Live Coverage Of Etihad’s Inaugural Abu Dhabi To Los Angeles Flight!

I’ve flown several million miles and have made a point of getting on some “special” flights, but I don’t think I’ve ever been on an inaugural flight before. Until today.

I’m about to fly from Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles on Etihad Airways’ inaugural flight, which they announced last October. As soon as they opened up bookings I managed to snag a first class award seat using 90,000 American AAdvantage miles. At the time I wasn’t sure I would actually take the flight, but as an Executive Platinum member with American I figured I would lock it in, since I could always redeposit the ticket for free.

Anyway, the day has finally arrived, and I’m quite excited. This will be the longest route into Los Angeles Airport, at 8,390 miles and a block time of 16hr30min. And, surprisingly enough, it will also be my longest flight ever (though I’ve done several flights within an hour length of this flight).

AUHLAX-Route

The flight will be operated by an A340-500 and will feature wifi. Rather than live “blogging” I’ll be sharing the experience on Twitter and Instagram, so be sure you’re following me.**


Etihad Airways A340-500

Then when I land I’ll have a summary post of the experience.

I’ve flown Etihad Airways Diamond First Class before, so I’m curious to see how an inaugural flight differs from a “normal” flight. I’m also curious to check out the new US immigration pre-clearance facility in Abu Dhabi, which has been a disaster thus far and caused consistent delays.

Etihad_Airways_Diamond_First
Etihad Airways Diamond First Class

My totally uneducated guess would be:

  • There will be some sort of ceremony/party/kiki at the gate, probably with an executive in attendance (I doubt it’s big enough to warrant the CEO, but maybe the regional VP for North America?)
  • The crew will be “hand picked,” so on their best behavior (at least that’s how they do it with other foreign carriers)
  • Passengers will be offered souvenir bags of some sort
  • A water cannon salute upon landing in Los Angeles

If you’ve flown an inaugural before, what was your experience? Anyone have any “special requests” they’d like from this flight and/or information they’d like me to hunt down?

And I leave you with Etihad’s boarding music, which I love:

** I’ve collectively slept maybe five hours over the past week, so I reserve the right to conk out after takeoff and wake up 16 hours later. In the unlikely event that this happens, thanks in advance for your understanding. 😉

Comments

  1. Lucky,
    Special request? Sure! Can you send me the first class amenity kit after you land? I’m serious and will pay shipping.

  2. Oh man the preclearance facility is terrible. Enjoy the rest! Although you’ll spend the entire 16 hours wondering how the preclearance facility is THAT bad.

  3. Really interested in your report as I’ll be taking this same flight in October, connecting from New Delhi.

  4. Yes, you will have to clear US immigration and go through some usually quite horrendous re-screening because going through security immediately after departing immigration doesn’t count and you have to do the drill over again. And get checked for water.

    Plus the US-bound flights are a real schlepp from the first class lounge.

    Give yourself plenty of time, I nearly missed a flight a few months back (and would have if the aircraft hadn’t been subject to an unannunced delay).

  5. I found the pre-clearance facility to be fine – but beware, the folks in the lounge tell you to leave for the gate WAY to early… I’d say at least by a half hour if not an hour, especially if you have Global Entry. We left about an hour before flight and they still didn’t load for another 20-30 minutes… The Mimosa effect clearly wore off.

  6. @ Trevor @ Gary — Interesting. At least they have Global Entry now. I do wonder if there will be a gate party, in which case I guess I’ll head over there a bit early.

    In either case, leaving PLENTY of time.

  7. If connecting, in my case from New Delhi, will I have to claim my checked bag and go through U.S. Customs as well as immigration, and considering this, what would you say in the minimum connection time? I’m concerned that the time may be too short.

  8. @ Stuart Falk — I’ll have more info after today. I don’t believe you have to claim your bags, instead they’re just photographed for immigration. I’ll report back!

  9. To be clear, I only left the lounge about 40 minutes prior to departure which was definitely a big mistake even with premium security. I’d definitely leave 75 minutes prior to departure.

    Remember that Etihad begins boarding earlier than most airlines.

    The schlepp to the gate can be 15 minutes.

    And while the premium security lines can be shorter, some of the staff can be VERY thorough and VERY slow.

  10. My booking for October shows the aircraft to be a BOEING 777-200LR , which is what I had thought is being used on this route, as opposed to the A340.

  11. @ Stuart Falk — Yep, that’s the long term plan. It’s just the first couple of months that it’s being operated by an A340-500.

  12. Enjoy your inaugural inaugural inaugural flight Ben! I did Aer Lingus Toronto inaugural in April and had a blast. Will be following your updates live!

