Before I begin Today’s coverage – Be sure to visit the following links for more information about my recent trip to Abu Dhabi.
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN ABU DHABI
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi
- Heritage Village Traditional Oasis
- Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi
- Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
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. Being flexible about your travels is the key to score an award in premium cabin, at the time of booking I was very flexible so I asked the agent to find me the first date in the month of June where Etihad Airways has award space open for Guest, he found a First Class seat on June 15 and I went ahead to book it. Keep in mind this is an award, so I used 90,000 AA miles and only $40 in taxes. Incase you are wondering – A paid ticket in First class with Etihad Airways starts at $20,000. So the value of American miles is very good so spend those miles wisely and be flexible when wanting to fly Premium Cabin. Once my reservation was ticketed, I requested my seat by calling Etihad Airways.
Etihad Airways – First Class (Seat 2k).
As a Premium cabin flyer Etihad Airways offers a complimentary door to door chauffeur service. I requested my chauffeur service once I saw my reservation 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. My departure time from Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles was at 9:10 in the morning, I requested my chauffeur to pick me up at 5:00 am at Le Meridien Abu Dhabi and promptly at that time my driver was waiting for me on a Audi A6. He was friendly and attentive. The drive took a little while into Abu Dhabi International Airport. The drive was smooth and safe, we arrived to the airport around 6:30am and as a First Class passenger, I have my own dedicated check-in area, where I was greeted by the staff taking care of my belongings. For privacy reasons and respect to the employees I did not take any photos of the Check-In area as there was several ground staff on duty and fellow guest.
The check-in experience was smooth and I was shortly on my way to clear customs, where my passport was checked by the security officer. My boarding pass had the SSSS which meant I was in for a secondary screening throughout U.S pre-clearance. After a brief walk I arrived at the Etihad Airways First and Business Class Lounge.
Etihad Airways Lounge Bar
Upon arrival to the lounge I was greeted by the friendly agents and was given the password for the Wifi. The lounge was brutally crowded and by the time I arrived 7:20, my time at the lounge was cut short due that I needed to make my way to U.S Pre-Cleareance. The lounge was beautiful, offers a variety of comfortable and spacious sitting and the spread of food and refreshments was extensive. The staff working the lounge were responsive to accommodate your needs and wants. The staff went far and beyond to make your time at the lounge comfortable making sure that everything was running smoothly.
One great perk of visiting the lounge was visiting the “Six Senses Spa” where as premium cabin flyer, I can request a complimentary 15 minute massage or a SHAVE. I selected the massage option because you can’t go wrong with one before an ultra long haul flight.
Six Senses Spa – Etihad Airways Lounge
The spa was crowded but my wait time was only about 10 minutes – Most of the passengers coming in were requesting shower rooms, so if you would like to take a shower before departure, I would recommend doing that when you first arrive as its one of the most popular request along with massages. I requested the deep tissue massage and throughout my wait I was given ginger tea to relax, which was delicious yet a bit too strong ;).
After an incredible 15 minute massage by the friendly therapist – I left the lounge and made my way to the the U.S pre-clearance around 8:00am – Due that i had a secondary screening I wasn’t sure what to expect. Once I arrived to the immigration area I saw there was a line for First/Business passengers and a line for economy, that was a big relief because it made the process less tedious. I then proceeded to an agent to check my boarding pass and passport and I was directed to the secondary security screening in which is completely separate from the rest of the security lines. After about 10 minutes or so, It was my turn to get searched, no questions were asked but everything on me and my bags had to be opened and shown to the officer as they placed each item on the tray to get it checked – the process was hassle free and I was on my way to continue the pre-clearance process. I then arrived to the U.S pre-clearance section where I showed my U.S passport to the officer, he was friendly and shared how he has enjoyed living in Abu Dhabi, it took matters of minutes to get my passport checked and the officer wished me a safe ride.
Once I cleared I didn’t have much time to spend at the lounge due that my flight was already boarding – Economy passengers and families traveling with kids were already boarding the aircraft. I noticed there was another Etihad Lounge at the terminal where i stopped by briefly, the friendly agent advised me that she would let me know when to head out to the gate and to enjoy a refreshment. The lounge was rather small but well kept. The waiters on duty were also very cool and attentive, they asked me if I wanted anything to drink and I requested a cappuccino and arabic lemon juice, within minutes – It was on my table.
Pre-Departure beverage at the Etihad Airways Lounge
After 10 minutes at the lounge, the agent stopped by to let me know it was time for me to head out to the gate. The gate was close to the lounge and a quick short walk from it and within 5 minutes I arrived. I showed my boarding pass and passport and I was escorted into the jet bridge to board Etihad Airways 171 bound for Los Angeles, the agent wished me a great flight and once aboard I was greeted by the Cabin Manager named Dufferin and the friendly chef. I was escorted to my seat 2K. The First Class cabin aboard Etihad Airways is beautiful and spacious.
