After flying from Cape Town to Johannesburg and killing our long layover in JNB, it was time to head for Abu Dhabi en route to the Maldives! Our itinerary was CPT-JNB-AUH-MLE, with the last two segments being on Etihad Airlines. I was really excited about the last two flights, as I had never flown on Etihad before, and I had never stepped foot in the Middle East either (not that a 2 hour layover counts as spending time there)! As our departure time approached, we made our way down to the gate area. I would have assumed that for a flight this large, we would board a jet bridge directly to the plane, but we actually boarded a bus, and the bus dropped us off at the plane.
I’m not sure if I read things incorrectly online or if the plane was switched, but I was expecting it to be a 3 cabin plane. Instead, it was a 2 cabin plane. Our award seats were booked in business class.
I really like the Etihad livery. I’m not sure if it’s the Arabic characters, the white and gold combo, or what… but I think it looks really classy. Once we boarded, we found our seats, which were surprisingly not anywhere near each other. This was frustrating for me as we were on the same itinerary, had selected seats together, and had confirmed our seat assignments on the phone. They were able to move some people around so my wife and I were closer together.
Seating arrangements aside, my first impression was that the cabin was, for lack of a better word, ugly. I don’t really get the color scheme: turquoise cushions with black / gold striped pillows? To me, it just looks awkward.
Once I sat down, I immediately started to fidget with everything I could, checking out the amenities, seat controls, etc. The seat was really comfortable, and it reclined to be completely flat, but it was a bit old and worn. In terms of AV options, the technology seemed very 1990s. Want to plug in an iPhone? I hope you brought a yellow / white / red AV adaptor!
There was laptop power, however, and the seat controls themselves were pretty extensive. Leg room was also good, but your legs extend into a cubby, and if the amenities are in there, there’s no place else to put your feet.
Putting the complaints aside, the seat was pretty comfortable. I got settled quickly, and it wasn’t long before I had some champagne in my hands. For this flight, I really only had one thing in mind… sleep. This overnight flight to Abu Dhabi would give us a couple hours to shower in the Etihad lounge, and from there, we’d be off to the Maldives! I wanted to be well rested for our next day!
I took a look at the menu to figure out what I should eat… The Etihad website does such a great job of hyping up the dining experience that my expectations were pretty high. Those expectations weren’t really met. To check out the full menu, click 1, 2, 3, and 4.
The appetizers didn’t sound that great so I went with the cream of mushroom soup, which was accompanied with “mushroom bread.” I think it’s odd that they serve mushroom filled bread with cream of mushroom soup. That’s like serving tomato soup with a side of bruschetta. The soup tasted like any old can of mushroom soup, and the bread was kinda soggy. Katy and I got two different dinners, and neither were very good. In fact, the only good part was the ice cream. The good part about ice cream is that no matter where you go in the world, it’s pretty hard to screw up. You can always count on ice cream tasting like ice cream.
I scarfed down what I could of dinner, but it really reminded me of a United International Business Class meal.
As I mentioned earlier, the goal of the flight was to SLEEP. Luckily, the seat was really comfortable in bed mode. Combine the comfy seat with a sleep sheet, and we were out like a light. Here are some pictures of what it looks like to sleep on one of these seats.
I got a great sleep, at least by airplane standards. I slept straight for over four hours. I was a bit annoyed that the flight attendant didn’t wake me up for breakfast in the morning, but it was nice to wake up and transition straight into landing.
So… would I recommend Etihad’s longhaul business class? Um… I guess not really. For us, it was really the only choice to get from Johannesburg to the Maldives with the points we had, and it wasn’t at all painful. In fact, the seat was great for sleeping! That being said, the cabin is old, the service was mediocre, and the food was downright bad. Of all the modern longhaul international business class products I’ve tried, including United, South African, Air Canada, and Virgin Atlantic, this one would have to be my least favorite. But if you’re en route to the Maldives, can you really complain? 🙂