Etihad Airways: My First Flight

A fter escaping the predicted snowstorm in Atlanta — and successfully bypassing a ground stop as a result — I found myself in Terminal 4 of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Fortunately for me, Delta Air Lines and Etihad Airways both use Terminal 4 for their operations, which turned out to be quite convenient for me: no transfers between terminals; no chance of having to go through the airport security checkpoint; no having to go outside in the cold weather.

I have heard good things about Etihad Airways; and this is the first time I fly on an airplane operated by that airline as a passenger. I walked up to the counter at the gate when it opened — I found it mildly ironic that the previous flight at that gate was operated by El Al — and had absolutely no problems checking in for my flights to Johannesburg via Abu Dhabi. I received my boarding passes within minutes. I then went to sit down in a chair at a gate opposite the one being used by Etihad Airways.

As I sat there, a man in his late 50s started talking to me.

“Where are you headed?” he asked.

“Johannesburg”, I replied.

He looked at me momentarily like I was an orange Martian with three arms.

“That’s a long way to get there”, he said.

“It works for me.”

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Pakistan”, he said.

“Are you originally from there?” I asked because he clearly looked Pakistani but spoke with a New York accent.

“Yes; but I moved to New York many years ago — and this damn accent gives it away.”

We laughed.

“So where are you from?” he asked.

“New York”, I replied.

“So you are going all the way from your home in New York to Johannesburg through Abu Dhabi?!?” he asked with a puzzled look on his face.

“No — I started in Atlanta.”

“I thought you said you were from New York?!?” he asked quizzically.

“I am, originally; but I am currently based in Atlanta.”

Despite having a good sense of humor, I think he thought I was nuts. He would be far from the first person to think so — especially with the way I travel.

We chatted a little more until it was time to board the aircraft; and I found out that he took advantage of the Christmas Day airfare mistake which Etihad Airways honored. He wanted to book another; but he was so happy that he even was fortunate enough to book one. He then said, “I’ll catch you aboard. Maybe we will go raid the bar together.”

I did not have the heart to tell him that I did not drink. The way I travel would drive anyone to drink, I suppose. Heck — telling people how I travel seems to drive them to drink. Anyway, I never did see him again aboard what became a full economy class cabin inside of the Boeing 777-300 aircraft operated by Etihad Airways.

Although passengers were being boarded by zones, there was a long line to board anyway; but it moved fairly quickly.

I then approach my seat; and some goodies were awaiting me.

Awaiting me in my seat is a blanket, headphones, an amenity kit, and a pillow which you are encouraged to tear up that middle slot so that you may wear the pillow around your neck. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Awaiting me in my seat is a blanket, headphones, a small amenity kit, and a pillow which you are encouraged to tear up that middle slot so that you may wear the pillow around your neck. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The seat was reasonably comfortable; although the flat cushion of the seat could use a little more padding. I was not exactly thrilled about the angle of the lower half of the seat. It reminded me somewhat of the seat I experienced on an airplane operated by Alitalia several months ago during my unintentional trip around the world — yes, I still have more trip reports from that trip to post — but it was not nearly as uncomfortable.

These noise-cancelling headphones came in quite handy when there were a could of children crying aboard the aircraft. The sound was great when playing the music from my portable electronic device. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

These noise-cancelling headphones came in quite handy when there were a could of children crying aboard the aircraft. The sound was great when playing the music from my portable electronic device. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

This blanket was freshly laundered, according to the plastic bag in which it was sealed. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

This blanket was freshly laundered, according to the plastic bag in which it was sealed. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I then noticed the back of the seat in front of me. I was pleased that it was equipped with many features, as explained in the captions of the photographs below.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The back of this seat was equipped with a large monitor with controls; a retractable control unit; a retractable coat hook; an electrical outlet which accepts multiple formats; a USB port; what appeared to be a port for a RJ45 jack; and a bizarre port supposedly used for an Apple iPod device. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The seat was also equipped with a cup holder. The tray table folded in two before locked in its stowed position. Also included in this photograph is a closer view of the universal electrical outlet and the bizarre port for an Apple iPod device. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I did not like the tray table because items kept sliding off of it for some reason. I was unsure why. Could it have been the angle when it is completely opened flat? Was the surface too smooth? Whatever was the reason, the tray table was not convenient to use.

There is an extra mesh pocket attached to the typical seat pocket for extra storage. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

There is an extra mesh pocket attached to the typical seat pocket for extra storage. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The first meal then came. Before I began this trip, I looked at the special meal options offered by Etihad Airways; and among the choices was seafood. Yes! It has been a long time since I had last seen that meal option; and I had the forethought to order it before my trip.

