Mornings are a horrible time in any of the middle-eastern airports. Its the middle of a significant bank of arrivals and departures: a hub at work. It is also means the ideal time for the human body to let go of waste. And so, lines heading in to the rest rooms at Abu Dhabi international felt like they were miles long. I did an alright job hanging on till after US CBP pre-clearance.
With exactly 4 hours till departure and pretty much nothing to do after USA pre-clearance, I decided to bite the bullet and go through. Not without drama though - I was put through the special screening thing. People are held in a small room that has a few TVs and a play area for the little ones.
Suffice to say I was quite annoyed by the end of this. Don’t get me wrong - I am all for special searches and that random people are picked up for it. It is all in the name of safety. What did annoy me was the fact that the security were just in the middle of their own conversations and that they would boss the passengers around, and not really give proper instructions.
And yes - part 2 - of course there were people getting their laptops and DSLR cameras (you read that right!) repacked in to the hold! I was even more worried about my laptop. There were way too many thoughts in my mind and it was terrible. I should’ve just stuck to keeping my laptop in my bag, I could’ve got my camera with me. Coulda woulda shoulda - there was over 3.5 hours till departure, and even longer till I’d find out the fate of my baggage.
Immigration was next - and sign me up for a 45 seconds long entry process in to the USA , fantastic! Absolutely no line and very fluid unlike the last time. Immigration officer Martinez was kinda very rude and he could’ve been nicer about a few things, but whatever. Headed back up the escalator to the gates: Gate 58 to Dallas Gate 59 to LAX Gate 60 to Washington DC Gate 61 to JFK.
Etihad was pushing for the departure of the Dallas and Los Angeles flights on the B777-200LRs - the plane that got me in from BOM was heading to LAX. God I’d hate to be on the B77L for 16 hours - and while I say that today there are no more 77Ls in Etihad’s fleet.
Settled in to a recliner seat with a decent view of the tarmac. I was face to face with A6-LRD: a Boeing 777 that I simply did not get myself to like. The activity around included a few Etihad planes heading to various destinations - I am kicking myself for not taking enough pictures because I was so out of it. A lovely A340-600 taxied by, in addition to the LAX and DFW departures, and some other wide bodies to other places.
Eating and drinking options are very limited in this part of the terminal and all in all very boring with not much traffic going past either. Not too long later I saw the lovely tail of the Dream)liner taking me to IAD show up as it was pushed back from a remote bay - it had come in Riyadh that very morning. While efficient and very next gen, one can tell the B787 is much smaller than the B777 from this perspective shot right here:
And yes - from whatever 'spotting' I did at AUH - this was the last time I saw an AirBerlin plane…..
At gate 61 was A6-APJ - Etihad’s 10th, last and newest A380 operating the newly upgraded JFK flight. This flight had departed well on time, leaving EY131 as the last USA bound departure for the day. Just the 4 morning departures to the USA for Etihad, versus 9 over at Dubai, and 10 over at Doha. Says a lot right there, I feel.
Anyway, as departure drew closer people started lining up at the gate. However just like a month ago, the staff resorted to yelling over the passenger announcement systems asking passengers to wait until boarding was actually called. This happened at 1031 hours, 31 minutes before departure time. It was a long and slow process. Joined the line at 1043, but wasn't until 1055 when I was actually onboard:
The B787-10 had just been launched a few days prior, and here I was finally logging in my first B787-9 flight!
The cabin looked pretty inviting compared to the 777. Seats are exactly the same as you’d find on the A380 - expect narrower, and with quite the crunch in space obviously. The 787 is stated to be Etihad’s flagship plane and I was excited to sample out this one.
Seat 24A did not have much of a window view - but I was committed to sleeping for as long as I could. The legroom was much welcome for this long flight. Unlike the A380, the legroom felt tighter compared on this one, at the regular seats at least.
The cabin crew on this one already felt more proactive compared to EY205 - they were willing and helpful with the passengers. An infant was seated with the family in 24D/E/F - so a bassinet was needed. The nanny onboard ensured that the family would have a trouble free flight and that the bassinet would be installed after take off.
13 hour flying time was announced for this capital to capital encounter. A generally smooth flight over the middle east, Europe and over the Atlantic in towards DC where an on-time arrival was expected despite a possible delay in departure. We were waiting on some passengers who were connecting - and here I was around since 6am at Abu Dhabi. Yeesh. However, seat 24B was empty which was nice.
About half an hour past departure time we were handed out water and refreshing towels - was pretty nice. Pillows and blankets were already placed and amenity kits were handed out later in the flight. Pushed back a few minutes after, 31 minutes late. The GEnx engines were fired up and we taxied to take off nice and easy.
