Etihad Airways ((الإتّحاد) is the award-winning national flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) in the Middle East. Founded as early as July 2003 the airline commenced commercial operations in November 2003, and has gone through a rapid expansion in a short time span to serve 96 destinations using 91 state-of-the-art modern, and young aircraft. Together with code-shares with other world airlines, Etihad Airways passengers can fly to over 349 destinations.
The airline, which employees a total of around 9,000 people world-wide from over 120 nationalities, is based in the ultra-modern Abu Dhabi International Airport and serves its destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Australasia, the Indian subcontinent, and East Asia. Since it’s founding, Etihad Airways has received a range of awards that reflect its position as the top premium airline brand in the world, including ‘World’s Leading Airline’ at the World Travel Awards in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The core ethos of Etihad Airways is to seek to reflect the best of Arabian hospitality – cultured, considerate, warm and generous – as well as support the development of Abu Dhabi as a business and leisure destination and global hub.
Etihad Airways operates one of the youngest and most environmentally efficient aircraft fleets in the world. Since starting its operations, the airlines's fleet has grown to 79 aircraft, including six cargo-only freighters. At the time of writing Etihad Airways has a firm order for 216 aircraft to be delivered within the next 5-7 years (with options for another 89). These include 10 Airbus A380-800 (Super Jumbos), 71 Boeing 787 (Dreamliner), and 62 orders for the Airbus A350-1000 aircraft (Extra Wide Bodied).
In 2012, the airline reported a full year EBIT of US$170 million, on the back of annual revenue growth of 36.0 per cent to US$4.8 billion, with net profits of US$14 million.
In 2012, Etihad Airways carried 10.2 million passengers, a 23 per cent increase from 2011, and is on target to once again beat that record in 2013. The airline plans to carry more than 25 million passengers to more than 150 destinations aboard a fleet of over 200 planes by 2020
Etihad Airways has over 40 code share agreements in place with airlines across the world. These code share partnerships, along with equity acquisitions and organic growth, form the three pillars of Etihad Airways expansion plans. The senior management team has identified equity investment as a means to strengthen its relationships and allows it to work with partners to identify revenue generation and cost management opportunities.
At the time of writing, Etihad Airways holds equity investments in Air Berlin (29.21%), JAT Airways (Serbia Airways- 49%), Jet Airways (24%), Air Seychelles (40%), Virgin Australia (10%), and Aer Lingus (2.987%).
International sports sponsorship also plays a central role in Etihad’s global marketing strategy, as it seeks to develop its profile in markets across the world. The airline has signed several major sponsorships in mainstream sporting events, as well as a number of tactical deals with country or region-specific sports.
Some of Etihad Airways’ major partnerships include: The Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix; Manchester City Football Club; Etihad Stadium in Melbourne; and the Harlequins Rugby Football Club.
In the U.K., Etihad Airways flies non-stop between Abu Dhabi and London Heathrow (27 flights a week), and Manchester (14 flights a week), connecting passengers to over 340 destinations worldwide through its hub at Abu Dhabi.
I was on the flight from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow Airport on Etihad Airways’ Airbus A340-642 to check out their Business Class seat, cabin, and service. So enjoy the 5-star experience of this beautiful aircraft, and airline:
Route: ABU DHABI (AUH) to LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT (LHR)
Departure date and time of flight: December 2013, 02:35am local time
Flight number: EY11
Flight duration: 8 Hours
Class: PEARL BUSINESS CLASS
Aircraft type: AIRBUS A340-642 (7 aircraft in service)
Aircraft registration: A6-EHK
Engine Type: 4 x Rolls Royce Trent 556-61
Aircraft Serial Number: 1030
First flight: 23rd July 2009
Delivery flight: 17th August 2009
Seat configuration for this aircraft:
Diamond First Class: 12 suites in a 1-1-1-1 configuration
Pearl Business class: 32 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration,
Coral Economy class: 248 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration
Comments on the check-in process, and any issues:
This was a connecting flight that I had taken, coming in from Hong Kong and going on to London Heathrow, so therefore was no need to check-in. However, passengers on connecting flights are required to go through security again and passport control before they go through Duty-Free again to their connecting flight. There are two things to bear in mind when transiting at Abu Dhabi:
1. While the flight experience may be great on-board the aircraft, it may not be that great while transiting through the security checks at Abu Dhabi. If you happen to arrive at a peak time (i.e. anytime between 11pm and 5am Abu Dhabi time), then the waiting queues can be very long. This can be very tiring and frustrating, especially if you are flying Economy Class. Thankfully, on this occasion, I was I flying Business Class, and even for us the waiting queues for security and customs were LONG (though not longer than the Economy Class queue).
