As an American Airlines and OneWorld alliance frequent flyer (Executive Platinum) I was excited to try a different carrier for my trip to Abu Dhabi – Middle Eastern carriers are known to provide an incredible on board hospitality and I’ve heard endless of great things about Etihad Airways. How did I go about booking this trip? American Airlines has a codeshare partnership with Etihad Airways which means I am able to redeem my AA miles to fly Etihad Airways. Finding premium cabin availability is one of the hardest aspects though, because Etihad Airways doesn’t release much Guest award space and when they do, it is very limited. I had this trip planned for a while so I scored a Business Class seat award on the way out to Abu Dhabi – It cost me 67,500 AA miles with only $7 in taxes. The value of AA mile goes a long way and incase you are wondering – A paid ticket in Business class with Etihad Airways starts at $8,000 one way. So for $7, on a 17 hour flight, with a comfortable bed and a solid on board product I was in for a treat and the trip of a lifetime.
As a Premium cabin flyer Etihad Airways offers a complimentary door to door chauffeur service in Los Angeles and upon arrival into Abu Dhabi. I booked my chauffeur service once my ticket was ticketed. You will have to call Etihad Airways directly to book your chauffeur service and for security reasons they will ask you several questions. The day of the departure came around and upon waking up I noticed my flight was delayed out of Abu Dhabi which caused my flight to be delayed out of Los Angeles, so I went ahead called the chauffeur service and requested a later pick up of 1:30pm in the afternoon, making it to LAX at 2:00pm with plenty of time for my flight. Tip of advice: Always check your departure times specially when it’s an International flight. I was picked up on an CLS550 AMG Mercedes Benz and the driver was friendly and our drive was smooth into Tom Bradley International – LAX.
En route to Los Angeles International Airport.
Upon arrival into Tom Bradley I made my way to the check-in counter of Etihad Airways where a ton of the passengers were standing in line to check-in. As a Business Class passenger, the line to check in was empty and my wait time was short, just about 5-10 minutes to have an agent check me in. The agents upon check in were friendly and attentive, if I wanted to upgrade to First Class – It would have cost me $900 – though I wanted to experience Business Class since I already had a secure First Class seat on the way back from Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles. But for those wanting to upgrade from Business to First, that will be the cost to upgrade. I dropped off my bag which was complimentary to check and I was given my baggage ticket. I made my way towards Security and I went into the First and Business class passenger line, which again – it was empty though the security process was tedious and everything on me and my bag had to be opened and placed on the tray so it made the process much longer than usual. There is no TSA-Pre check at Tom Bradley even with my well known traveler ID Number.
After clearing security I made my way to the Star Alliance Lounge (Business Class) which is the lounge that Etihad Airways uses for their premium cabin passengers. The lounge was beyond crowded so I left my belongings there and went on a walk to enjoy the gorgeous Tom Bradley International Airport. After exploring the terminal I decided to visit my departure gate and so I could get familiar with my surroundings and make sure of where my gate was. As stated above, we were delayed and it was noted otherwise on the departure board of the gate.
Departure Gate to Abu Dhabi
After getting familiar with the area, I went back to the lounge for one hour to have a few refreshments and a quick bite to eat. The lounge had a great spread of food and drinks – though I didn’t eat much of it because I wanted to save my appetite for the flight because I knew I was in for something special while on board Etihad Airways. After the hour went by, I headed back out to my departure gate where my aircraft was just pulling into the gate coming in from Abu Dhabi so our new time of departure of 5:30pm was still standing to be our estimated time of departure.
