The best way to Win: Flying Etihad’s First Class

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A6-LRE, a 777-237LR, loading up at LAX for the lengthy flight again to Abu Dhabi – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

“That was the bulliest expertise I ever had. I envy you your skilled conquest of area.”

Factor is, Teddy Roosevelt by no means flew Etihad. Man missed out. If a small biplane may impress our solely president to ever journey a moose, I believe the sheer awesomeness of Etihad would doubtless have left him a gibbering idiot!

AirlineReporter Senior Correspondent Jacob Pfleger flew Etihad’s first class product again within the days when it was nonetheless referred to as “Diamond First Class.” It was superb, however with the introduction of the Aspects of Abu Dhabi scheme and elimination of the phrase diamond, Etihad has taken it even additional. Out of a way of curiosity and jealousy, a must journey to South Africa, and a need to finest Jacob, I discovered a great fare from Los Angeles to Johannesburg that may let me put Etihad to the check on their longest pair of flights. I flew from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi and again, the route that Etihad bought their 777-200LR fleet from Air India particularly to launch.

The suite was too long to fit its entirety in my 14mm lens! Photo- Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The suite was too lengthy to suit its entirety in my 14mm lens! – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Now, when these planes got here from Air India, they had been in legendary Air India fashion. Lacking components, lacking paperwork, just about near the axe; the plane weren’t taken care of. Worse, Air India had determined to buy the auxiliary gas tanks from Boeing that had been needed for his or her dream routes to the U.S. West Coast that may solely materialize this yr (possibly). Etihad and Boeing labored for months to convey these plane as much as scratch.

Nonetheless, while you get on board, there’s not a hint of the previous horrors and neglect that these great machines confronted. The result’s a firstclass cabin that’s higher than each Gulfstreams I’ve flown on.

The extraordinarily vast seat extends right into a mattress properly over six toes in size. Feeling uncovered? Yeah, I’d be too. Although you’ll be able to’t actually see another passengers when seated, that’s not the purpose – you might have the flexibility to close your doorways and have final privateness. Once I fly, I’d relatively not see anybody however the cabin crew. Industrial flights will not be about socializing for me. Etihad understands.

Imposing and glorious doors shield you from stray lights and random bumps - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Imposing and wonderful doorways defend you from stray lights and random bumps – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The doorways really flip into one in every of Etihad’s few flaws. Whereas the they’re good in and of themselves, wouldn’t it have killed them to make the doorways computerized and a part of the seat management? I get the sensation Etihad can also be conscious of this and dealing on an answer; they’re extraordinarily intelligent and among the rumors I’ve heard of upcoming merchandise make me suppose they’re stealing my ideas. If that appears like a reasonably minor difficulty, that’s the purpose. That was the most important factor I may discover mistaken with my expertise.

This is a 23" 1080P screen. Legroom is more or less too long to count - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

This can be a 23″ 1080P display. Legroom is kind of too a lot to estimate – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The in-flight leisure (IFE) is innovative, and of the Panasonic eX3 type. Although it’s “solely” 1080p, that doesn’t detract from something. There’s not a significant quantity of 4K content material on the market, so Etihad isn’t but behind the curve.

By the best way, the photographed blanket above, adjoining the mini-bar, is by far the most effective in flight blanket I’ve ever seen or used.

Etihad, if you are reading this can I have one of those for my birthday? This pillow is my favorite thing: whistful begging- Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Etihad, in case you are studying this, can I’ve one in every of these first-class pillows for my birthday? This pillow is my favourite factor – Wistful Begging: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

One of many different perks is the pillow. By way of consolation, it’s merely a pillow, however I desire to think about it as a murals, solely for first-class passengers. In that manner, even earlier than pre-departure beverage service, my flight was already exceeding Jacob’s! What now, Jacob? What now?

Dinosaur-era regulations prevent self-service of alcohol on flights to and from the U.S.A. There's on;y water and nuts in here - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Dinosaur-era rules stop self-service of alcohol on flights to and from the U.S. There’s solely water and nuts in right here – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

I problem you to discover a higher seat on a 777 — you gained’t, partly due to the just about ostentatious use of Poltrona Frau leather-based. You will see that none higher on virtually all different airways and plane. It is just bested by Etihad’s 787-9 product, and eclipsed by the First Class Apartment on the A380 (however then once more, what isn’t?).

Does the mini-bar serve a goal? Sure. On flights to nations not caught within the puritan period, there’s normally beer in there in addition to water. Saves you a ding of the decision button. Now, is it as giant because the Emirates mini-bar? No. That’s due to Etihad’s service philosophy! Why seize a bottle of water and a pack of nuts when you’ll be able to have an enormous pot of tea and a recent baked cookie to go together with it?