Diamond First Class – Etihad Airways
A view from my seat into the First Class cabin.
While I was waiting, the chef came by my seat to introduce himself and welcome me aboard. He also notified me that our flight time was going to be 15 hours and 25 minutes and we were going to have a good tail wind for the flight according from the captain. He offered me some champagne and I gladly accepted as the boarding process was still going. At the time, I was getting familiar with my cabin prior to the flight.
Etihad Airways First Class – Welcome goodies
Once the boarding ended – The captain came on the PA to welcome us all on board EY171 to Los Angeles. He informed us our flight was going to be 15 hours and 25 minutes as the cabin manager previously mentioned to me. He stated that our flight was going to be a little bumpy to start but it would smooth out later in the flight. He also informed us of the current weather in Los Angeles and the route of flight we would be taking.
Shortly after the captain came on the PA again to let us know that we would be having a delayed push back out of Abu Dhabi due to air traffic control, so after 35 minutes of waiting at the gate, we finally pushed back. At the time the pre-take off prayer played and then the security briefing started.
View before Take off
And finally, we were off. Our take off felt powerful and our climb out was rather bumpy. The view from Abu Dhabi after take off was beautiful as a mix of desert and sea was seen from above. Shortly after take off the crew advised us to stay seated until the captain informed them that we were able to get up around the cabin. The climb out continue to get bumpier and I was just relaxing in my seat until we reached our initial cruising altitude of 30,000 feet.
View after take off from Abu Dhabi
After 30 minutes, we were able to get up around the cabin and use the lavatory, etc. The friendly crew walked to my seat and offered me another glass of champagne and I accepted it. Along with the glass of champagne a few signature snacks from Etihad were also on the tray for example: Olives, crackers and nuts, solid presentation by Etihad.
After take off refreshment
Just like I mentioned on my previews trip report flying Business Class from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi – I will not spoil the First Class menu and what it has, I will leave that up to you all to discover. Though I will share with you the dishes I had which were simply delicious. The First class menu was incredible and everything you can think of is offered, dining on demand style which is also my favorite type to dine on a ultra long haul flight. The chef recommended me several items and I simply said, surprise me. He took on the challenge and I was in for a treat. Throughout that time my table was being set up by Anna, who was the cabin crew responsible of my isle and she was a sweetheart.
It was time to eat, so lets begin covering what I had for lunch. 😉
Etihad Airways – Lunch Table set up
I was still enjoying my chilled champagne and a glass of water. I had ordered a glass of red wine but that was saved for the main course.
Within a few minutes of my table being set up, the chef came around my seat to offer me a Vietnamese roll that was delicious where he used a special souse to drizzle it on top for extra flavor, very tasty.
After having the vietnamese roll, I was then given a strawberry sorbet as palate cleanser and it was super tasty.
Now for the main course, are you ready? The main course was delicious. Prior to the chef working on my meal he came by to ask me for suggestion, I mentioned “Steak sounds great right now, could we make that happen please” and he goes “No problem Mr.Carter, we can do that.” He also went ahead and prepared me some mash potatoes, mushrooms, broccolini and a delicious well done steak along with my glass of red wine. The meal was cooked to perfection and it couldn’t have been any better. He did an excellent job and this is exactly what I had in mind. Something tasty, easy on the stomach and simple. The crew would walk often around the cabin to make sure everything is ok and to refill my glass of water and wine. The attention to detail by the cabin crew doesn’t go unnoticed and their passion to deliver an incredible service shows.
For desert, I selected the desert trio which consisted on chocolate mouse cake, cheesecake and a muffin. All of it was delicious, specially the chocolate mouse cake. I highly recommend ordering the trio since you will be able to get a taste of all their deserts that are showcased on the menu.
After finishing my desert, I requested a cup of tea. I wasn’t expecting to get what they brought me but I couldn’t pass up having a whole big jar of tea while watching a good movie. It was a ton of tea and I was truly enjoying it. It was my typical tea time hour but at 30,000 feet over the desert. Gotta love flying, the tea took about 5 minutes to be delivered to my seat. The presentation of the tea was beautiful and you will also get some cubes of regular and brown sugar, as per usual – I selected the brown sugar.
Tea time at 30,000 feet
After the feast of food that I had – It was time to catch some sleep. I asked Anna for pajamas and for her to make my bed. She proceeded on getting me my pajamas and I went to change while she was making my bed. I recommend you all to get a size bigger than what you normally wear as they tend to run a little small. I asked for a size large pajamas and it was the perfect fit. Within a few minutes, my bed was made and a bottle of water was placed to stay hydrated throughout the journey. It was my first time trying Etihad Airways First Class bed and as soon as I laid down it felt like I was floating since I could no longer feel the seat, the mattress was comfortable and the pillows were just right. I was ready for a few good hours of sleep, I went to bed with 13 hours to go until arrival. The bed is spacious and it is the only bed in the sky that I am able to sleep on my side with zero discomfort. I closed the doors of my suite and I was off to dreamland.
