip report of my recent flight on Etihad EY403 in business class between Bangkok and Abu Dhabi. EY403 was the second leg of our journey between Australia and Europe and our first leg on Etihad.

I was interested in seeing how Etihad had changed since last flying with them a few years ago…

Date: August 2015
Dep: 08:40
Arr: 12:10
Aircraft: 777-300

Transit

As we had arrived in Bangkok at 3am after our flight from Sydney, and given that our onward flight to Abu Dhabi was leaving at 8.50am, we were in a bit of a pickle.

The Etihad transfer desk that we would need to use to get our boarding passes wouldn’t open until 6.50am, therefore we had to figure out how we were going to spend our time in this labyrinth airport. We wandered the long halls lined with duty free shops with tired, bored shopping clerks – it wasn’t an exciting experience at that hour of the day. There were a few passengers floating around, a number of them passed out on seats and benches throughout the terminal.

We were also curious how we would get access to the lounge, which opened at 4.30am, without having boarding passes for our Etihad flights. So once the lounge opened we bounced up to the gates with our fingers crossed and tried our luck.

Lounge

Etihad uses the Thai Airways Royal Orchid lounges in Bangkok, which is a shame as these lounges are spartan at best. However we weren’t so fussy after lurking around the lonely halls of the airport, so we marched up to the lounge desk to see how flexible or inflexible they would be about granting us access.

We flashed our first class boarding passes from our previous Sydney flight and our onward itinerary for our Etihad flights and hoped for the best. The lounge agent kindly pulled some strings to grant us access – I could’ve kissed the guy! By this stage we were quite disheveled and just wanted somewhere to sit down with WIFI access.

The lounge, in the E wing of the airport, is extremely basic. It was also very very busy at that time of the day with other weary travellers also looking for a place to rest before their journey. Seating was at a premium.

The food and beverage options are as basic as they come, and the quality of the food items was questionable. We were just lucky to find somewhere to rest before our next flight – we both later had a shower to freshen up. For the record – the shower rooms were in disrepair and very dirty.

Boarding

ey403 bkk auh business class 7 777 at bangkok

The flight was delayed by 40 minutes so we had even more time in the lounge than we wanted, so we went down to the gate a little early for a change of scene – we were immediately confronted with CHAOS. It was a bloody zoo so obviously this was a packed flight. Boarding was announced for business class passengers but there was no way to navigate through the crowds – so we just waited for our turn in the never-ending madness of the gate area.

First impressions

The flight today was on a Etihad 777-300 with a two class configuration with a large single business class cabin. We were greeted warmly by the cabin crew and it was clear that this would be a full business class cabin without a single spare seat.

My partner and I struck up a conversation with the F&B manager who was from Melbourne and we laughed about our odd itinerary of getting to London – why would we connect through Bangkok if we could travel on the A380 he mused. Anyway he gave us excellent service for this  flight and it goes to show that if you make an effort to get to know the crew you will be looked after.

ey403 bkk auh business class 1

We had the middle pair of seats AKA “the love bird seats” on this flight and it felt a little claustrophobic after our Thai flight (not surprising as we were in first class) but it would do. After previous flights with Etihad in the same seats, we were nervous about the cabin temperature – we find that these middle seats don’t get as much airflow compared to the single seats.

One thing that annoyed me with all our Etihad flights is that the inflight entertainment is switched off until after the safety demonstration – it can’t be used during the boarding phase of the flight which is where it’s needed most! Because Etihad tends to board early, often this can mean one hour of unresponsive IFE (and the magazines don’t hold my attention for long!)

Amenities

The new Etihad business class amenity pack isn’t as comprehensive as it has been before. It has been a few years since last flying with Etihad and back then the amenity pack was more substantial, however these days the pack has the basics and no-more – however thankfully there was lip gloss and hand cream which I used during the flight.

Pre-takeoff Service

We enjoyed a glass of champagne during the boarding process. The crew were running around dealing with the late boarding while also handing out drinks and newspapers to the cabin – it was very busy, however the F&B manager stopped past our seats to have another chat about our trip. It was nice to see him take some time with us during such a busy juncture of the flight.

During the delay the crew stopped past each seat and asked what we wanted to drink immediately after takeoff, along with our meal orders for the flight.

Post takeoff Service

The crew sprung into action shortly after takeoff – they were going to be busy today. As we had a personal connection with the F&B manager, we received fantastic service from him throughout the entire flight; he bought most of the wines past our seat for trying before we committed ourselves to a selection.

The white wines were unimpressive (the Dashwood sauvignon blanc can be bought from the bottle shop in Sydney for $12 – hardly a premium choice if you ask me) but the champagne served was not too bad considering I hadn’t heard of it before. The champagne selection on this flight was the Lallier ‘Grande Reserve’ NV that after a quick Google search brings up a price between $50 – $100. Not that bad really in terms of business class bubbles.

First off I received another glass of champagne and a bowl of warm nuts with a delicious mix of cashews and almonds. My partner opted for a gin and tonic.

ey403 bkk auh business class 3

Meal

Etihad provides a ‘dine anytime’ style to its meal service, which is fantastic and is where Etihad excels compared to its competitors – essentially you can order whatever you like from the entire menu, whenever you like. Passengers aren’t confined to normal service times and can choose when exactly they want to be fed and watered.

One thing that Etihad does not do well however is syncronising the meal service for those sitting in the middle ‘love bird’ seats. As the cabin is typically split in half in terms of meal service, often one side is served before the other side (to be fair it would be tricky to coordinate this however it is frustrating to not eat at the same time as your partner).

Thankfully the crews were well synchronised on this flight despite the full cabin and there was only a gap of about 10 minutes between my partner receiving his meal and mine.

We both ordered the Arabic mezze for entre and Etihad really excels with this menu stalwart. In the mezze is hommus, tabouli, domaldes and a lamb kofta with pita bread triangles – a really yummy start to the meal. Etihad also gives its passengers a warm bread with the meal with olive oil and butter.

ey403 bkk auh business class 4 arabic mezze

Next was a simple prawn salad before the main course.

ey403 bkk auh business class 5

My partner and I both selected the grilled Thai prawns option as the main and we weren’t disappointed – the prawns weren’t dry and were still succulent. The BKK catering team did a great job!

ey403 bkk auh business class 6 prawn main

We decided against a dessert or more wine as we were feeling quite full by this point.

Inflight Entertainment

I was excited to check out the inflight entertainment options and unfortunately I was a little underwhelmed – I had seen most of the titles previously and the selection of movies wasn’t huge. Further, some television shows only had one or two episodes rather than a full season or selection of episodes. The aircraft cameras weren’t working on this flight so I was flying blind, however the good quality inflight map made up for this.

Sleep

As we were feeling a little wary from our travels so far, we drifted in and out of sleep throughout the rest of this 6 hour flight, however the cabin temperature was again rather hot (this was a complaint from my previous flights with Etihad too). We questioned this with the crew and they explained that some passengers had complained that it was too cold so there was nothing they could do. Nevertheless, we managed to get a few small naps in.

Landing

Roughly 30 minutes before landing the crew prepped the cabin and we made our way down to Abu Dhabi. The crew provided small cards to connecting passengers with their onward gate number – a nice touch that helped us be more prepared for our short connection for our flight to London. We thanked the F&B manager for his excellent service.

Summary

The crew really made the difference on this flight – it could’ve easily gone the other way with such a packed cabin. The F&B manager was certainly a standout and was clearly in control of the cabin (a feature lacking in F&B managers on our other Etihad flights) with everything moving along nicely. The cabin temperature and the underwhelming amenity packs were a little sub-par for us, but overall this was a good flight.

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