What about the remainder of the smooth product?

Bollinger, Orange Juice, a welcome letter, dates, and a towel - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Bollinger, Orange Juice, a welcome letter, dates, and a towel – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Again in college, some individuals from Etihad’s Australia department got here to present us lecture on their philosophy and another airline advertising issues. Again then, they instructed me they needed to be the most effective airline on the earth. They weren’t excited about being the biggest, nor most of the different metrics, however they’d a purpose. Be the most effective. By finest, they meant by way of specializing in the client and exceeding what anybody else thought may probably be executed in industrial air journey. 4 years later, I lastly obtained to see what they meant!

They did it. They did it in such a manner that you’d be insane to ever think about another first-class product actually “first-class” ever once more. They took a web page out of my e book; not solely did they gaze on the competitors and say “I can match that,” they threw down their proverbial gauntlet, shouting “attempt to catch us!” whereas driving away on a horse boosted by rocket-powered sneakers and laughing.

Oddly, my first regular passenger interplay with Etihad past the welcome observe, the dates, and the chilly towel ready for me was being instructed that some arcane U.S. Customs regulation prevented them from opening the Moet & Chandon Rosé champagne they’d on board, and that they may solely use the Bollinger. Now, don’t get me mistaken, a great Bollinger has a terrific terroir and simply the correct amount of fruit and caramel to essentially pop with the dryer end – and naturally, this did. Critically although, why can we not have our Rosé champers? Who wouldn’t it harm? Do you dislike the concept of a glowing mix?

Two glasses of Bollinger in previous to pushback, I began to lose my outrage.

The second interplay was the chef coming previous to ask for my orders. I’ll get to what I ordered later for my dinner, however even the menu presentation was flawless. That’s the stage of service and delicacy in Etihad First. The chef isn’t only a glorified oven operator, both. Once more, in time I shall clarify.

There was one other downside. Not Etihad’s fault, after all. The bags system in LAX’s Tom Bradley Worldwide Terminal (TBIT) was malfunctioning and cargo sheets and baggage confirmations needed to be executed manually. Etihad was courteous, informative, and very apologetic for a delay completely out of their arms.

See, I was staying hydrated in my binge. Now the world knows! Photo- Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

See, I used to be staying hydrated in my binge. Now the world is aware of! – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The chef even introduced me some potato chips to go together with but extra champagne.

Ultimately we made it to LAX’s longest runway. In fact, I pulled out my chronometer. After taking the runway, we rolled for 46.97s earlier than rotation. Then once more, when you might have that a lot gas and cargo on board, that just about appears quick.

My subsequent glass of champagne (now the Rosé) got here with an amuse of dehydrated greens, nuts, and olives.

Ten minutes later, Danushka, the most effective cabin attendant ever, got here by to arrange the desk. This isn’t your bizarre high quality china. One would positively say it was bespoke for Etihad. I find it irresistible a lot I plan to return to Abu Dhabi and do a bit of shopping when they have their next sale. It might be enjoyable for dinner events.

Etihad has the thinnest airline china I have ever seen- Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Etihad has the thinnest airline china I’ve ever seen – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

First-class meals in my life have ranged from “fairly good,” to “similar as enterprise class,” to “downright terrifying.”

Etihad, nonetheless, employs a chef for each first-class cabin. It appears they take meals as severely as me. I appeared on the menu, I requested in regards to the particular, and I had learn numerous different Etihad critiques. I discovered how one can finest maximize my Etihad eating expertise — I used to be not disenchanted.

I used to be mistaken, the dehydrated greens and different snacks with my champagne weren’t an amuse in any respect.

This was.

This is a veal and tomato canapé; if you were wondering - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

This can be a veal and tomato canapé, for those who had been questioning – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Increase. One chunk. Gone. The veal was just about flawless. Nice complexity and depth of taste. That is Michelin-star stage cooking at 33,000 toes. Many airways don’t need to push the culinary envelope of their first-class. That’s not how we re-imagine flying, is it?

Etihad has one of the vital refined galleys you will see that. The chef has grill pans, skillets, and protein packs for the ovens. Shockingly, they actually have a microwave to play with. I don’t know why that impressed me a lot, but it surely did.

All proteins are cooked on demand. You gained’t be getting a steak that was pre-cooked on land after which tortured into some kind of hockey puck. In fact, I couldn’t merely consider the chef, I had to do that.