Etihad Airways – First Class bed
After 5 solid hours of sleep aboard on Etihad comfortable bed – I woke up sort of hungry, I opened the doors of my suite and Anna came around to ask me if I wanted anything to eat. I requested the steak sandwich with a side of green salad, it is one of my favorite dish on Etihad. I fixed my seat to the upright position so they could get my table ready to go. We had 8 hours to go into the flight and the ride was going smooth while the seatbelt sign was turned off at the time. As I mentioned, dining on the demand is the way to go, you can request all you want and the cabin crew will accommodate your request. As I was waiting for my food, I selected a movie to watch on the E-Box which is Etihad entertainment system. I keep the alcohol intake to a minimum during long haul flights, I usually splurge with a few cups of wine or champagne in the first hour of the flight and shortly after I transition to water or apple juice.
Mid flight Snack – Steak sandwich
You may be wondering what are some of the seat features on Etihad suite in Diamond First Class? The seat features are incredible and the amount of great amenities it offers are unique, dedicated to make your ride even better and more relaxing. Which I will share with you down below, step by step.
Seat Control Features – Etihad Airways first class
Select your language of choice to proceed.
Shortly after selecting, the following message comes up
Seat Massage – It is touch screen, so by a touching the particular area of the seat its where you will be getting the massage.
If you would like to fix your seat position throughout the flight – This is where you will be able to select how you want to be seated. Recliner mode, bed, dining, etc. Again, by touching the screen and selecting what you want – the seat will do the rest. Effortless and simple to use.
On this particular screen you is where you can manage the amount of lights in your suite. Keep in mind there is a large amount of lights and you will be able to dim the lights according to your liking.
After having my snack and getting a pretty good inflight massage – I was ready to get more sleep, at the time Anna went on break and the chef offered to make my bed and I was off to get some sleep. I told the crew that I would most likely be waking up two hours before arrival. The flight was going great and the ride continued to be super smooth, perfect timing to sleep. I closed the doors of my suite again and off to rest. With 7 hours and 30 minutes until arrival into Los Angeles.
After sleeping 5 hours of the flight – As expected, I woke up with 2 hours before arrival into Los Angeles and decided to have my pre-arrival meal which was considered breakfast. So I requested to Anna that I wanted scrambled eggs, mushrooms, hash browns and sausage, I was also given a bit of green salad which was a great addition. Aside from the big breakfast dish, a fruit platter was also delivered with a glass of orange juice. Now this is what I call on board service and presentation. A solid pre-arrival meal to fuel me. The presentation as you can see is flawless and you can’t expect anything less from Etihad. Anna and the chef would walk to check up on me and refill my orange juice.
Etihad Airways – Pre arrival meal
And for some more energy – I requested a cappuccino which came with a strawberry and a signature pastry. While I was drinking my cappuccino we were 50 minutes out from Los Angeles and slowly but surely I started to pack my belongings prior to landing into Los Angeles.
As we hit the 30 minute mark the captain came on the PA to give us some information and to thank us for flying Etihad Airways. The ride couldn’t have been any better as we barely hit any bumps throughout the journey aside from the initial bumps we hit after take off from Abu Dhabi. The sun was shining in the California coast and gradually we began our descent into Los Angeles.
California coast during our descent
Landing view into Los Angeles
Etihad Airways First Class Experience – Bottom line
Needless to say, this was by far the best trip I have taken from all the hundreds of thousand miles flown. Etihad Airways on board product and on board hospitality is simply incredible. The crew couldn’t have been any better as they really delivered the best on board service. Frequent visits to my seat asking me if everything was ok and making sure that I have everything that I need. The seat itself was beyond comfortable specially when in bed position. The flight was 15 hours long and to be honest, I wish it could have been longer as I didn’t want the flight to end.
The food on board was one of the best food I have had on a plane. The chef truly cares about making sure your dining experience is the best. He focuses on meeting your needs and wants so there is no issues and you are satisfied with your email. The on board amenities such as pajamas and amenity kit was perfect and everything I needed was in it.
There is a big difference between Business and First class as far amenities and overall experience and I am glad I was able to experience both cabins with such a prestigious airline, a World leading carrier within the Middle East. I encourage you all to fly Etihad and try this product, you won’t be disappointed. I am already looking forward to my 3rd flight with Etihad from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi on September 17, where I will be flying premium cabin once again. 49 days and counting.
If you have flown Etihad First class before, how was your experience?