For all passengers in the United Arab Emirates, Etihad offers a free transfer to the airport, if pre-booked. For economy (Coral zone) passengers, this is in an air-conditioned bus, while for business and first (Pearl and Diamond) it is in a chauffeured car.
I was booked on the 0255 flight EY11 departure, and my car arrived at my hotel in Dubai at midnight on time. The journey was without incident, something of a relief after several days of white-knuckle trips along Sheikh Zayed
Road in Dubai
On entering Abu Dhabi International airport, all luggage goes through the X-ray machine.
There is a dedicated business, first and Etihad Guest FFP gold card holders’ check-in, and although in the past I’ve found that this has a
tendency to get congested quite quickly, it was free of any problems
this time. I was quickly checked in, walked through passport control
and then located the first-floor lounge, the entrance to which is
almost immediately to the left once you have cleared immigration. The
lounge is small, and was busy, though there were still plenty of places
to sit. There are three computer terminals with free internet access,
and seating areas divided into smoking (by the window overlooking the
runway), non-smoking, and (behind a screen) women-only. There is
attentive waiter service for drinks and snacks, and alcohol is served.
Flights are called from the lounge, and I listened as Kuwait, New York,
Jakarta and Johannesburg were called, before London Heathrow came
round. There is a further security check before boarding, with all hand
luggage going through another X-ray machine. After this we were quickly
boarded and I was shown to my seat.
Etihad’s new Diamond Zone Suite is as large as any in its class, and as
comfortable. Its unique selling point is that it rotates 180 degrees so
you can dine and chat with fellow passengers. However, although this is
the second time I have flown on it, I have yet to test this function,
since in my experience most passengers paying for a first class ticket
value their privacy above all else, and wouldn’t want me swivelling to
and fro in front of them. Besides, my seat was at the back of the
cabin, and so I would have revolved only to look at a wall.
The seats have several pre-settings allowing you to find the right position for
working/eating, sleeping, take-off and landing as well as the
fully-flat position. I noticed that one passenger’s seat was not
working properly, and was impressed that he accepted this with good
grace, despite the fact that he said it was the second time it had
happened to him out of four flights in first class. My own seat, in
fact, was slightly defective, and would not go fully flat, but the
slight undulation wasn’t uncomfortable and I slept well during the
THE FLIGHT Drinks, including Veuve
Clicquot 1996, were served before take-off. The wines later in the
flight were also excellent and included a white Puligny-Montrachet Les
Enseignères 2002 and a red Chateau la Garde 1999 Pessac-Léognan.
Interestingly, these wines were unchanged since I reviewed this service
some eight months ago (see Business Traveller, October 2006) –
testament to the buying power of the airline, perhaps, that they have
sufficient stores for this level of consistency. What has improved is
the amenity bag, which is large and has all the essentials, as well as
several Bulgari amenities. There was a good choice of food but of
course by the time we were in the air it was already 0300 local time
(and midnight at our destination). As usual as I fell asleep, I was
amazed to note that people were just starting to watch films and have
the food service. I had asked not to be woken for breakfast, but in the
event woke up anyway, and the crew were flexible in immediately
offering a choice of hot and cold options.
We landed on time (0740), despite circling Heathrow for 20 minutes, had
an air bridge waiting for us, and by the time we had walked to the
baggage carousel, the luggage was arriving. Etihad offers an onward
chauffeur service, but since the offices of Business Traveller are in
the centre of London, I walked to the underground and caught the
Piccadilly line to Green Park station.
VERDICT Excellent. Etihad has a world-beating first class product, and the service levels are consistently high.
PRICE Flights in Etihad’s Diamond Zone (first class) cost from £2,030 for a return fare.
CONTACT Tel +44 (0)870 241 7121, etihadairways.com.