After a brief hiatus, we return to finish this series covering the final segment from AUH to NGO with a technical stop in PEK. This report will cover both segments to give the full “fifth-freedom” experience and since there aren’t a whole lot of pictures (this was a red-eye flight). I will apologize that I somehow did not manage to get a picture of my plane for this flight. AUH was dark and not spotter-friendly, and on arrival in NGO I just wanted to go home. As a reminder, the routing is as follows:
After passing through the empty international transfer security check points at AUH (I’m not kidding, there was not another passenger in sight), I am faced with this rather useless FIDS monitor. Four monitors, all showing the exact same information…
Thanks to the 50-minute early arrival from BEG, I now have 30 minutes before my scheduled boarding time. It’s not much time, but it does mean I can quickly stop into the Etihad Premium Lounge in Terminal 1. So we head off in that direction. It’s only 20:00, but the airport is pretty quiet at this hour.
After darting through the duty free mall, we arrive at Terminal 1, which is home to one of the two EY Lounges at AUH.
Hmm, this looks like a pretty non-descript entrance, but we’ll follow this lady into the lounge…
Well now… this is definitely looking sketchy. I grip tightly onto my wallet and cautiously proceed down the hall to what will hopefully bring me to my death or a lounge.
Turning the corner, we see a whole bunch of construction and this sign; I can breath a sigh of relief. I get into the elevator and head upstairs. The elevator opens and there is an elevator-full of people already waiting at the front desk to check-in. I hand over my boarding pass, and she scribbles down 20:45 in my boarding pass telling me I need to leave for the plane at this time. Turning into the lounge, I’m immediately stopped by an agent who takes my bag of omiyage and hands me a luggage claim tag. The lounge here is really congested so they clearly don’t want people bringing in any more stuff than they need into the seating areas.
Another visit to an EY Lounge at AUH and another zoo experience. The buffets were just swarmed with people, there were dirty tables everywhere and there was no place to sit. EY needs to get their act together, fast, because I’ve never seen a lounge as crowded and noisy as this one. I give up trying to fight my way into the buffets, so I just grab a cup of coffee (which was insipid tasting) and a bowl of fruit and find a stool to sit on next to a table that hasn’t been cleared yet. The table is cleaned shortly after I sit down and I can take a picture of my dismal offering. I also grab a corporate screenshot using the free WiFi in the lounge, which is fast. Boarding pass picture (taken on the plane) on JU cardstock as well. No lounge photos since it was too crowded.
After sitting in that hell for 20 minutes, I had to get out of there. The travel weariness was beginning to set in and I couldn’t stand the lounge environment. I reclaim my bags and head back into Terminal 1. Here is the staple Terminal 1 architecture shot.
Walking down the walkway to my gate, I see that they have a magazine rack on the side, which is nice.
The miniscule waiting areas they have at Terminal 1 are a mess. There was a flight boarding to Chennai at the same time, so there were two wide-bodies worth of people jammed into a small area. Boarding was called late at 20:45 (same as the agent at the lounge had said, so kudos for that), there were no priorities respected. The gate agents were overrun and they could be heard yelling: “economy on the left and business on the right.” On a flight to China/Japan, the number of passengers that would be able to understand that command when yelled in a crowded room is next to none, so EY takes full blame for the boarding debacle. I was maybe the 50th-60th person to board and head down the jetbridge.
We only boarded through 2L, I was half-heartedly greeted entering the plane. Once they saw I was business, they actually smiled and escorted me through the galley and into the forward cabin. Mood lighting was already in full effect, so I apologize for the photo.
I take my seat and notice that they had already started to distribute the pre-departure bananas.
That must have been a crew-members snack, because that was casually picked up a couple of seconds later by a FA crossing between galleys. Shortly after settling, a pre-departure drink was offered, it will be champagne to start numbing the nerves for a good night’s sleep.
On the ottoman is already located the blanket, menu, amenity kit, and headphones. Amenity kit stock photo showing the relatively modest contents, nothing special other than the bag itself.
As I sip on my champagne, I peek out the window and see that the flight to Chennai will be operated by our big sister, an A333.
After inhaling the first glass of champagne, the FA comes back by and offers me another glass. I also request a glass of water. At this point the cabin still looks pretty empty. Oshibori are also distributed.
While we wait for boarding to finish, let’s take a look at the seat contents. Safety card, check. April issue of E-Box? Hmm, slight problem, it’s only March 30… Jumping the gun there, but I guess this plane won’t be back in AUH until April 1 so they were being preemptive. No newspapers or magazines were offered pre-departure, but maybe that's not surprising for a night flight.