Here is the printed menu with a choice of three meals for passengers seated in the economy class cabin:

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The special meals are served well in advance of the regular meals, so I was amongst the first to receive a meal. The problem is that because the drinks are served with the regular meals, I finished my meal long before I had the option to order a drink.

This is how my meal was presented to me — and I apologize in advance for the poor lighting conditions:

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I then unwrapped everything…

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

My special seafood meal consisted of salmon with rice; smoked salmon as an appetizer; crackers and cheese; a roll which came later; and apple crumble cake for dessert. It was quite good, actually. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The salmon was moist yet flaked nicely. I would have liked to have a crusty roll with the smoked salmon, which was slightly tough but good. A few sprigs of the bed of greens on which the smoked salmon rested were turning brown; but that would be my most significant criticism of this meal.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Somewhere over the United Kingdom halfway during the flight, we received a paper bag which contained this:

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

It was purportedly a turkey sandwich.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The roll was far more appealing to me; so I scraped out whatever was inside of the sandwich and ate the roll.

There are many options with the in-flight entertainment system — so many that because I fell asleep during much of the flight, I was not able to try them all. One thing I did like was that there were two cameras with live feeds of the outside during the flight which you can watch.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

You have a choice of viewing the flight map several different ways; viewing the landscape camera of the topography below the airplane live during flight; viewing the forward camera of whatever was ahead of the aircraft live during flight; and viewing connecting gate information if you are connecting to another flight. Information at the lower right of the screen updates you with information pertaining to the flight in real time. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Here is a view of mountains covered with snow somewhere between Yerevan and Baghdad from the Landscape Camera:

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Being assigned to an aisle seat, I thought this was pretty darn cool. This does not, however, replace the actual view from a window seat, as I have expressed my thoughts far more clearly here pertaining to windowless aircraft.

The final meal came 90 minutes before the conclusion of the flight. Again, it was a special seafood meal. This is how my meal was presented to me:

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I then unwrapped everything…

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

My special seafood meal consisted of what seemed to be a fish curry with rice and stewed mixed vegetables; two large shrimp as an appetizer; and an American KitKat chocolate bar for dessert. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The meal did not look very appetizing at all; but do not let the appearance fool you — the meal was far more delicious than it looked. There was a moderate heat in the spice of the meal; and the tomato and other flavors were quite full and rich. The fish was in large, moist chunks; and the bland rice complemented the flavorful stewed vegetables well.

I wrote that the meal came with an American KitKat chocolate bar because everywhere else in the world, KitKat is by Nestlé; but for some reason, KitKat is by Hershey’s in the United States. I have heard people prefer the Nestlé version over the Hershey’s version.

Also, please excuse my ignorance; but I thought that Halal dietary laws — under which is how the meals were prepared for Etihad Airways — were similar to Kosher dietary laws; so I did not expect to see shellfish as part of the meal. I am certainly not an expert on Halal dietary laws, which is why my knowledge on them is limited.

It was nice to see the connecting gate information.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

When the lights were dimmed aboard the airplane, mood lighting bathed the interior of the aircraft with a glow of color.

Mood lighting dimly lit the cabin in all of the colors of the rainbow. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Mood lighting dimly lit the cabin in all of the colors of the rainbow. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The mood lighting was at the windows in addition to the ceiling.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

All in all, I enjoyed my experience as a passenger aboard Etihad Airways. While I did not exactly cavort in The Residences or Apartments or anything like that — this aircraft was not equipped with them anyway — this is one of the better economy class cabins I have ever experienced.

The lavatories located in the center of the economy class cabin were significantly more spacious than those typically found in the economy class cabins of airplanes operated by other airlines. Moreover, they contain hand sanitizer for those who are inclined to use it.

Between the in-flight entertainment, the amenities and the meals, there is certainly enough to keep a person busy on a flight whose duration was greater than eleven hours — that is, if the person does not fall asleep. One of my few minor criticisms includes that flight attendants were not very proactive about collecting refuse from passengers — I had a collection of plastic cups going at my seat until the remnants of the final meal were taken away. There was not as much food served as was on this flight operated by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines from Amsterdam to Seoul. The USB port at my seat did not seem to work — not that I needed it anyway. Service was polite and somewhat attentive but not as warm as experienced on at least one other airline. The aisles were quite narrow.

