Review | Etihad Airways Economy Class (Sydney – Abu Dhabi)

Well, my first experience with Etihad. It was Economy, so expectations were originally low, but Etihad delivered well above the average! The crew made this Economy flight feel like Business!

Flight Details:

Carrier: Etihad Airways (EY)
Flight Number: EY 455
Route: Sydney (SYD) – Abu Dhabi (AUH)
Duration: 14h 00m
Aircraft: B777-300ER
Registration: A6-ETN
Cabin Class: Economy
Seat Number: 36B
Date: 12/11/14

Well, this was to be a busy trip! I was part of a Formula 1 in Schools team that represented Australia at the World Finals of the event in Abu Dhabi in 2014, and as sponsors of the event, there was no other choice but Etihad!
This was the first time I had travelled in a group, and so was interested in seeing how the ground staff and crew handle this. We were carrying a lot of luggage and equipment, and our first hurdle was getting through the “32kg per passenger thing”. We had several pieces, some larger than others, but the agent was nice enough to go to the effort of pooling together the weight allowances of several of us to allow us to transport everything. Very impressed!

Boarding was slightly delayed, but once it commenced, it was incredibly fast! Most passengers were onboard within a very short period of time. The crew were very welcoming, and addressed each passenger by name as they stepped onboard (by reading the boarding card). Once most passengers were onboard, we stayed on the tarmac at the gate for quite some time, presumably due to a few passengers not having arrived at the aircraft. It was great though, to be able to mingle around the cabin on the ground, and speak to the crew. Once all passengers were onboard, the ‘Travel Prayer’ was played, followed by the safety video.

Soon after takeoff, the crew launched into the meal service. They prepared the meals very efficiently and quickly started the service. I fly Singapore Airlines most often, and in Economy SIA serves drinks first and then serves meals. Presumably, some crew will serve the drinks whilst the others prepare the meals so that the passengers are kept occupied before the meal service. With Etihad, however, I was a little surprised. The crew launched straight into meal service, without a separate drinks service. It almost felt as this was quicker! It’s certainly more efficient on the airline’s part, and does reduce consumption of the drinks (as passengers are offered drinks only once as opposed to twice).

Etihad provides 3 choices of meals, and I chose a stir-fry option for this evening. It was very tasty and perfectly filling. An excellent balance of flavours, not requiring any seasoning. The dessert, however, was a let down. But what do we expect from Economy!

As the crew cleared the meals, the leading steward (LS) – named Hemanth – started speaking to us, and asking about our reason for travelling to Abu Dhabi. It’s really wonderful when crew take an interest in passengers. We told him all about the competition and how we were all in a group representing Australia. I spoke to him about my passion for flying, and the fact that I love SIA, and was very impressed with Etihad. We had a wonderful  conversation with Hemanth, even though he was in the middle of clearing the cabin’s meals! And this was certainly not the last we saw of him!

After the meal service, I decided to try Etihad’s Onboard “Wi-Fly” service. They connect with T-Mobile to provide satellite internet access for most of the flight. They offer 4-hour, 8-hour and 24-hour passes, all charged in USD. I can not quite remember the other prices, but the 24-hour pass was priced at US$21.95 and seemed to have the greatest value for money, especially on a long haul like this. It worked very well, with fairly fast connection (well, fast for being in a plane). We tried to use multiple devices with the same login, however it seemed as though each time someone connected a new device, the other would be logged out. There were some areas where the internet was far slower or non-existent.

Not long after this, one of the stewardesses came through the cabin offering passengers some First Class wine. I assume this was due to having a light load in F, and using left-over wine to give passengers in Y a taste of First Class. It was something I have never seen before!