This FRist screwed up again and didn’t take the menu photos right away so no menu shots (they were trashed in PEK and we were given new menus). There were four options for main, then there was an a la carte breakfast menu for pre-arrival in PEK. I’ll discuss the options later one when we get to meal service, but orders were taken at this point.
Boarding finishes and it will now be a 100% full J-cabin, but there are 8 passengers that look suspicious filling seats that were previously empty on the seat map. Turns out, they were all pilots deadheading to PEK (they changed into uniform pre-arrival). We push back late and have our standard prayer to Allah.
Our taxi to the runway takes us past all of your typical EY heavies (B777s and A330s) parked at remote stands.
The mood lighting comes on as we arrive at the runway threshold. We have no wait tonight and immediately head out on our eastern departure.
We lift up giving a nice aerial view of the new terminal under construction. We then pass over Ferrari World and the outskirts of Abu Dhabi before disappearing into the Gulf.
As we continue our ascent, let’s take a look at the new EY pillows and blankets. I like the two sided blankets, but the plush side was way too warm for this flight.
After leveling off, the FAs are released and begin aperitif service. It will be a ramekin of warm mixed nuts and a Stella Artois for me as I start watching E-Box.
Dinner service starts at this point as we begin our run into Pakistan. I ordered the Chinese starter (hot and sour soup) as well as the vegetarian Chinese main (stir-fried noodles and tofu). The soup is presented first. This was a very pleasant surprise since it was EY catering with flavor! I really liked this soup, it had a nice kick. A really interesting observation: the rolls that EY provides are ying-yang quality. They are actually half whole wheat and half white.
After finishing off my soup, my main is brought out. This was completely bland and was not a very good meal. The noodles were cold and were not appetizing. The tofu was rubbery. I wasn’t very hungry since I gorged myself with two meals on the JU flight from BEG so I just ate the vegetables, the bok choy was good. I told the FA to pass on my dessert since I just wanted to sleep.
After cleaning up in the lavatory, which was very clean and contained the Korres products found in the amenity kit, I settled into my bed somewhere over central Pakistan. Here is a picture of the seat in full recline. As you can see, the ottoman is about 2cm lower than the seat, which bothers me a little bit when sleeping.
After 4.5-hours of sleep, I wake up somewhere north of Chengdu, with about 2-hours to go. The rest of the cabin is still fast asleep.
A peak out the window shows morning light already so I decide to flag down a FA and request my breakfast. She returns with an oshibori for me to freshen up and double checks my breakfast order.
I selected a modest breakfast of a fruit plate, smoothie, yogurt with granola, and pastries. Presentation on EY is always nice. Fruit plate wasn’t spectacular, but the passion fruit was actually a pleasant surprise (not a common airplane fruit). The pastries were all warm and flakey. I really like their granola that they serve with yogurt. The smoothie was okay, nothing special. Overall, a perfectly fine pre-arrival breakfast. I could have ordered more if I wanted more, but this was all I wanted since I had now been flying for close to 20-hours.
The rest of the cabin was now up and taking breakfast. Outside, we are still over cloudy China.
The cabin is prepared for landing and we begin our descent into PEK, approaching from the south. As we dip down below the clouds, we can see Beijing is cloudy and rainy.
We touch down in wet weather a little bit behind schedule.
The taxi back to T3 is short and we can do a little bit of spotting on the rain-drenched tarmac. We cross by only two planes: a sexy CX B744 and a CA A333 before we take our gate.
We pull into our gate and a peak out the window shows the ground crew ready for a quick turnaround on this plane.
Deplaning is done through both 1L and 2L, but this time Y passengers do not deplane through the J-cabin. FAs efficiently block off the forward cabin (there are only 4 passengers continuing on to NGO from AUH). After everyone is off, the FAs do the head count and double check the baggage in the overhead bins, then let us roam around to stretch our legs and use the lavatories. They also take orders for pre-departure beverages at this time.
The crews swap out and we get a new crew entering the cabin. They don’t seem as panicked as I had seen on the outbound flight. They quickly get to work giving instructions to the ground cleaning crews who sweep through the cabin, wiping everything down, replacing all the blankets/pillows, etc. This is always fascinating to watch since you don’t normally see an airplane get prepped for a flight as a passenger.
A look out the window shows that we have a new neighbor, a BA B744 just arrived from LHR.
Once the cleaning crews departed, the FAs then passed through and introduced themselves and double checked our pre-departure drink orders. I was brought my quite unorthodox pre-departure drink: a coffee (served with a small chocolate). Trust me, I needed it…
The catering truck is now gone, but the window is now covered in rain making the BA B744 almost impossible to photograph.