2. When you are tired, varying a large amount of hand luggage and in a different time zone, then the walking distance between the different gates can seem to go on for miles, even though the airport staff will tell you that it’s only ‘five minutes’ away.
Any baggage issues:
This was a connecting flight between Hong Kong and London Heathrow, so therefore was no need to check-in, and had no worries about my heavy baggage ( so carefree!).
Etihad Airways is one of the very few airlines that has a generous luggage allowance for all passengers in all cabins. Economy class passengers can carry one complimentary bag in the hold with a total not exceeding 30kg. Even if you choose to exceed your luggage allowance (at additional cost) each item must not exceed 32kg. Items must not exceed the dimensions 45cm x 72cm x 90cm.
Lounge experience at Abu Dhabi
After making my way from security clearance, I headed to one of Business Class Lounges at Terminal 3 presented. As one enters the Lounge it feels and looks like an Arabian palace- or at least it’s supposed to give that ambiance to the passengers, complete with mosaic windows and arch ways.
After presenting my boarding passes I was led to the Business Class Lounge, which is located right next to the equally spacious First Class Lounge Class Lounge. I was very surprised at how crowded both the Business and First Class Lounges were. Was there really a global economic crisis? So much that so many people/companies had so much money to spend on Business or First Class travel?! The place was jam packed with not a single seat available. Having arrived from a slightly cooler Hong Kong, and heading onto a much colder Heather I was wearing a sheep skin jacket as well as my pashmina pullover…this really did not help when sitting in an over-crowded Business Class Lounge in a warm Abu Dhabi at one in the morning.
I wasn’t particularly hungry, especially after having been fed like if there is no tomorrow on my previous flight in from Hong Kong. Therefore I just opted to drink some fresh Al Ain mineral water. The reception staff told me that the Lounges are busy like this almost every night from around 11pm to 4am when Abu Dhabi is at it’s peak because most transit passengers arrive and depart at that time. It’s cheaper for the airlines to operate at night…same goes for Emirates, Oman Air, Gulf Air, and Qatar Airways…all their hubs are busy at night-time with connecting flights.
The Lounge is well equipped with large TVs, internet ports and Wi-Fi connection, and plenty of hot and cold food from all around the world. There are dedicated showers, private bed for those that want to sleep during a long layover (have to booked in advance I think), a children’s play area, and the Six Senses Spa where passengers can enjoy a complimentary spa treatment (facial, massage etc…and has to be booked in advance). It probably would have been a good idea if Etihad Airways had allocated more space to the Six Senses Spa, given how challenging it is to secure even a 15-minute massage appointment, unless you book in advance or arrive well in advance to your connecting flight. Another minor but important issue to point out was that the toilets were clean and well maintained (believe me, in some airports around the world they are well dirty…!)
The Lounge was too crowded for my liking, so I didn’t linger around much. I actually found it much better to relax and sit at one of the many empty chairs dedicated to Business Class passengers at the gate.
Punctuality of the flight:
The flight departed on time at 02:40am from Abu Dhabi’s Runway 31L heading straight towards the Persian Gulf. The flight path took us over Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey, Bulgaria, and onto Mainland Europe. Cruising level was around 36,000 feet, and rising to around 38,000 over Turkish airspace.
The whole of the flight was spent in the dark skies over the Middle East and Europe. We landed on a rather wet and windy morning 10 minutes ahead of schedule at 06:25am at London Heathrow’s Runway 27L- providing stunning aerial views of the city prior to landing. Etihad Airways operates from Terminal 4 at London Heathrow.
Business and First Class passengers flying with Etihad Airways can enjoy the service of a complimentary chauffeur driven limousine. All Pearl Business Class guests can enjoy this service for two transfers per journey unless their journey begins or ends in the UAE or includes a stopover in Abu Dhabi, in which case Etihad Chauffeur will be provided for all travel within the UAE in addition to two transfers in other countries.