However first, some conventional Arabic mezze.

There are a lot of things in a mezze platter, please read the article for description - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

There are a variety of issues in a mezze platter, please learn the article for description – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The bread plate had pita and two non-bread entities. There was a kind of arabic vegetable samosa, and a beautiful kibbeh. Critically, that was a terrific kibbeh, places my native to disgrace!

On the plate there have been some pickles, baba ganoush, and hummus. Not grainy grocery retailer hummus, not even “native mid-eastern chain restaurant.” Not that my native is unhealthy, however this was the flat-out finest I had ever tasted. It’s laborious for me to maintain saying flawless, however when my poor little native place, that I really like, in Bellevue, WA is getting crushed at what was then 35,000 toes — I can’t consider a greater phrase. I may go on for days, however the meals had disappeared.

Grapefruit sorbet, classy - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Grapefruit sorbet; stylish – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

A grapefruit sorbet made for a pleasant intermission earlier than the principle occasion. Oh wait, did I point out the Etihad bread choice? Some weren’t a great mixture when having fun with the Arabic delights, however I nonetheless loved the garlic bread. Then got here the steak.

Steaks on a plane- Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Steaks on a aircraft – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Sure, disbelievers, this rib-eye was grilled on board.  It was served with a easy red-wine discount, inexperienced beans, and mashed potatoes. Easy, however superb.

Desserts are always better when they are multi-course- Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Desserts are at all times higher when they’re multi-course – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Then, it was time for some kind of honey and cream cheesecake as a pre-dessert. What course was this? I began to lose depend, however that was a great factor.

Airline, or high end patisserie? Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Airline, or excessive finish patisserie? Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Subsequent I used to be served a chocolate/orange sphere. Sure there was chocolate soil, sure there was an impeccable raspberry coulis, sure this was simply over the wilds of Montana. Higher but, there was even some kind of gelée. The presentation, the colours, the smells, and the style all glad.

To associate with it, I additionally had a pot of scrumptious Italian almond tea, one thing you’ll be able to’t get in enterprise class. Jacob… did you take pleasure in some Italian almond tea?

I could live here - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

I may stay right here – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

I used to be stuffed. Thrilled to bits, however very stuffed — additionally drunk. Time for mattress!

I didn’t need to sleep too lengthy, not solely would that be losing away a First Class flight, however I additionally needed to be ready to sleep, shortly after touchdown at 8:00pm in Abu Dhabi.

It was laborious to stay awake extra, when that is the most effective mattress you’ll discover on a triple seven or something aside from the standard Etihad superiors.

A lamb biryani and some lemon-mint juice- Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

A lamb biryani and a few lemon-mint juice – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Even with the mattress being superb, while you get up, that doesn’t make you any much less hungry. Nonetheless within the excited delirium of too many high-end fermented grapes, I made a decision it was time for a lamb biryani. Extraordinarily spicy, however extraordinarily scrumptious. Etihad appears to have been in a position to grasp each fashion of delicacies thrown at them.

Fresh French pastry on a plane! Sorcery! Photo- Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Contemporary French pastry on a aircraft — sorcery! Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Additionally they offered recent baked cookies and madeleines on request.

Nearer to touchdown I devoured Etihad’s competitors to the Qantas/Emirates steak sandwich, the Etihad Steak sandwich. Yeah, it’s higher. Love using the caramelized onion relish.

The Etihad Steak Sandwich - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The Etihad Steak Sandwich – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

So what did I do once I wasn’t consuming? Properly, I confirmed my suspicions that the one good film launched in 2015 was “Mad Max: Fury Street” – I attempted all the opposite large names. Okay, Ant Man was okay, however every part else was outright horrible. That is what movie has change into?

The very best worth, nonetheless, is the T-mobile Ku-band web. $21 USD for 17 hours of WiFi? Bought. Even higher, due to aircell know-how, I may ship and obtain common SMS messages, as long as the ‘no cellphone’ mild was not illuminated.

Well, that's the best dessert I've had in a long time - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Properly, that’s the most effective dessert I’ve had in a very long time – Picture: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Ultimately, I’ve to warn you – Etihad First will go away you mendacity in your sofa in your black lounge put on wishing you had been nonetheless on the aircraft. And it could be laborious to really feel that different first-class choices are in the identical ball park.

It’s stunning, seeing how good of an expertise that Jacob had within the previous first-class, not that way back. It was a product to be pleased with and nonetheless beats a lot of the competitors. However now, there isn’t any query that Etihad has improved this product and the remainder of the trade can be making an attempt to catch up.

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