  13. @Suart Falk: same here. I am book for December for the same flight in 777-200LR. So what is going on with the aircraft?

  14. @ caveman — The 777-200LRs are coming from Air India and being reconfigured, and I think that process is just a couple of months late.

  15. For others booked on this flight, while my reservation shows as ticketed on the Etihad Web site, I am unable to book the limo service at LAX using the link on their site. I have phoned Etihad and, after some time on hold, the agent took all of the pick up in New Delhi/drop off in LA information, but he told me it was on request and I would need to phone back later to make sure it was confirmed.

    Also he told me that, I would have the choice of going through US immigration in Abu Dhabi or LAX an that with a connecting time of an hour and fifty minutes I would NOT have the time to go through US customs in Abu Dhabi and should tell that to the check-in agents in New Delhi, making sure my checked bag is handled accordingly. (I’m not totally confident that is is in fact the case).

  16. Is this going to end up like that Emirates flight where you missed the shower? 🙂

  17. Have a great flight Lucky!

    To share my inaugural experience, I was on the inaugural AA DFW-ICN flight on May 9, 2013. I got a messenger bag which also had a TUMI travel adapter, a Seoul guidebook and a set of metal chopsticks. There was also a buffet table at the gate at DFW.

  18. Oh, and if you end up on the A340-500 that’s registered A6-EHB, I hope the wifi works. It didn’t work at all last month when I flew on it.

  19. I got the impression from your trip reports that you didn’t really like Etihad. Is AA the best way to book them for award travel?

    In any event, have a good flight!

  20. I wonder how many of your readers know what a Kiki is?? Do a poll!

    Good luck with AUH customs, The worst!

  21. @ Carl — My last flight on them was much better than the previous ones. They’ve actually turned the onboard chef concept into something useful, so I give them a lot of credit for that. And their hard product is tough to beat.

  22. Lucky
    The whole Etihad Pre clearance thing is good for others (and uses up time in Abu Dhabi) but it is useless for us folks in F class with Global entry
    Previously I would land at IAD, get a van to the immigration building
    then go through global entry pick up my bags and be in a limo in 15 mits
    Now, I get off the plane and walk to the trains with the crowds and then wait for my bags at the carousel and then fight for my limo among the crowds

    When you land at Abu Dhabi, you go to a transfer center and then go through security to go to the lounge
    After you leave the lounge at Abu Dhabi, you go for a long hike till the preclearance facility
    then you go through security then go down to immiration and customs and then again go up to the gate and then wait and wait and wait.
    All US flights seem to be on a delay; there is no place to relax and you are finally on a plane 90 min after leaving lounge

  23. I was on the inaugural BOS-NRT 787 flight two years ago. They had executives from AA, JAL, and the port authority. They also had cakes and lots of pretty cool swag. Pizza in motion has a blog post or two about it. It was in April 2012.

  24. I’ve been on lots of inaugural flights by several airlines. Some are great fun (the SQ SIN-EWR and EWR-SIN stands out) and others the airline makes no effort so it is just an ordinary flight (DJ AKL-ZQN for instance).

  25. I do inaugural (and fleet retirement) flights as a hobby.
    On my birthday, I’ll be on AA’s DFW-HKG inaugural, biz class.

    As already mentioned, some airlines play it up and others couldn’t care less. My favorites have been Singapore A-380 LHR to SIN and various Alaska west cost to Hawaii starts.

    Virgin America also plays things up, but the “first” flight is typically an “invite only”. I flew their very 1st departure from their home base of SFO. But the party flights were the 2 inbounds (JFK and LAX) to SFO. But it was great being there for the arrivals and big gate party.

    As for the crews, as a rule of thumb I think they’re clueless. They’re working the trip simply because it’s what they were assigned.
    The only exceptions I know of are VX SFO-ORD where I recognized an FA from the SFO gate party a few years earlier (he bid that trip for that reason) and at the final CO DO when they had 2 757 sightseeing flights … the FAs (who were volunteer) were the ones from an earlier (and much liked on FT) version of the safety video.

  26. I was working the inaugural LHR-CLT flight in April 2013, there was a banner at the gate, cake for the crew and business class, prosecco for economy and a water cannon salute before take off.

    I also know, that on the last LGW-CLT flight, catering had put stickers all in the galley with pictures of Piedmont at Gatwck, old pictures of US Airways at Gatwick and thank you messages from all the ground staff. There was also a water cannon salute.

  27. Instagram feed was very cool (thanks!) although it didn’t seem like they went all-out for the flight.

  28. Guys, Heads up- If you are flying from LHE-AUH-LAX, ETIHAD is intentionally delaying the LHE-AUH and then rebooking passengers on connectors into US. Happened to me on 6/5. Watch out!

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