Welcome back. The last installment ended after a short but impressive QR flight from Doha deposited me at Abu Dhabi International Airport Terminal 1 for my first rendezvous with the A340-600.
I followed the signs for connecting passengers. There was a brief security screening with no wait. I have never spent any time in T1 so I had a look around. I know it's dated and crowded but I like the aesthetic and "arabian" look.
I reached the transit desk and it was quite crowded. I entered the queue and waited a bit, looking to get my boarding pass, and then realized that flying First I should be able to get the BP in the lounge, so I headed there. I'm really not that great a first class passenger. I'm just conditioned to line up and wait but that doesn't need to be the case when flying first.
My flight was leaving from T3 but I decided to have a look at the T1 lounge since I was here already.
I was immediately and warmly greeted at the lounge by an EY staffer. I presented my passport and aksed about getting the boarding pass issued. Of course no problem and it was quickly done. I was advised I was welcome here but informed of the T3 lounge as well. I also observed a but of a kerfuffle between staff and a couple of disgruntled passengers. This was a scene that I saw played out three separate times on this trip. Men of South Asian ethnicity yelling at female airline staff in a completely unproductive and inordinate to the situation way. Their flights were delayed, some significantly, but their misogynist and narcissistic behavior left me nauseous. I suppose I'm glad to see this happens outside the US too, for some reason.
Enough about men behaving poorly and on to the T1 Premium Lounge. It's a dated, low ceiling, low natural light space. There is plenty of seating in a variety of configurations. The materials and decor are all quite sharp and pleasant. The crowd was thin at this early evening hour.
Generous food and beverage area as well as a bar with staff that were very friendly and eager to offer drinks.
I enjoyed some water in a round room.
Time to venture over to T3 and the lounge housed therein. On the walk over I saw this rendering of what the airport will be in the future?
Traversing the long line that is T3.
Got a shot of the aircraft that will do the flight to NRT tonight. Beautiful thing. My first time on the A340-600 (or any A340 variant for that matter).
After the warm greeting I was escorted to the "First Class" section. This was my second visit and i received the same briefing, " This is a temporary arrangement until our new First Class Lounge opens." I guess we'll know next week if the 5/1/15 rumor is a reality…
General lounge seating area.
I don't have a lot of time here but I so want to avail myself of as many amenities as possible. I start by venturing off to the STYLE & SHAVE by Etihad and Six Senses Spa to setup appointments for service. A haircut is available straight away and I setup a massage for an hour and a half later. It was my first airport lounge haircut and it went very well. The stylist was very friendly and did a super job of tidying up my hair(s).
I opted for a shower next. This was not a great experience as the rooms are cramped and very warm. No thought was put into the space in that a user may have luggage of some variety with them when they travel and the may need access to this when they are bathing.
With some time post shower and pre-massage I returned to the seating area. I was promptly offered a beverage and also told of some cook to order menu items that I may like. This wasn't offered on my last visit. For fun I requested the club sandwich. I would have the 2005 Bollinger La Grande Annee to quaff as well. The wine is superb and the few bites of the sandwich I had were also enjoyable.
Massage complete and riding that buzz of relaxation (and champagne) that one gets forma massage I opted to enjoy an espresso. I went to the barista station and placed my order. I'm sure this is something that the servers in the first class section can fetch but, again, my default is to do-it-yourself so to speak.
While I didn't use the buffet(s) this time the lounge has two rather extensive food offerings and a dining area.
I was very excited to see the inside of an A340 for the first time so I headed to gate a bit early. The holding area was packed with no where to sit. I was standing around near the podiums when an Etihad staff came and led me to another sparsely populated seating area. I think it was the seating for the adjacent gate that was not being used at the time. Perhaps this was for F and J? I was fine standing but appreciated the gesture. Boarding started about 15 minutes after the stated boarding time and I was aboard quickly.
Greeted at the 2L door and escorted to my seat. The cabin is very opulent with a diamond on the bulkhead and high walled suites. Although dated I still think it's a nice looking space and very comfortable.
I selected 2A. It is the same seat I enjoyed on the 777-200LR from DEL-AUH. As near as I can tell it's the same seat and a great place to dine, sleep, and lounge.
The seat lighting and adjustment controls are via touch screen and the IFE is controlled by this rather dated remote.
The excusite flight attendant, Ludmilla, came to introduce herself and offer a beverage. I opt to resume relations with the Bollinger.
Amenities are delivered in a handy tote.
I opt to go change into pajamas straight away but there is some limitation to using the lav as the aircraft is being fueled. This is a new one to me. Anyhow eventually Ludmilla leads me to the larger lav. On the way in the chef Hugo stops me and presents me with a garment bag for my clothes. This is very thoughtful and also amusing as I'm wearing shorts after that hot Etihad shower experience.