Business Class passengers arriving on Etihad flights at Heathrow can be driven for free upto 100 miles (150 miles for First Class passengers). It’s very convenient if you are flying for business meetings the next day. I came out to the arrivals hall at about 7:00am (35 minutes after landing), met my Etihad Airways chauffeur driver, and managed to arrive home in about 40 minutes after that. The great thing was that after a quick shower and being refreshed, I headed to my office in the City of London, arriving at 9am sharp!
Comments regarding the pre-flight service:
Passengers’ in Business Class are offered hot lemon scented towels prior to departure. This is followed by a drinks service, which consists of some of the world’s finest wines, and champagne. In Business Class, the cabin crew offered the following drinks prior to departure:
· Fresh orange juice
· Al Ain mineral water or San Pellegrino sparkling water
· 100% lemon and mint infused juice.
· Champagne Lanson Black Brut NV
I opted for the exotic lemon and mint drink. It was so good that I decided to have a few more during this night-time flight.
Comments regarding the pre-meal service:
Around about 35 minutes after departure, drinks were served from the trolley along with the helping of warmed and salted mixed nuts and almonds on bone china plates. I opted for a glass of that fine Champagne (50% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Meunier).
There was also the celebrated Eithad Airways complimentary bar service for Business Class passengers offering various alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and soft drinks. Ground coffee, and decaffeinated coffee or tea (English earl grey, Ceylon, and Chinese green tea) were also available. On top of this, there were a selection of herbal teas including green tea with jasmine, peppermint, and camomile with honey.
With or without the meal, the wine list included for this flight would make anyone’s mouth water. While the majority of airlines only offer a maximum of two choices each for white and red wine, Etihad offers three choices each for red and white wine:
Chateau De Chassagne-Montrachet AOP Saint Aubin 1er Cru: “Le Charmois” 2008: Burgandy: France
Terrazas De Los Andes Reserva Torrontes 2011 Salta: Argentina
Stoneleigh: Sauvignon Blanc: 2012 Marlborough: New Zealand
Segla 2008 Margaux: Bordeaux: France
Murphy-Goode Pinot Noir 2010: California
JIM BARRY “The Lodge Hill”: Shiraz 2010 Clare Valley: South Australia
Royal Tokaji, Late Harvest 2011: Hungary
Ample choice of aperitifs and spirits: Chivas Regal 12 Year old, Johnnie Walker Gold Label, Canadian Club, and Jack Daniel’s; Cognac Hine, ‘rare and delicate’ fine champagne; and various beers, and liqueurs.
Comments regarding the first meal (“Kitchen Anytime”):
Since this was a late night/early morning flight so no heavy meal was offered. Instead Business Class passengers were offered a selection of delights that were available throughout the flight- Etihad Airways calls this service Anytime Kitchen. This means you can dine as you like, when you like. Passengers can choose from an extensive á la carte range or their Anytime Kitchen menu.
The following options were available:
Every Etihad Airways flight has a dedicated Food and Beverage manager in the Business Class cabin (and one for First Class). This person is the airline’s on-board fine dining expert who will help you find the right dish to suit your mood and the perfect accompaniment for your meal. They are recruited from some of the most reputed fine dining restaurants around the world.
I wasn’t really feeling too hungry, so I opted to just brush my teeth, change into the pyjamas and go to sleep.
I managed to get a very good sleep for around six hours on the fully flat 6 foot 1 inch bed, which is well placed inside a privacy shell. The seat is not as wide as I had thought, however the good thing is that it is single seat that allows you the freedom to move to the aisle as and when you like. I seldom drink alcohol on flights, but I do drink a LOT of water (best way to fight jet-lag and keep hydrated!), which means I also pay a visit to the lavatory quite a lot. Therefore for that reason alone the Business Class seat such as this one is perfect!
There is enough space to move your arms and legs, and there is an in-built massage which is set off at the press of a button. Etihad Airways provide a luxurious in-flight amenity kit which contains the essentials of a toothpaste and brush, lip balm, eyeshades, socks, earplugs, face moisturiser by Korres, refreshing mints, and a set of cotton buds. Etihad Airways do not provide night pyjamas or slippers for their Business Class passengers- that luxury is enjoyed by the First Class passengers.
A large comfortable blanket and soft pillows are provided on request.
Comments regarding the second meal (á la carte menu):
The breakfast service started around an hour and a half before landing at Heathrow, and I was woken up by the sound of cutlery tinkling around me. Cabin crew handed out warm lemon scented towels prior to serving the breakfast.