The new passengers come on; the cabin will also be 100% full on this short PEK-NGO hop. The FAs pass through with newspapers, I take The Times, unfortunately this was yesterday’s newspaper… shame on you EY. Oshibori were also distributed.
Menus were distributed and orders were quickly taken (priority was given to continuing passengers, which was interesting…). The lunch service has three mains or the Japanese kaiseki. I’m not super hungry, but go for the kaiseki. Drink list is the standard EY offerings, nothing spectacular. This is when the crew started to look really flustered, they were clearly trying to follow protocol, but were short on time and seemed to be rushing people while ordering and seemed very impatient with Chinese passengers with poor English ability (no crew in J could speak either Chinese or Japanese on a flight from PEK to NGO, very poor by EY).
We push back, which helps clean the rain off the windows giving a better glimpse of the BA B744. As we turn to head out to the runway, we can see two special liveries! The AY A333 in “Marimekko” special livery and the LH B748 in “Siegerflieger Fanhansa” special livery.
We then cross by a bunch of CA planes parked at T3.
Heading to the runway, we can see this one for Kevin, an AA B772 bound for DFW in the distance.
Reaching the runway, the FAs are still trying to take lunch orders with confused Chinese passengers, there is no wait and we are immediately succumbed to mood lighting and begin our rainy run down the runway. It’s a cloudy rise up out of PEK.
I’ll take this time to introduce the seat. Seat pitch is of course good, but I find these seats slightly hard to get out of (the plus side is that they are super private). Here is a detail of the fabric and the Poltrona Frau leather headrests.
The tray table folds to the side. USB and power outlets are located below the tray table, not the most practice placement since they booby-trap you in your seat and cords can easily get in the way trying to get out. The AV, audio, remote control, and seat controls are all located in the center console. You get 2.5-3 windows.
E-Box is good with an excellent selection, but I hate the fact you have to watch advertisements at the start of every show and can’t fast-forward through them. I think I saw this Al Zahia ad at least 20 times on this trip, and each time made me less interested in buying real estate in the UAE.
The FAs were released and the meal service commenced, but no aperitif or nuts were provided? Very strange protocol, but this might be because the FAs are still trying to communicate with passengers that can’t speak English. I will state this again, why does EY not have a single FA in J that can speak either Chinese or Japanese on a flight from China to Japan??? I was the only westerner on this flight, so I had no problems.
Finally, my tray arrives as we look out over a sea of clouds. It will be the kaiseki served with sake. I’m not very hungry, but pick through the seafood on the plate. The sakizuke and mokozuke were both good, the main plate (zensai) was very cold and not so appetizing. Presentation is of course excellent.
The second tray is then brought out. The beef and chicken were both very good and flavorful. The miso soup was good, but the rice was pretty bad for Japanese standards. I poked around the vegetables as well, which were all okay. The meal overall maybe would have been better if I was hungry, but it just didn't sit well on a full stomach.
I declined the fruit plate and just asked for a cappuccino to sip over a cloudy Sea of Japan. Meal service took forever and we didn’t finish until we were halfway in between South Korea and Japan.
I watched E-Box until I saw a really animated conversation going on up front. The FA was trying to explain to a Japanese passenger that his luggage was not on the plane. The Japanese guy couldn’t understand a word he was saying so the FA kept repeating the same thing over and over (at least 5 times, getting louder each time, with more animated hand gestures) that a NH agent would meet him at the gate and explain everything. It looked like a game of charades. [For the record, a NH agent was on the plane to meet this gentleman as soon as the door opened, so that aspect was handled very well] This just looks bad for EY, I felt bad for the Japanese guy, it’s how I used to feel on NH flights, lol, where an FA would just keep repeating something in Japanese over and over again and I have no idea what they are saying to me.
We then cross into Japan in Fukui Prefecture.
This beautiful city below us is Tsuruga (??), someplace I haven’t been yet.
We then continue into the Japanese Alps as we begin our final descent.
A sight for sore eyes, the Kiso River! This is the main river that runs north/south through Nagoya so it means we are now lined up for our final approach. We follow the river down into Ise Bay. At the tip, is a small peninsula with Nagashima Spa Land (an amusement park). Just a little Nagoya tourist information for you all.
A ship docked out at sea. I know this isn’t as impressive as SIN.
Whew, we cleared the sea wall!
A smooth touchdown at Chubu Centrair ahead of schedule. If you look in the grass in this picture it says “CHUBU.”
