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While I was hoping for a larger aircraft, this route would be operated by an A320-200. Boarding was done with 3 buses – not something I like since it makes embarkation overly-crowded and hectic. The 16 Business Class seats were all taken and Economy was full to the very last seat as well.
The color scheme isn't the best on these jets. It looks old and worn, but it wasn't so bad. It could have been worse.
If you flew Cathay Pacific's old Regional Business Class, then you know the seat. It's similar to US domestic First Class. The seat pitch is wide, but the recline is very limited.
The entertainment system is a small screen that comes out of the middle console. It looks old, but has the same E-BOX entertainment system you find on other Etihad flights.
Takeoff was late (despite boarding so early) and because of the ATC restrictions to fly over Iraq or Syria (or Israel), the flight would take 4 hours for just 1,500 miles.
While I understand a full cabin can pose challenges, the flight attendants seemed overwhelmed. It took 2 hours for lunch to show up. My bowl of warm nuts came without a drink. It really can't take 30 minutes to pour a glass of water in Business Class. The service was chaotic, with people using the call button to get any attention. I never used that button so often on ANY flight.
I'm sure the crew organization is a teething issue and Etihad has a lot of new crew members, but still, that should not happen.
Most of the cabin was filled with members from one group that had a strong urge to 'communicate' in a lively way throughout the cabin during the flight – not exactly helping the way to enjoy this flight. The group would not go through immigration, but were picked up at the gate later.
There was no in-flight internet on this flight.
My immigration was quick but accompanied by a long study of my passport stamps. For what reason, I did not know – I was seemingly put on a list of 'suspected spies for Israel' when coming in.
At my departure a couple of days later (to Doha) I was questioned hard for 15 minutes about my stay and activities in Beirut. The immigration agents had me on a 'list' and were waiting for me – my name was known before I even arrived at immigration. My passport was taken and I was 'interviewed' by the immigration agents.
One agent insisted that I worked for the 'military' and said I made frequent trips to Israel and Palestine. He had very specific questions about my itinerary in Lebanon and wanted to see proof of my activities there.
More agents showed up and left – it was back and forth until my passport was taken away…
While immigration (especially into the US) has been troublesome, this was the first time that happened to me in a country that does not pride itself on a high standard of following the law. While I had nothing to hide, I found the discussions highly troublesome and the fact that I was on a 'watch list' for departure unnerved me.
It is not illegal to go to Lebanon and report about your findings, but the fact that American passport holders seem to be automatically treated as 'spies for Israel' and led into long questions in a country where it's gonna be hard to get away from (since the rule is that law is more like a suggestion there) deeply worries me.
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