The lav is very spacious and well equipped with amenities. The pajamas on offer are very sleek, black, and comfortable. The bag also contains slippers of good quality.
Back at the seat the menu and wine list are distributed and reviewed.
With all pre-flight duties taken care of we are dispatched for taxi and takeoff.
The flight was smooth as we made our climb passing over Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah, and out over the Strait of Hormuz. Service began promptly and all but one passenger decided to enjoy a meal and some Etihad hospitality. Beverages were offered first and I requested a dry martini. What I received was a martini made with sweet vermouth rather than dry. It was served in a generous and proper stemware.
A trip to the lav and I snapped a shot of the pilot rest area and cabin control unit.
At a leisurely pace, allowing time for a cocktail, the table was set for dinner.
The on board chef, an affable guy named Hugo, did the meal manifesting. He was keen to prepare anything and everything that was within his box of tools, so to speak. I requested of Hugo a small portion "tasting" experience. I pointed to several dishes on the menu that I was keen to try but asked that he scale down the portions so that I may try more items. Hugo was very agreeable to this idea and said it would be done. I also deferred to Hugo as to what wine to enjoy as well. I must admit the concept of an on board "Chef" seemed gimmicky to me at first but when you get a great one like Hugo it adds a lot of value to the dining experience.
The first wine presented was a dry Riesling from the USA.
The amuse bouche was presented. Please forgive me but I don't remember what this dish is or how successful is was…or wasn't.
Bread is served by Ludmilla from a basket.
The next wine offered was from Burgundy and a lovely example of Chardonnay.
The minted prawns and Arabic soup were up next. I enjoyed both dishes a great deal.
A palate cleansing sorbet of sorts was slotted in next.
I spy the neighbors also enjoying this great parade of food.
The wild mushroom risotto was served next. This dish was slightly off the mark in texture, too aldente, but the flavor was true to the description.
The wine was changed to an Australian Shiraz to pair with the main lamb dish.
The star attraction was the tender lamb shank in jus served over a mashed potato. It was very good. The braised meat is friendly to in flight dining. I do believe Hugo lost track of our small plate goal with this portion…
The vegetable saloona was served on the side.
I took a sweet wine to enjoy with cheese and dessert.
The Etihad cheese presentation has to be the best looking in the sky. I suppose cutting and plating the cheese at the seat is more proper but my goodness this is nice to look at…and taste.
Finally, having come this far, I opted for a bite or two of the baked wild berry pudding. Very enjoyable dessert.
Thoroughly delighted with all the flavors and service of the meal it was time to get horizontal and see if sleep would come. The bed was made and suite doors closed.
Sleep was good in this spacious bed. The cabin temperature was perfect too, which greatly effects my sleep. I was unconscious for most of Asia and awoke near the Sea of Japan.
The offer of service came quickly and I requested water and a cappuccino.
I wasn't particularly hungry but there was one menu item left that I wanted to conquer: The Etihad Steak Sandwich. Hugo assembled a lovely version.
Nearing Japan now and excitement is building. After my home airport of LAX, NRT is the airport I have most frequented logging 126 arrivals/departures. It has a very special place in my aviation memories.
We touched down on 16L and made the long journey to Terminal 1. Not everyone is as excited about NRT as I am…
Etihad Airways Business Class Lounge
Abu Dhabi - AUH
Tokyo - NRT
Thank you for joining me for this delicious meal...I mean flight...to Tokyo's Narita Airport.
The Ground Service: Transit was very efficient, after I came to my senses and abandoned the transit desk queue. I must have arrived at a lull time as the security line was no waiting.
The Lounge: The Etihad Premium Lounges are both very good Business Class lounges. The additional perks for First Class including haircut/shave, massage, and excellent champagne are excellent features to differentiate. I'm quite intrigued by what Etihad may have in store for the upcoming First Class lounge. The J lounge is so complete it's going to be interesting. If anything a less crowded space will be welcome. I pass through AUH in Etihad First again May 21st so if it's open expect a full report!
The Cabin: Comfort, privacy, adequate IFE, and low volume of traffic. All hallmarks of a great product. The IFE and screen are reaching the end of their useful life, but so is the A340, so I doubt there will be improvements upcoming.
The Crew: Genuine, professional, and efficient come to mind as ways to describe Ludmilla and Hugo. The cabin manager Fritz also seemed kind but there was less contact than with the others. They really made the flight a fun and memorable experience.
The Food and Beverage: I enjoy the a la carte style of service where the passenger can somewhat customize the experience. The chef on board adds a lot of value to this way of dining. I give high marks (airplane dining qualifier firmly in place) to all the dishes that I explored. The plating of the food must also be mentioned as great care is taken to provide a visual treat too.
Overall: Etihad is really climbing up my list of favorite airline experiences. This is only my third segment in Etihad F but all have been very memorable. Keep up the good work.
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