The following were offered as options for starters:
After that awesome sleep and the long period without eating much, I still wasn’t that hungry. So therefore I just opted for the natural yoghurt with granola and a glass of delicious smoothie. The granola was coated with warm honey, and this went splendidly well with the yoghurt. Every spoonful was a sheer journey to wake up the senses. To accompany my main course, I also took a chocolate croissant.
There were four options for the main course, including:
Instead of going for the traditional farmhouse breakfast, I decided to try something different that I not eaten before. So therefore, I opted for very colourful ‘oven baked eggs with Hollandaise sauce with rosti chunky tomato sauce and turkey rashers’ dish. There are certain elements of the deliciously contrasts between the creamy rosto and the chunky tomato sauce.
Another helping if warm bread rolls and toasted bread was provided. I also ordered a cup of breakfast tea (by Dilmah) and a baklava dessert to go with it. Nothing quite like having an authentic Arabic dessert on Etihad Airways.
Comments regarding the after meal drinks and in-flight snacks:
A second round of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks (including any coffee, tea and beverages) were offered. I opted to drink plenty of still mineral water. Tempting drinks such as Dewar’s Whiskey, Bacardi Rum, Beefeater Gin, and Absolute Vodka, Stella Artois, Foster’s and Heineken were offered. Non-concentrated 100% juice drinks of orange, apple, mango and tomato were offered too.
Plenty of fresh water (provided by Al Ain) was distributed throughout the flight. Passengers could go to the galley and get a free flow of pot noodles, drinks (alcohol and non-alcohol) if they wanted. Coffee and tea are offered in lovely Etihad Airways branded brown paper cups (that can be recycled), and milk is offered by local Abu Dhabi vendor. Evervess (soda, tonic water, and ginger ale), and Al Ain exclusively offered bottled water.
Comments on the in-flight entertainment system:
Huge noise cancellation headphones were offered in the Business Class cabin. The 16-inch PTV screen is placed behind every Business Class seat (a whopping 23-inch screen in Diamond first class). The screens are NOT touch screen. Etihad Airways has three different IFE systems:
Widescreen AVOD, PTV AVOD and Main screen.
Passengers can choose from over 675 hours of on-demand entertainment on our E-BOX In-flight system.
Every seat in the Pearl Business Class seat is equipped with power sockets to charge laptops or phones, and sockets for USBs, Ethernet and audio jacks, allowing passengers to plug and play their own devices or music through the E-BOX system. On this night time flight, I was too tired to watch any TV, so I slept on the flat bed for around 6 hours- except for checking the flight status on the live map before landing.
Comments of professionalism of the cabin crew:
The cabin crew were very hospitable, and proud to work for Etihad Airways, and seemed to be very proud to wear their uniform too. There was a genuine smile on every crewmembers face and you could tell that they really enjoyed their job. There was a real sense of teamwork in the cabin. That sense of being proud of their airline, and of their job was portrayed the minute the crewmembers walked through the departure gate.
Etihad Airways has cabin crew from over 120 nationalities who offer a consistent 5-star service to its passengers. Some airline companies have all kinds of motivated mottos that they will look after their customers, but sometimes they fail in this miserably. Etihad Airways provides a very personalised service, and makes sure that everyone enjoys a smooth, and comfortable flight.
Comments on the interior of the aircraft (including seat comfort):
The Airbus A340-642 of Etihad Airways has 248 Coral Economy Class seats in a 2-4-2 configuration, 32 Business Class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, and 12 First Class suites in a 1-1-1-1 configuration. Economy Class seats have a pitch of upto 33 inches, and a seat width of 17.5 inches; Business Class seats have a pitch of 73 inches, and a width of 20 inches; and First Class seats have a pitch of 80 inches and a width of 30 inches.
I was in window seat 7K, which I had pre-selected when I checked-in at Hong Kong. I felt like the perfect seat for me because it was ahead of the wing, so afforded a wonderful view from the window as I take photographs. It also felt private and tucked away because of the neat design of the outer shell within which the set is placed. It is a fixed shell design with the seat upholstered in sea green fabric, leather armrests in the same colour, and a pale metallic-coloured surround. When you want to make a fully flat bed, the seats joins with the foot rest that I built into the back of the seat shell in front. You may also wish to place your shoes here - I usually take them off after take-off. A small drinks tray is built into the right armrest.