Etihad Airways Boeing 777-200LR. My Ride to Abu Dhabi
Due that aircraft was coming in from a long haul flight, there was a lot that the ground crew needed to do, such as cleaning the plane, catering, security check and much more. Our time of departure pushed until 6:00pm, so our arrival into Abu Dhabi was going to be much later than expected. I was totally relaxed and didn’t mind much, at the end of the day it is a 17 hour flight once airborne so it doesn’t make much of a difference if we were delayed even more. After all the ground crew finished their requirements and the agents announced that we would begin boarding shortly. The boarding process started with families traveling with kids, once that finished – First and Business class passengers were next. Throughout the boarding process keep your passport on you at all times as they will most likely request to see it prior to entering and proceeding with the boarding.
Upon entering the aircraft I was greeted by the friendly cabin crew members – I couldn’t believe it I was finally aboard Etihad Airways and getting to experience their service. I made my way to my seat 6H which is the mini cabin and direct isle seat. I was pleased with my choice because these mini cabin have the tendency to feel like a private jet, so if you are looking for a great and comfortable seat, you should pick this one or if you want a window view seat you can select 5K.
Etihad Airways – Business Class (Seat 6H).
After getting settled in, the friendly cabin crew working my isle came by my seat to introduce herself and welcome me on board. I was playing around with the seat controls to get familiar with each feature that it offers. This product is solid and it offers an excessive amount of features such as: Different lighting modes, massages, reclining position of all angels and best of all and your E-box entertainment control right next to you. At my seat, there was a bottle of water waiting for me along with the on board pillow, blanket and on board menu for drinks and food, very well presented as well. Within your seat you will be able to charge your phone and connect your headsets to listen to music or watch movies throughout the flight.
The flow of cabin crews during the boarding process was fascinating as every single one of them was doing something prior to our push back. One of them was passing newspapers, other one was greeting the guest and the other one was preparing the pre-departure refreshments, after she finished preparing the drinks – she came by each seat to offer us orange juice or a glass of champagne. I selected the glass of champagne and it was perfectly chilled ;). Another crew member passed by the cabin and offered me a hot towel, which I usually use to refresh my face and or clean my hands.
Pre-Departure beverage – Champagne
Etihad Airways Hot Towel
As I was sipping to my champagne I started to browse the E-Box which is Etihad Airways entertainment system. I have an obsession with the flight paths so thats the first thing I clicked on the E-Box, as it also offers a tail camera and different modes for you to click on during the journey.
Once I finished my drink, the captain went on the PA to apologize for the late departure and that boarding was completed. He gave us some info of our flight time, route that we were taking towards Abu Dhabi and informed us that it should be a pretty pleasant flight for us. Our flight time was 16:55 minutes once airborne so it was an ultra long haul flight. Once he finished his announcement, the cabin crew did their announcements and the pre-take off prayer came on which lasted just a couple seconds – shortly after the security briefing came on as we began our push back from the gate. You gotta love an early evening departure out of LAX as all the whale jets and heavies are also beginning their long journey to their destinations. Our taxi into the runway took about 10 minutes or so and shortly after the captain announces “Cabin Crew, prepare for take off”. As we lined up, we were cleared for take off. It was a powerful take off out of Los Angeles and a smooth climb out.
Air show after take off
Once the cabin crew was given the green light to start their service, the friendly cabin crew member by the name of Marquetta came by my seat to drop off some hot nuts and refill my glass with more champagne. I couldn’t turn down such a thing so I had my fair share of champagne on board. Marquetta was one of those crew members who seemed to love her job and provided an unforgettable on board experience. Throughout that time I was enjoying the view and eating my hot nuts.
Etihad Airways hot nuts and champagne
The on board menu was extensive and it offered so much to eat that I didn’t know where to begin. Though I was craving something good yet simple. I will not spoil the menu on here, I want you all to experience this on your own when you are on board Etihad Airways but believe me, the choices were simply delicious and never ending. I like the concept that Etihad Airways offers in which you can request any meal you would like at anytime throughout the flight which is ideal – dine on demand style and the crew does an excellent job on accommodating your meal right away. So what did I have for dinner? Lets begin:
Starter, Dinner & Dessert choice with Etihad Airways
For my starter I ordered the Arabic Mezze which was absolutely delicious. A mix of cold and hot appetizers and it was super tasty. The hummus was one of my favorite things from the mezze because I am a hummus fanatic. The pita bread along with the rest of the meal was super tasty and I highly recommend ordering this dish since it’s a signature item for them on board. I was on my third glass of champagne and I requested a glass of red wine to wash down my main course meal.
