I had used 30,000 American Airlines miles pre-devaluation for this one-way from Dublin to New Delhi via Abu Dhabi in Etihad Business Class. Etihad runs a combination of A330 and 777W planes on this route and as luck would have it, I got a 777.
My chauffeur showed up right at the agreed time and was as courteous as possible. This courtesy on this morning would not extend to check-in or security. The Swissport agent was clearly not in her best mood and she could not manage to smile or say anything besides what was absolutely necessary. Oh well. However, the Fast Track security had an equally tough morning and my bag (which had just gone through 20 countries with the exact same content) would be screened and screened again. Nevertheless, it would not turn into another SSSS adventure – I’d had enough of those SSSS security checks last year.
Etihad has its own business class lounge in Dublin and it’s modeled much after the Etihad Business Class Lounge in London. It has the same color scheme and the same lounge seating and restaurant seating. The lounge attendants were all super-friendly and worked hard on stemming the tide of passengers who all appeared at short notice.
The business class cabin would be at full capacity for the later flight, with 28 passengers, and I’m sure the odd status passenger had access too.
The 777 is in a 2-cabin layout – an (aging) business class and economy class; there is no first class. My seat choice wasn’t the best – I had a middle seat that opened up into the aisle. It’s a bit like Swiss Business Class – each seat has a different config and is either sheltered or opened up a lot into the aisle. There would be one window seat left after boarding and I switched right away. The seat and surrounding area felt so much more spacious – almost like the mini-suites of Cathay Pacific.
The seat is equipped with power and USB connections.
The seat is also equipped with the standard Etihad E-BOX system, which has a ton of entertainment loaded. However, the screen is far away and rather small – it’s a generation behind modern systems now. So is the remote – it all works but it is just a bit too old.
There was less than 100 feet of taxiing, as we had parked literally at the end of the runway. We took off into the windy Dublin skies and then lunch service started right away. My favorite choice, the chicken biryani, was not available anymore (I was almost the last person to be asked) so I was left with the salmon entree, which had a tomato confit.
I was expecting the starters to come out automatically but they were ‘a la carte’ as well. The flight attendant offered to serve them after lunch. The salmon was OK, just VERY salty and there wasn’t much taste left because of the dry and thin air. And just after the main course, the appetizers arrived but the Arabic mezze and the prawns were just bite-sized. I did not like the mezze, but I thought the prawns and salmon were decent (just small).
The dessert came out quickly too, along with an espresso. Both were pretty terrible. A bitter espresso with no coffee taste and an apple crumble that tasted like it had come from the ‘past due’ rack at Starbucks. I feel I’d had better meals on United Business Class (which is really a low bar).
I asked the flight attendants to prepare another dish for me since I was still hungry and they offered without hesitation to prep anything from the menu that was left. In general, any interaction with the service staff was very good.
The tortellini and the meringue dessert fixed my hunger and they were both very good.
I was surprised at how close Etihad flies to the Syrian/Iraqi borders – we were just about 100 miles north along the southern border of Turkey on our flight and straddled the border line really close before going into Iran. Northern Kurdistan really hasn’t seen much fighting in a long time, so I guess it isn’t as dangerous to fly over.
Later, ‘my’ flight attendant came over and was very curious about my feedback and what they can do to improve. She was genuinely interested and hoping to help improve the Etihad product. She mentioned that she usually works the A380 in business and first class and knew a lot more about the Etihad operations than I’d expected.
We eventually made it into Abu Dhabi, which showed a crackling 110 degrees at 9 PM, after a 30-minute delay.