I could vaguely see Doha in the distance as we pursued a North-North Westerly course and I could not imagine what was probably going through people’s minds back then - of course it is probably all very normal right now, about a year on.
Fired up the TV screen as we flew over the mountainous terrain over Iran. Drinks were served with snacks, I went for my vodka and sprite. Around this time, the flight attendants took control of the windows - they were set to it’s darkest level unfortunately something that is very typical of Etihad that we have established here.
The cabin crew serving us was the nanny who would show up very close to our faces during service - a little too close to comfort maybe? Unfortunately they had run out of any forms of meat option. Bummer! And it was not like this plane had a lot of Economy seats up front anyway. But the very nice & kind crew apologized profusely for this. I was glad to have the paneer (cottage cheese) because it is something I look forward to when I go home, and this was probably the last time I was going to have it for a long time. A simple salad alongside a lovely dessert rounded out another decent meal on Etihad - showing that EY205’s meal was a one off.
The rest of the flight was between sleeping for a good long time and logging in to the WiFi to follow India & Bangladesh’s clash at the semi final of the Champions Trophy. What surprised me was that this wasn’t unlimited WiFi as was on the past Etihad long hauls - this was by data. Once I ran through this I found out the 2hr/4hr/flight pass was back. Dang! Two types of WiFi on the same flight? Hmm….
Missed the popcorn service - but I got a rather underwhelming sandwich, quite unlike the good ones I got on AUH-ORD a few months prior.
Unlike the A380 the B787 feels a little less gimmicky - while the restroom had the laminated walls of brown squares there weren’t the projections from the ceiling on to the floor of various diamonds like Etihad’s new livery. Perhaps this is more to do with Boeing’s Sky Interior on the B787. Seated in the emergency exit seat (for once) gave me the opportunity to run to the restroom whenever I wanted to - I timed this perfectly for the last time. About 2 hours prior to arrival when I saw the carts were being set up for service I used the opportunity to freshen up real quick before arrival. An aisle full of carts and a line full of passengers is never fun for the flight attendants I would imagine.
The last meal was the usual no-option Indian vegetarian. This time it was paneer rezala with rice and dal makhani. More Indian food - oh please sign me up! Another fantastic meal to round out what turned out to be a pretty decent flight on Etihad. A long line formed in front of the exits as people tried to head for the restroom in the rush before arrival.
Nice and easy - smooth decent and arrival in to Washington DC - my first time in the Capital of the USA! We docked at the gate a few minutes before time - right beside an Air France A380.
I waited for everyone to disembark because I had all the time to kill before my next flight, but anxious of the fate of my laptop. Boarded the tram and headed for the arrivals.
ALL'S WELL END'S WELL!
A golden cart with suitcases were brought to arrival - these were the large electronic devices. I could’ve just sent it there had it not been for the loads of wrongful information by the guy @ BOM. And pretty soon - there was my suitcase, still in its wraps coming around on the carousel. A quick rip of the wrap plastic and my laptop was there, all fine and working well. It all worked out in the end. Glad this worked out well, I suppose I freaked out a lot for nothing! I was now counting down time till the next flight - and the end of this trip pretty much.
Before I conclude, I would like to apologize for what seems like a very empty trip report. The lack of window seats meant that pictures were reduced significantly. I would’ve loved to have done some spotting @ AUH - given that an A340-600 is pretty rare nowadays. It is what it is I suppose - and there is a lot coming up in store!
Abu Dhabi - AUH
Washington - IAD
Well, a tale of two Etihads it would seem. The B777-200LR was quite the flight to forget and things changed dramatically on the B787-9 to Washington, the long haul flight that mattered. Food was good on this one - pity I didn’t get to know what the options were whatsoever. The crew took very good care of all the passengers on the long flight which is always nice to see. And as for Etihad themselves - wow, a lot has change since I flew with them - reduction of routes & frequencies, removing aircraft, deffering new aircraft orders, just cuts all around. One can hope they come out of their hole and get their act back together. The pre-clearance facility is absolutely fantastic and its use is not being justified given the rather limited flights between AUH and USA. AUH-IAD/JFK is a completely different ballgame compared to AUH-ORD/LAX (and back then) DFW given that the product on the A380 and B787 is very different compared to the B787. Would Etihad be an airline I fly again? To be honest, probably not. I’ve seen what they’ve got and it can be quite the mixed bag and there is so much more out there when flying between the USA and India, a lot left to be tried!
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