Etihad Airways – Starter: Arabic Mezze
For my main course I ordered the lamb which was super tasty as well and everything else that it came with was just perfectly cooked. Throughout the meal service the cabin crew made their rounds to make sure everything was going ok, they were refilling my glass of wine and my glass of water, at the time I was finishing my last round of champagne until I decided that I was done drinking them for the remainder of the flight :).
Etihad Airways – Main Course: Lamb, carrots, potatoes and veggies.
For dessert I selected the chocolate mouse cake and again, If I could have more than what I had I would have order more of this. The desert was tasty and the chocolate drizzle on top made it even better. The mouse was not hot but yet cold which makes it even better and in my opinion that’s how a proper chocolate mouse cake should be. i was washing it down with my glass of red wine along with my water for a palette cleanser.
Etihad Airways – Dessert: Chocolate mouse cake
After finishing the great food that I had I searched on the E-Box for a movie to watch and selected a few old school movies that I would watch back in the day. The E-Box system on board offers a large selection of movies of all kinds so you won’t have a problem picking a movie, an overall great selection. The meal service took a little while because Business Class seemed to be pretty booked up, though since I was flying the mini cabin I couldn’t really tell what was happening back on the main cabin of Business. I stayed up for a little while watching movies and relaxing, as we began to cross the atlantic I decided that it was time to rest. Marquetta came around to drop me off my pajamas and make my bed. The Pajamas are super comfortable and stylish. I would recommend getting an extra size bigger than you normally wear.
After sleeping for about 4ish hours or so – I woke up pretty hungry and requested another dish to eat. This time I ordered the steak sandwich which is known to be one of the popular items for Etihad Airways, it took a little while for it to be done but it tasted amazing. I highly recommend having this dish when flying Etihad Airways. I didn’t pay much attention to the side dish and I was given some chips to along with, should have ordered french fries because they offer that on board as well along with other sides. For a refreshment, I ordered a fruit smoothie and some water. I was done drinking for the remainder of the flight.
Mid flight snack – Steak Sandwich with chips
After waking up and ordering my meal – I went ahead and turned on the E-Box system to check our current position of the flight and we were nearly on our final cross into the atlantic and approaching Europe. The journey was long but very pleasant. The bed in Business Class it’s very comfortable and the mattress they put helps as well. The cabin air temperature was cool throughout the flight.
I decided to watch a few more movies and from time to time I would check the flight path, we were approaching Belgrade at the time. the ride was a little choppy as we crossed Belgrade but nothing too intense. The seat belt sign was still turned off so we were freely to move around the cabin and use the lavatory. I also requested the Arabic lemon juice and it was pretty good though a little acidic so I had to sip it gradually.
On board refrehsment
Flying over Belgrade towards Abu Dhabi.
I then requested a croissant snack with another round of fruit smoothie – What else can you do on such a long flight? Sleep, watch movies, eat, eat, sleep, watch movies, eat, sleep. I caught myself doing that more than I can count. I was not in the mood to work throughout the flight as I wanted to enjoy the journey and enjoy the service and what they offer. The croissant platter was delicious and they were nice and warm. It took a few minutes and this was delivered by the Cabin Manager known as Richen, she was class act and super attentive.
