Hello Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by this review, the sixth installment of my American AAdvantage miles purge.
It has been clear for several years that the American Airlines Advantage frequent flyer program was out of sync with the other major US carriers. It has remained very generous on the redemption side while the others have had significant devaluations. Smart money was on a correction coming sooner before later. It was with this in mind that I decided to structure a grand adventure and cut deeply into my AAdvantage miles inventory.
The final tally was SNA-PHX-LHR-CDG for 62,500 AA miles, CDG-DOH-DEL for 40,000 AA miles, and DEL-AUH-JFK-LAX for 90,000 AA miles.So 192,500 AA miles lighter, I was off.
To say I was excited to embark on this 2 day engagement with Etihad would be an understatement. New carrier, 18 hours in First, etc. Avgeek excitement for sure.
I booked the Etihad chauffeur service for pickup at 1AM at my hotel. At about 12:45AM I received a call that there was someone in the lobby to pick me up. I appreciate timeliness but I wasn't quite ready but I was downstairs at 12:55. The driver was very cordial and got me to the airport in quick order.
As is the case in some airports worldwide you are screened before entering the terminal proper.
Once inside I found a lovely modern terminal. I was quickly checked in and directed to the First / Business Class immigration / security line.
This process was a bit of a mess as there was no clear lines and more of a free for all. There was in fact a business / first class line however there was no monitoring of those who entered it. As a result it took about 45 minutes+ to clear immigration and security.
I went up a level from the departures to the lounges. Past the Air India Lounge was the Plaza Premium lounge.
There were several seating areas and a buffet / dining area.
A nice early morning selection. It might just be dinner time still at 2:30… I opted to try a couple of the Indian vegetarian options which were both satisfactory. And a breakfast beer.
About this time I realized I had misplaced my jacket. I looked all over the lounge and was quite confused as to where I could have laid it. I inquired at the front desk of the lounge and the helpful agent said there was no jacket turned in here at the lounge but perhaps I left it at security. Of course! I double timed it down to the security line at which I was screened and there I was reunited with my coat. This adventure chewed up my remaining time in the airport and it was time to head to the gate.
The majestic 777-200LR.
The boarding was clumsy as is often the case. Even though there was clearly a 1st class lane and I and another passenger were waiting in that vicinity, they just opened up the business class lane and motioned for us to go over there. So, now were were last in a long line rather than 1 and 2 in a short line. Why have a first class lane then?
Any disappointment that I harbored from the botched boarding process evaporated when I made it on board to a very warm welcome and escort to my seat, 2A.
Perhaps a slightly dated cabin but still quite luxurious, comfortable, and private. I believe the cabin was 8/8 for this flight.
This was my first time flying on this product so I took a moment to get acquainted with the seat.
Ample IFE display.
Touch screen controls for the seat and lighting.
Mini-bar, of course. Who doesn't like hot water bottles?
Pillow and blanket.
Amenity kit, pajamas, and slippers. Pretty thorough offering for a 4 hour early morning flight.
A peak behind my seat at the J cabin. All aisle access and spacious seats. Their friends in Dubai should take a lesson.
A tray of dates, sparkling water, and the welcome note from the cabin manager.
The advertisement for the A380 on the IFE. Tomorrow…
The traditional Arabic coffee to accompany the dates.
The view from 2A demonstrates the privacy of these suites.
The menu and wine list was offered for the 4 hour flight to AUH.
A trip to the lav yielded a peek at the front office.
The well appointed and stylish lav.
Boarding complete and an on time departure commenced. Mood lighting was initiated.
Once airborne the cabin was kept darkened for those who simply wanted to sleep. I appreciated the indirect foot well lighting in the suite and the stars above.
This flight reporter wasn't going to sleep just yest. First some food and beverage, please. The Bollinger La Grande Annee 2005 was suberb.
The table was soon set for breakfast. I had a go at the Balaleet, billed as the traditional Emirati breakfast.
This was not to my liking at all and upon noticing the flight attendant offered to bring something else. The Balaleet just didn't have much flavor and the texture was very flat. I opted to try the Indian option, Vegetable Upma. Better, but still a bit sparse. Breakfast on airplanes is generally underwhelming.
Have no fear there's cheese on the menu! I request the cheese plate and the on board chef suggests a wine pairing. Yes, please. The presentation is beautiful and the cheese is wonderful. Breakfast is saved.
Time to get some sleep and test the bed. I request the bed be made and it is taken care of happily and immediately.
The space is very comfortable. The bedding is soft and plush and the pillow is fluffy. A great place to rest. I re-join the conscious as we're almost to AUH.
Fast track immigration cards are distributed.
The sun is just threatening to show itself as we approach.
Touchdown and taxi to a remote stand. I am scolded for taking a picture. It's good to know that there are dumb people that blindly follow asinine rules in other parts of the world. It's not just an American thing! There is no harm in taking a picture of an airplane, from a safe distance, that I was just a first class passenger on. But, this poor chap was probably told not to allow such things and without the gift of critical thinking he was unable to ask, "why?"
A short bus ride and we were deposited in the terminal. Immigration and customs was quick and efficient. It was still early in the morning and I was doubtful my hotel would let check in at this hour so I decided to visit the Etihad Arrivals Lounge.
It's a compact space but very nicely appointed. The space was not crowded as I imagine AUH is a transfer point for most passengers.
There are a range of breakfast type foods and beverages.
I was keen to try the Etihad Style and Shave service so I requested a shave.
There was no wait ot see the barber and the shave started out with a straight razor but perhpas that was just for show as an electric razor was also used. All in all it was a pretty terrible shave. But a novelty none the less.
I also used the shower facilities.
There was a cupboard with amenities that was supposed to also be the location for hanging the clothes that you want pressed. I followed the instructions to use this service but no one ver came to take the clothes and press them. I didn't take the time to inquire with staff.
Finally after grooming and bathing I had a snack and then took a taxi to my hotel.
Plaza Premium Lounge - International Departure
New Delhi - DEL
Abu Dhabi - AUH
Thank you for joining me on my first trip with Etihad.
The Ground Service: The check in was flawless as there was no wait and friendly helpful staff to take care of issuing the boarding pass. The parts of the experience that are left to the airport operator and host government were pretty terrible. Its a slow, crowded and chaotic experience. One has to just exercise patience and allow plenty of time and then it's no big deal.
The Lounge: The Plaza Premium lounge was fine. I think I might have used the wrong one as there are a few, and I believe there was one closer to the gate. It was no matter, this lounge had all basic features met and the staff was friendly and helpful.
The Cabin: I found the cabin and seats to be very plush and luxurious. It might be described and flashy and perhaps dated but I was pleased. The seat was private, comfortable as seat or bed. There is ample storage space and a large IFE screen. The lighting was also well done allowing for many different combinations. The lavatory was huge (two windows) and provided plenty of room to change and quality Bergamot 22 amenities. This is a ULH aircraft after all and I imagine it would be a fine way to travel long distances.
The Crew: The main Flight Attendant taking care of my side was quite competent and professional. I also enjoyed interacting with the on board chef who is really more involved in the service than I imagined. I suppose I was a demanding passenger on this short flight as I didn't just go to sleep. This didn't seem to phase the crew at all and they provided excellent service and fun atmosphere.
The Food and Beverage: The two breakfast dishes I tried were underwhelming. The champagne was exceptional. The cheese plate was also a great experience. The presentation of all facets of food and beverage were very well done.
Overall: I was very pleased with this Etihad flight. If this is how well they conduct a 4 hour regional trip what would the 14 hour journey tomorrow be like? My anticipation was heightened for sure!
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