If you plan on being a passenger in the economy class cabin of an airplane, my first experience suggests that Etihad Airways is a top choice. One other tip: although the other meals appeared to be all right, choose the seafood meals in advance. I was glad I did…

…but what about my second experience on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Johannesburg? I intend to report about that in a future trip report…

11 thoughts on “Etihad Airways: My First Flight”

  1. BK says:

    Thanks for the review….I wondered how the economy ride was

  2. JMR says:

    That bizarre iPod port you’re talking about, is that the EmPower-port? That’s not specific for any device: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EmPower_%28aircraft_power_adapter%29

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I forgot all about EmPower, JMR. Thank you for jogging my memory, as I had never owned one.

      What was that from — like the early 1990s?!?

      The text on the screen was written in a way that it sounded like a special port for the Apple iPod…

      …and there I am scratching my head, wondering why I could not connect it to the in-flight entertainment system even though there is a USB port available…

  3. HY says:

    Any suggestions on how to get EY to credit my miles on AA. I flew them a month ago and made sure they have AAdvantage number in there for flights from CMB-AUH-LAX, but nothing is posted. Thank you for advise!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Sorry, HY, but you will not receive credit for the transatlantic portion of your itinerary:

      Travel ticketed as an American Airlines marketed flight (booked as an AA codeshare flight number) and operated by Etihad Airways (including travel between New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington Dulles and Toronto to Abu Dhabi) will earn AAdvantage base miles and elite qualifying miles, points and segments according to the AA earning structure.

      http://www.aa.com/i18n/AAdvantage/earnMiles/travel/airlines/etihad.jsp

      …and I believe that transatlantic flights operated by Etihad Airways are marketed by American Airlines with a codeshare flight number.

      As for the CMB-AUH portion, I would just contact them; but I might wait just a little longer. Etihad Airways is not known to always respond immediately to customer service inquiries…

  4. baccarat_guy says:

    Interesting report. I was curious about the economy class configuration. Was the 777-300 a comfortable 3-3-3 configuration? I know that Emirates (or at least I “think” they do) has a 3-4-3 configuration on their 777s which is horrible. I do believe that a few other airlines such as Air Canada do this, and United is contemplating such a move. AFAIK, Delta is still a “comfortable” 3-3-3.

    Funny you should mention seafood meals, I last recall ordering one of those (in economy) on TWA. They were always quite good, and always had some form of smoked salmon.

    Regarding Halal, from my limited knowledge, the similarities to Kashrut parallel rules regarding pork and ritual slaughter. Though there are some additional/different rules with regard to Halal acceptable meat. I do not believe there are any issues with regard to seafood for those who “keep Halal,” and of course there is a the alcohol prohibition which is definitely not part of Kashrut.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      The seating configuration aboard the Boeing 777-300 aircraft operated by Etihad Airways is 3-4-3, baccarat_guy; although there are a couple of rows which are an exception due to the narrowing of the body of the airplane, such as the last row as an example where there are only two seats by the window. On the Airbus 330 aircraft, the seating configuration is 3-4-3 — but I had not written that trip report yet.

      I was actually okay in my seat. I did not feel claustrophobic or anything like that for greater than eleven hours.

      Thank you for pointing out more details about the differences between Halal and Kashrut.

  5. Jonathan Wolman says:

    Sure beats BA with the meals and expanded entertainment/mapping. BA was 3/3/3 which was comfortable. Not nearly the same comfort of having noise cancelling headphones though, or the charging at the seat in coach.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Is British Airways the airline which you used to get to India, Jonathan Wolman?

  6. Elena-MuslimTravelGirl says:

    You are my hero seriously. 11 hours in economy I am not sure how I can manage and stay sane. Last time I did 9 back from BACON and also drove me insane. I was thinking of booking a flight with Etihad so it might not be too bad.

    Regarding Halal, seafood is Halal for Muslims, anything from the sea is OK. Majority of Halal is regarded to meat and how it is prepared and slaughtered.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Eleven hours in the economy class cabin is not my record, Elena-MuslimTravelGirl.

      I flew 13 hours as a passenger on a flight operated by Delta Air Lines from Atlanta to Tokyo.

      However — during my unintentional trip around the world a few month ago — my longest flight as a passenger seated in the economy class cabin was from Shanghai to New York on an airplane operated by China Eastern Airlines, clocking in at less than 15 hours.

      I intend to post about that flight in a future article at The Gate

      …and thank you for the information pertaining to seafood deemed as Halal.

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