Etihad Airways croissant snack
When finishing my snack, I decided to go back to bed and catch a few more hours of sleep. We had about 5 hours and 20 minutes to go until arrival into Abu Dhabi and I requested to the cabin crew to wake me up with 2 hours to go into Abu Dhabi and sure enough I was woken up with 2:02 hours for arrival. I normally like to be woken up 2 hours before arrival so I am able to eat with zero rush, change from pajamas to normal clothes, organize my briefcase and start getting things ready before arrival. The ride 2 hours out was getting pretty bumpy so the seatbelt sign was turned on and we couldn’t get up. Keep in mind when flying Etihad Airways and the seatbelt sign is ON you are required to stay seated, no exceptions as the crew really takes great pride on your safety and everyone else on board.
Throughout that time I requested a simple breakfast which was the yogurt with fruits and granola. I requested more of the delicious croissant that I had earlier on the flight, besides those two items a blueberry muffin was also placed within the pastry basket. The cabin crew asked me if I wanted anything to drink and I ordered apple juice.
Etihad Airways – Pre Arrival Meal
After breakfast, I decided to open up the window next to my seat so I could enjoy the sunset over the desert. Throughout this flight I saw the sunset twice, one after take off from Los Angeles and the second time was on approach into Abu Dhabi. The view was beautiful.
Sunset as we approach Abu Dhabi
One hour before arrival into Abu Dhabi the cabin crew will pass around the cabin and will be handing you the Fast Track card towards immigration. On my flight, the immigration documents were not handed and you collect those when you arrive in customs. Present your fast track card to the officer and he will direct you to the line where you should be. I am aware that Etihad will now be handing out the documents throughout the flight and i will find out if thats valid on my upcoming flight with them in September. Fast Track card are given to Business and First Class passengers only.
Etihad Airways Fast Track card
Our descent into Abu Dhabi was gradually smooth and we arrived into Abu Dhabi at 9:00pm. Our Taxi into our Gate took about 10 minutes and then walk towards immigration took about 10 minutes or so, not a very far walk from where we arrived.
Etihad Airways Business Class, Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi – Bottom line
Needless to say, this was one of the best trips I have been on. I can’t even describe how amazing the flight was in all aspects. Out of the hundreds of thousand of miles I’ve flown, Etihad Airways takes the cake for some of the best on board service and hospitality. You might think I am over exaggerating when I say this but I am not. it is one of those situations that you have to be there to experience it for yourself so you know what I am talking about. From the moment I boarded the aircraft i could immediately feel that it was going to be a great flight as the crew seemed to be enthusiastic, friendly and outgoing as they were willing to provide the best service possible.
The 17 hour journey from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi was flawless, yes it is a really long flight but when you are on board Etihad the flight really goes rather fast. The food was delicious and perfectly made. The crew really takes their time to advice you and recommend you certain dishes and drinks that will go well with your meals and thats exactly what Marquetta my cabin crew member did for me when I ordered my main course. She let me try a variety of wines until I was completely satisfied with what I wanted.
The Business Class seat, my seat was perfect and I super pleased with everything about it. The mattress they use when you want to sleep is thin but comfortable and it avoids those gaps you feel on the seat when you’re wanting to lay down. I got a few great hours of sleep between the flight. The pillow is comfortable and the settings on the bed were never ending. Personally one of my favorite features was the massage settings as it really gets the job done on releasing tension in your body.
Last but not least, the Entertainment – E-Box, The E-Box system was one of my favorite features on board as it offers hundreds of movies of all kinds (Action, romance, comedy and horror). Not only does it offer a great selection of movies but also a wide selection of music you can listen to from a variety of genre as well. The wifi on board is also super fast and works great and for $21 all flight with no restriction in usage is very economical, last but not least – the airshow was also one of my favorite features as it showed info on our flight and much more.
Overall, it was an incredible flight in all aspects and upon landing, I was already looking forward to my First Class flight back to Los Angeles (obsessing I know). But it was truly a one of a kind experience and being able to redeem my AA miles on this product that is worth thousand of dollars, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime.
Kudos to Etihad Airways for a great flight and a memorable experience, a job well done from the ground staff to the on board cabin crew.
If you have flown Etihad Airways before, how was your experience?