The seats, and the flight experience is made comfortable by the mood lighting, the extra amenities (soft black and white striped cushions, and complimentary blankets), eyeshades, socks, and a toothbrush to keep you clean and fresh. There is also a coat hook and in-seat power (you will need an adapter if your product has a UK plug).
The ambiance of the aircraft, and the cleanliness of the cabin makes it a more bearable flight experience compared to flying with other airline companies. If you want the best of luxury travel, and if you want to arrive refreshed at your destination then the Business Class seat at Etihad Airways is the best option to take.
The first class amenity kit for male passengers will be an expanded version of the current understated yet stylish black pouch from Ermenegildo Zegna, an Italian fashion brand known for its enduring passion for fabric, innovation, and quality. The pouches will continue to feature specially selected skincare products from another Italian luxury brand, Acca Kappa, including sandalwood products designed to keep passengers’ skin refreshed and revitalised.
The Business Class amenity kits include a dental set and earplugs; a comb for men; and a hairbrush and cotton pads for the women. The disposable toothbrush for male passengers are made mainly from cornstarch and cellulose, which are biodegradable, recyclable and use fewer production resources. The Pearl Business Class kits include all-natural products by the Athens-based Korres brand.
Etihad Airways logo and livery:
When Etihad Airways commenced operations in November 2003, the airline had the falcon on the tailfin which represented the old Coat of Arms of the United Arab Emirates, which was officially adopted in 1973 until April 2008.
The new Coat of Arms was applied to the fleet of all Etihad airways aircraft from April 2008 onwards. The first aircraft to have the new Coat of Arms was an Airbus A320, registered A6-EIF. The new coat of arms has the same falcon but the centre of the circle has the flag of United Arab Emirates. The circle is surrounded with 7 stars that represent the 7 emirates states that make up the United Arab Emirates. The word ‘Etihad’ has been added in large scripture in both English and Arabic (changed from ‘from Abu Dhabi to The World’) in the middle and front of the fuselage of the aircraft, while the rare of the fuselage still has their website address listed. Gold and red cheatlines run along the length of the aircraft’s nose right the way below the windows, and to the back of the fuselage.
Etihad Airways has been a proud sponsor for a number of sporting clubs, and so have changed their livery quite a number of times. In times when airlines are saving costs by making aircraft as light as possible, it comes across that Etihad Airways certainly have lots of income to splash out on their aircraft. Painting an aircraft adds extra weight to a plane, and adds to the Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW). Some airline companies decide to paint rather than polish their aircraft in order to save costs. The decision to paint or polish the metal surfaces of airplanes is based on marketing, economic, and environmental considerations. Although the net operating cost of polished airplanes is slightly more than that of painted airplanes, no compelling reason generally exists to choose one type of livery over the other. For more about the differences between painting and polishing an aircraft, check THIS article by Boeing.
In July 2011, when the airline took sponsorship of Manchester City Football Club, they unveiled a specially liveried Airbus A330-200 aircraft. The new “Blue Moon Rising” livery also marked the commencement of double daily flights between Manchester and Abu Dhabi, effective from August 1, 2011.
A team of 40 painters worked around the clock for 18 days in Abu Dhabi to paint the A330-200 in the colours of Manchester City. 450 litres of paint were required to complete the job. The aircraft, which has operated on the Abu Dhabi-Manchester route, also serves Milan, Frankfurt, Brussels, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Singapore, Istanbul and destinations throughout the Middle East and India. James Hogan, Etihad Airways Chief Executive Officer, said at the time: “We are very proud of our sponsorship of Manchester City Football Club, and of our commitment to the wider community. Manchester has been a key destination for Etihad for five years, and the increase in frequency to double daily indicates our dedication to the region.
Business Class Amenity Kit
About Airline PR
This is a special section on Airline Branding, and Airline Public Relations written by me on all the flights I have been fortunate enough to have been on. These are not records taken from somewhere else, but are actual flights I have been on. Most of the flight trips are officially sponsored by the airline companies in order to promote their certain routes, and aircraft. Airline promotion and PR related work in the aviation industry is one of my expertise.
Watch exclusive videos below taken in the cockpit of a Boeing 777-300ER in-flight over Chinese Airspace.
Special thanks goes to
B777-300ER Cockpit Video 1
B777-300ER Cockpit Video 2
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