We turn off the runway and taxi back to the terminal. Centrair’s international terminal is a ghost town mid-day, except for a lone CA A321 parked off in the distance. We pull into our gate, and this guy gives us a thumbs up.
We engage at 1L and 2L, doors are opened and deplaning commences. Time to head through immigration, baggage claim, and customs, which were all very efficient. My bag was the second off and I’m on the train home within 25 minutes of touching down.
That concludes this tiring series that had some highs and some lows.
Due to popular request, I’ll fill out the report with some of my favorite pictures from Rome.
No trip to Rome is complete without a stop at Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano, early morning in Piazza San Pietro before the arrival of all the tour buses.
Inside of the Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano, highlighting La Pietà and the dome.
Piazza San Pietro viewed from the top of the Bascilica.
The tomb of Pope John Paul II.
The Castel Sant'Angelo with my namesake proudly standing on top. From the top of the Castel, beautiful views of Tevere can be seen.
A hike up to Gianicolo Park provides breathtaking views of all of Rome. There is also a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi and a plaque with the inauguration address of Vittoria Emmanuele II following the unification of Italy.
For all the French FRists, here is a tribute to you. A stop at L'église Saint-Louis des Français. Inside is a memorial for all the French soldiers that died in the Mediterranean campaign.
We will wrap up this brief bonus, with Tevere at sunset….
…as you consider life on the Appian Way.
Thanks for stopping by this series, and please tune in to the next one!
Etihad Airways Business Class Lounge
Abu Dhabi - AUH
Nagoya - NGO
This was another ‘good’ experience with EY long-haul, but not a great experience. This flight ticked all the required boxes that I consider to be important: good cabin comfort, on-time performance, and good IFE selection. Where this flight failed was below average crews and continually underwhelming EY catering.
Cabin comfort: The window seats are great; I really like the privacy and that it is a forward-facing seat (non-herringbone). They are a little hard for my taste, but I still got 4.5 hours of sound sleep so I’m not going to complain too much. The cabins are generally cramped feeling with narrow aisles, but I like the airy feeling of having no center overhead bins.
Crew: So, we are rating two crews here. First, the crew from AUH-PEK. I had very little interaction with this crew since I wanted to eat quickly and sleep. Welcome on-board was a little cold, but once I was in the J-cabin, they were all up to their normal protocol. I really can’t complain too much about this crew, they kept my drinks refilled and were very polite and smiling. I’d give them an 8.5/10. Second, the crew from PEK-NGO. This crew started off great, but then they ran into a brick wall when they couldn’t communicate with 90% of the cabin. Although this didn’t directly impact me, the fallout was that they seemed flustered when talking to me too since they were definitely out of their comfort zone. Service was fine, but overall professionalism was not great. This crew was a 6/10. Overall, I’d average it out to a 7/10.
Meal and catering: We had plenty of food: a dinner service, smaller breakfast, and then full lunch service. I wasn’t overly hungry and was travel-weary so maybe my impressions weren’t completely impartial. However, for the dinner, I felt the soup was very good, but the main was just tasteless and unappealing. The breakfast service was fine, what I would expect for a continental offering. The lunch service was very good, there were parts of the kaiseki that were ‘blah,’ but overall it was a good meal. Presentation was good throughout by EY. I just feel like that catering is mediocre and has been hit the most by cost-cutting measures.
Entertainment: E-Box is great with plenty of selection. Even though it was the same as the outbound flight, there was enough variety to keep my entertained. No press offered in AUH, but press offered in PEK (although a day old newspaper).
On-time performance: Left Abu Dhabi late, arrived in Beijing late, left Beijing late, but made it to Nagoya early. So, looking at the big picture: we arrived early so I don’t really care what happened in between.
Overall conclusions of EY: This was my first time flying a ME3 carrier, not really useful for me since I fly between Asia and the US the most. Was it a fantastic experience? No, but it was a good experience. I felt that overall, the cabin comfort was great and the crews (albeit the last one) were very good. Catering was so-so, but entertainment is strong. All my flights were on-time with EY, so no problems at AUH. The lounges are abysmal so take that into consideration until the new terminal is built. Dealing with their customer service has been disgusting. I complained about the AZ incident (see Part 3), the short response after a month wait: “It’s not our problem” (I won’t post the real e-mail for legal reasons). If EY wants to force passengers onto “partner” airlines, then they need to start taking responsibility for their “partners.” I got what I wanted from this series, 60,000+ miles to burn on NH/AA domestic flights so I’m not going to complain too much, but unless the price is right, I'm not going to go out of my way to fly to them.
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