After taking Etihad Business Class San Francisco flights twice recently, I was curious to how the Etihad First Class version from Abu Dhabi would play out.
After our visit to the Etihad First Class Lounge we were looking forward to some sleep. However, in between the lounge and the plane is the dreaded pre-clearance to clear US immigration and customs. Thankfully there was nothing to fear this time.
There were suspiciously few people at immigration and security. The only wait was to take off my shoes – everything else was done in seconds. Everyone was on their best behavior and could have not been more professional or friendly.
I only had time for one last drink in the lounge past immigration. Everyone in that lounge just looks so tired. No wonder at 1AM, but I feel the lighting also doesn’t help.
Boarding was quick, as economy was less than 50% full. Business class seemed pretty full and first class had 5 of 8 seats taken. I got a middle seat and an empty suite to myself. The Etihad First Class Suite resembles Singapore Airlines on their 777; it’s spacious but not exceedingly so. Etihad has 4 first class seats in the front cabin of the 777, while Cathay Pacific only has 3 suites and less aisle room.
Since we all boarded at the same time, the flight attendants seemed really busy and nobody was really around for a few minutes to introduce themselves.
Eventually, pre-departure drinks were served, but I was too sleepy to drink. There was also some dates and a letter, though it wasn’t a personal note – just a brief thanks for flying Etihad that day.
The suite features a little ‘mini-bar’ stocked with water and snacks (à la Emirates).
Before take-off, pajamas and amenity kids were handed out.
I put on my pajamas right away and found them to be good quality – easily good enough for the next 16 hours. The amenity kit was great too, with more quality items than I expected. I finally added a new eyeshade to my repertoire; I usually only use Cathay Pacific eyeshades since they are so nice and soft 🙂
We took off right on time and the pilot announced a 16-hour flight time to San Francisco. He did not mention the route but it turned out to be the normal northerly route via Moscow, then on to the North Pole before going south and hitting Vancouver and Seattle before reaching San Francisco.
After reaching 10,000 feet the flight attendants offered to make the bed, which I greatly appreciated. The seat goes flat but is made up of so many moving pieces that it is not exactly a FLAT surface. It’s no comparison with the Singapore Airlines ‘mattress system’. I was concerned that it would create back problems for me again (as the business class seat had given me, but I was tired enough to fall asleep right away and not wake up for 10 hours.
I found the extended seat long enough so that I could stretch out comfortably and sleep in all positions. I had no trouble with any missing back support and loved how well I slept. I still felt that the cabin was rather loud, though (just from passengers waking up earlier for dinner service and from the loud AC, but there were no raucous kids this time).
After waking up, it was time to test the food. The soup did not look like much but tasted pretty good.
I liked how the cod was presented – pretty picture perfect. It also tasted very good.
I only watched one movie on the Etihad E-BOX. There is a lot of content on the E-BOX but I always wish it was as extensive as the Emirates IFE. It’s not bad, but I end up watching my favorite shows and movies again and again with Etihad.
The bread that came with every meal was delicious and so was the olive oil. I could have eaten only that for a few hours!
After starting our descent, we hit the south end of a major Bay Area storm and the bumps prevented me from hitting the bathrooms. So I just changed from my pajamas into my clothing in my suite!
We had a pretty interesting approach path right over Oakland Airport this morning, but a very smooth landing despite the wind.
This time USCIS had no extra passport checks for us after landing and we walked out of the terminal in one straight line. Awesome!
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]com.
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