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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
I then unwrapped everything…
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.
Somewhere over the United Kingdom halfway during the flight, we received a paper bag which contained this:
It was purportedly a turkey sandwich.
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.
Here is a view of mountains covered with snow somewhere between Yerevan and Baghdad from the Landscape Camera:
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:
I then unwrapped everything…
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.
When the lights were dimmed aboard the airplane, mood lighting bathed the interior of the aircraft with a glow of color.
The mood lighting was at the windows in addition to the ceiling.
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…