After a long layover in the first and business class lounge in Abu Dhabi, I was ready for the flight to Dallas. The flight was scheduled for 14 hours and 46 minutes. Plenty of time to enjoy the experience of first class on Etihad Airways.
To purchase this flight, one way, would cost $8,826 if purchased at least one month in advance. I used 90,000 American Airlines miles to fly it for “free.” Right now, American is offering 60,000 bonus miles for signing up for one of its credit cards.
The Abu Dhabi airport and Etihad first-class lounge (which was merely a roped off area in the business-class lounge) are not as nice as the other airports and premium lounges in the UAE. Ethiad is building a new first-class lounge that, unfortunately, was still unfinished. (The new lounge is now open, and reports are it is spectacular.)
The lounge I visited had some nice features though. This lounge will be covered in a separate post.
I didn’t realize that I would pre clear customs for the US in Abu Dhabi. Pre clearing customs meant that on arrival in Dallas passengers walk off the plane directly into the passenger terminal without going through customs and immigration. Other than Dublin, Ireland, the Abu Dhabi Customs and Border Protection pre clearance facility is the only one outside of North America and the Caribbean.
After clearing customs there was another smaller business/first-class lounge that I waited in before the announcement that the flight was boarding.
When I got to the gate, the flight was indeed boarding, and I immediately walked onboard.
Ethiad 777-200 First Class
Ethiad 777s have eight first-class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.
I had seat 2A, a window seat in row 2 on the port side of the aircraft.
The seat is spacious, private and luxurious. It is actually a suite since there are doors that can be closed for privacy or sleeping. There is the leather seat which faces forward, a console on the left with controls for the seat and the video system, a small minibar with snacks and drinks and a leather ottoman under the video screen for resting your feet and storing small items like a backpack. Personal comfort in this seat is assured. An important point on long flights like this one.
There is a small closet in the forward wall of the suite. It is big enough to hang a shirt and trousers. The closet door opens outward and has a mirror on the interior surface.
Seat 2A closet
The seat and lighting controls are on a video screen built into the console near the passengers left hand.
The seat controls are extremely simple. They take the seat, which is 29.5 inches wide, from fully upright for takeoff and landing to a fully flat bed, 80 inches long.
The seat also has a massage function. There is no way to confuse this seat with a business-class seat.
Etihad first class comes with accoutrements truly worthy of international first class. There was a nice gift bag on the ottoman when I boarded.
The amenity kit was chock full of good stuff. There was a dental kit, shave kit, ear plugs, q tips, makeup pads, mouth wash, breath mints, socks, eye shades, Le Labo facial moisturizer, lip balm, hand lotion and roll on pulse point oil and pillow mist.
Etihad provides noise-cancelling headphones, naturally.
In-flight Entertainment (IFE)
The video screen is one of the largest I’ve seen in first class. It is placed directly in front of the seat. It is does not fold out so it does not need to be stowed for takeoff and landing. You can use it gate to gate.
The flight attendant offered a personal greeting as I boarded through the forward boarding door that was reserved for he first -class cabin.
When I took my seat there was a welcome note signed by the cabin manager, Terry. He came by shortly to introduce himself and explain the service on the flight. Meals could be ordered at anytime and the onboard chef would prepare any combination requested from the a la carte menu and even dishes not on the menu if possible.
After getting the lowdown from the cabin manager, a flight attendant offered pre-departure champagne. It was Bollinger Le Grand Anne, which retails for about $150 per bottle.
Bollinger with figs and dates
Soon we were taxiing for takeoff. The airport at Abu Dhabi has the coolest control towers I’ve ever seen. We departed on runway 13R.
After reaching cruise altitude the service continued with drinks.
The initial flight path was northwest over Iran, skirting Tehran, and the over the Caspian Sea.
We had a view of snow-capped mountains is northern Iran.
I elected to start my dinner service about 90 minutes after takeoff. The dinner table is in the console on the left. It folds out, and the attendants set a very nice table. The silverware was created for Ethiad by Studio William.
I chose the scallops for an appetizer.
That was followed by a soup course. I picked the carrot soup.
My entrée was the beef filet. The chef prepared the steak medium as I requested.
For desert I selected the cheese plate and port wine.
After dinner I watched some of the entertainment options including live TV before grabbing a little shut eye.
A lie flat seat, like those in business class, is nice, but does not feel like a bed. Those seats are often narrow and passengers are only provided a blanket or quilt and nothing to sleep on other than the seat cushion which is not designed for sleeping. Of course, compared to an economy seat, business class seems luxurious.
Ethiad first class provides a totally different experience that is akin to actually sleeping in a bed. The attendant reclines the seat to a lie-flat position, covers the seat with a mattress pad, covers the mattress pad with a sheet, and finishes with a soft quilt. As a finishing touch, Ethiad provides excellent pajamas. I did not change into them on this trip, but still slept very well. I saved the pjs for use at home.
Closing the sliding doors to the suite completes the conversion to a replica of an actual bedroom.
To get an appreciation of the whole experience in first class, I’ll include some pictures of the bathroom.
The bathroom was large, big enough to change in, and well stocked with lotions, sprays and anything else that could come in handy. Most remarkable was the cleanliness of the sink, counters and even the floor. An attendant must clean it after every use.
Later I ordered a “light” meal from the Grill Menu. I ordered beef again. Because Nepal is an overwhelmingly Hindu country, beef is a rarity there. I was suffering from beef withdrawal.
Cheesecake and appetizer
It is amazing how fast a 14.5-hour flight goes when travelling in first class. There is something about being waited on hand and foot and having gourmet meals and fine wine and liquor served in a comfy chair while watching movies.
Alas the approach to Dallas came way too soon. At least there was a good view of Love Field the other airport in Dallas.
At DFW, the 777 parked at the D Concourse, which has the gates for wide-body aircraft and international arrivals.
Thanks to pre-clearing customs in Abu Dhabi, passengers just walked off the aircraft and straight into the terminal.
This was my fourth flight in international first class. The others were two flights on Cathay Pacific and one flight on Japan Airlines. All were spectacular, and each has strengths in certain areas that the others do not match. I, however, would put Ethiad at the top of the list based on having an on-board chef with the ability to order anything on the menu (and even off the menu) at anytime plus the ability to close sliding doors and create a private suite.
Later this year on a trip to the Maldives, I’ll have the opportunity to fly Etihad’s first class apartment on the A380. That is an even better product than the seat on the 777. I’m looking forward to trying it.