By this point in the flight the “Wi-Fly” service was working well
The lights were then dimmed, and I watched a film or two before trying to get some sleep.
At various times through the night, the crew came through the cabin serving muffins, juices, water and popcorn to passengers who were awake. After being onboard for quite some time, I really understood the seat! Initially I was very concerned about flying Economy on Etihad because EY chooses a 3-4-3 configuration on the 77W, whilst most other airlines use 3-3-3. That’s a whole extra seat in the same area! I realised, though, that there is not much compromise on seat width, but instead, aisle width is reduced. It was a pain bringing in a normal width laptop trolley bag, as is simply did not fit in the Economy aisles! Nonetheless, my fears of a claustrophobic cabin never were realised. The seat itself was very comfortable, with a useful leather headrest. I do love Etihad’s colour scheme, though. The pinstripe design is very contemporary and elegant, and fits in well with their tan/beige/black colour scheme. Very stunning. There is enough storage for an Economy seat, and the IFE was the standard (but wonderful) Panasonic eX2 system. Etihad’s entertainment system is called “e-Box” and is fairly comprehensive. The interface is quite dated, but there are many useful features. Touch screen and remote controls are available, and the system includes live TV, seat-to-seat messaging, duty free shopping, forward and down-facing cameras and more. The movie and TV selections, though, were fairly limited.
I really appreciated the mid-galley area on the 777. This is a very large galley that sits between the forward and aft Economy cabins. During meal times, the galley is obviously used by the crew. However, during the flight, they keep it clear and open, with a tray of snacks and juices/ water. It is well set up with a subtle, yet effective, light under the cupboards to illuminate the area without distracting passengers in the cabin. As well as a place to get snacks during the flight, it can be well used to stretch legs and as a social area.

Later on, I went to speak to the crew, as I usually do, to ask for the flight-crew names as well as the aircraft registration. If I am happy with their service I will ask for their names as well, so as to ensure they are complemented by the airline after the flight. I got talking to Julian, the head stewardess, and to Hemanth, the leading steward, who I spoke to earlier. Julian said she had worked for EY for 11 years, and told me all about Etihad. I mentioned that I would like to spend a couple of years in the future as Etihad crew, and she went on to suggest I work for Etihad for a bit and then move on to something more, which is exactly my plan! She also said that the A380 and 787 will be fulfilled by existing crew only, and new crew are trained on the other aircraft. She also said that the crew will be getting new uniforms soon as part of Etihad’s company-wide rebranding. Hemanth was also incredibly nice, and in fact, the reasons I got talking to the crew was because of him! I was waiting for the lavatory, and he was bringing the cart back to the galley, and mentioned to Julian and another stewardess about me liking Singapore Airlines, and then said “Oh, there he is now! Come!”. And I talked to them for ages! I am very impressed with the crew. Not many crew take the effort to converse with passengers like this, and I really appreciated it.

About 2 hours prior to landing breakfast was due to be served. However, we were very surprised to find that our group was being served Business Class meals before the rest of the cabin received meals! One of the stewardesses presented us with the meals, served on the proper crocker and all, and we quickly realised it was a token from Hemanth! The meals themselves were not bad, but were quite clearly the left-over meals from dinner. Nonetheless, we very much appreciated this!

Just prior to landing I asked Julian about a post-landing flight-desk visit (as I do on most flights), and as expected, she said she would check with the Captain. After landing, I reminded one of the crew at the door that “I spoke to Julian about the flight-deck” and she quickly came back and said “Right this way…” The flight-crew were incredibly nice. They moved the Captain’s seat back so I could sit down, and I had a great chat to them. I recall there being about 4 crew on this flight. Unlike Singapore Airlines, they were happy for me to take photos! The crew were French, Italian and Sri Lankan.

B777-300ER (A6-ETN) Cockpit

Overall, an absolutely amazing experience with Etihad. I did not expect much at all, especially from Economy, but the crew really made this special. They were absolutely incredible, and made an Economy flight seem like Business! As I do with every flight, i wrote a letter commending the crew on their service. An incredible airline, and I certainly recommend them!


Here are the final ratings:

Cabin State: 5/5
Seat: 4/5
Crew: +5/5
Food: 4/5
Ground Procedures: 5/5

Stay tuned for my report on the return flight.

Until then,

Travel Safe.
Fly Well.
And Enjoy Your Journey.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely amazing report, as a fan of Etihad I'm glad to see how much you appreciate their wonderful work and particularly their crews. If I could fly any airline in Economy it's always them.


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