Review: Etihad Airways Business Class A320 Abu Dhabi to Cairo

Introduction
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Star Alliance Business Class Lounge Los Angeles Airport LAX
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Etihad Airways Business Class A320 Abu Dhabi to Cairo
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Etihad 651
Abu Dhabi (AUH) – Cairo (CAI)
Wednesday, October 8
Depart: 12:55AM
Arrive: 2:45AM
Duration: 3hr50min
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Seat: 4C (Business Class)

Even though I’ve flown Etihad quite a bit, this was my first time on one of their regional aircraft.

Etihad’s A320 business class consists of a total of 16 seats, spread across four rows in a 2-2 configuration.

The color scheme of the cabin is a bit, erm, bright, at least for a flight departing at 1AM. Though I didn’t totally hate it. It kind of matched the motif of most Florida homes built in the early 90s.

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Etihad A320 business class cabin

The legroom in the cabin is generous. Seats have ~49″ of pitch, which is quite a bit more than you’d get in domestic first class within the US, though quite a bit less than you’d get in business class on a longhaul flight. So for a roughly four hour flight, it was more than enough.

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Etihad A320 business class seats

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Etihad A320 business class seats

I quickly settled into 4C, which was my assigned seat.

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Etihad A320 business class seats

Waiting at my seat were a pillow and blanket. The patterns on those were at least a bit more neutral than the seats themselves, so it balanced things out a bit.

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Etihad A320 business class pillow & blanket

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Etihad A320 business class pillow & blanket

Then waiting in the seatback were headphones, the menu, etc.

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Etihad A320 business class seatback

The headphones were the fairly cheap and crappy variety, unfortunately.

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Etihad A320 business class headphones

On the side of the seat were the seat controls, which were electric and fairly intuitive (then again the seat didn’t do all that much, so…).

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Etihad A320 business class seat controls

Then on the opposite side of the seat was the entertainment controller, which was easy to use.

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Etihad A320 business class seat controls

Then in the console between seats were two 110V outlets.

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Etihad A320 business class power port

As soon as I settled in the cabin manager, Shayan, came by to introduce himself. He was a nice guy, and told me to let him know if I needed anything during the flight. He also offered me a pre-departure beverage. I ordered some still water, which was accompanied by a hot towel. I was also offered a selection of newspapers and magazines.

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Etihad A320 business class pre-departure water

After that I was offered eyeshades and socks. Further amenities were available in the lavatory.

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Etihad business class amenities

The boarding process was a total freaking mess. Like, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a disorganized boarding process. For one, people didn’t at all pay attention where their belongings were as they boarded. Despite the aisle in business class being wide, I got hit in the face by what must have been dozens of bags. So that’s a reason to pick a window seat on flights to/from Cairo.

And no one seemed to actually look at their boarding passes, so everyone just sat down wherever. And when the few people that looked at their assigned seats arrived to find them occupied, they wouldn’t say “excuse me, you’re in my seat,” but rather “get out.”

At one point a young boy boarded, and just stood in the aisle in business class. The flight attendant asked where he was seated. He screamed back at the flight attendant “I DON’T KNOW.” The flight attendant asked if he had his boarding pass and he screamed back “I SAID I DON’T KNOW!” Eventually his mom walked on, and then he started hitting her and yelling at her. It was just nuts…

An Egyptian mom and her daughter were seated across from me, and they spent a good 20 minutes during boarding taking selfies. When the cabin manager explained they’d have to store their big bags in the overhead bin, they started yelling at him and saying “how dare you.” WTF?!

As the cabin manager walked by I whispered to him “I don’t know how you even work these flights,” and I asked if he was working a direct turn or not. Amazingly enough Etihad actually makes their crews do direct turns on these flights. They take the 1AM flight to Cairo, and then get back to Abu Dhabi at 9AM the next day. And worst of all, they do that same trip for three days in a row. But as he explained it, that’s their “bad” trip for the month, and then the rest of the month they get “good” trips.

At 12:50AM boarding was complete, with the business class cabin three quarters full. The seat next to me was open, so I moved over to 4A.

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Etihad business class cabin A320

At that point the captain made a welcome aboard announcement. He sounded and looked almost exactly like Akbar Al Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways. It was creepy how much he resembled him. He informed us that our flight time would be 3hr35min, and anticipated an on-time arrival in Cairo.

At 1AM we began our pushack, at which point the safety video began to play.

We taxied out to our departure runway, 31R, which took a long time — over 20 minutes.

At 1:25AM we were finally cleared for takeoff. As we climbed out I first checked out the airshow, which I always find especially interesting in the Middle East. The personal televisions are in the center console, so can’t be used while on the ground.

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Etihad A320 business class airshow

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Etihad A320 business class airshow

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Etihad A320 business class airshow

I then browsed the entertainment selection, which was quite extensive — not as good as on longhaul flights, but still quite good.

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Etihad A320 business class entertainment system

I decided to watch Tammy, staring Melissa McCarthy. Maybe I just have a dumb sense of humor, but I find her to be HILARIOUS. It was the second best movie of this decade, in my opinion (after Abduction).

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Etihad A320 business class entertainment

Once we passed through 10,000 feet the seatbelt sign was turned off and the curtains between cabins were closed. I know it sounds silly, but it really does make a huge difference when airlines have “thick” curtains, something we’re not used to in the US. It keeps all the light in the galley out of the cabin.

At that point meal orders were taken.

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Etihad business class menu

The dinner menu read as follows:

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And the beverage list read as follows:

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For a flight departing at 1AM I found the menu to be damn impressive.

I had a Diet Pepsi to start, which was served with mixed nuts.

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Etihad business class drink and mixed nuts

After that, the appetizer and main course were served on a single tray. I ordered the Arabic mezze as a starter and Arabic chicken kabsa as my main course. Both were excellent.

The country style bread that was served with it was incredible as well (which, after Singapore’s garlic bread, deserves second highest marks in the “airline bread awards”).

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Etihad business class dinner service

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Etihad business class appetizer

For dessert I ordered ice cream, which was baklava flavored. Yum, yum, yum. Etihad even has cappuccinos on their shorthaul flights, so I ordered one of those as well, which was served with a chocolate.

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Etihad business class cappuccino and ice cream

After dinner Egyptian landing forms were handed out.

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Egypt landing form

At this point we had about two hours to go to Cairo. Usually I can’t sleep on planes unless I have a fully flat bed, though I did manage to doze off for about 90 minutes, given that the cabin was dark and I was exhausted as heck.

The seat didn’t recline all that much, but between the pillow and blanket, it wasn’t half bad.

30 minutes out of Cairo the captain came on the PA to update us on our arrival, and shortly thereafter the flight attendants were asked to prepare the cabin for landing, which seemed awfully early to me.

Our descent was smooth, and at 2:45AM we touched down on runway 5R in Cairo.

Literally the moment we touched down the one Egyptian flight attendant got up and stood in the aisle right behind where I was seated, in front of the economy cabin. Every two seconds I saw him make a hand motion urging people to sit down, since many seemed to think it was okay to get up the second we touched down.

The taxi to the gate took over 15 minutes, and every single time we made a temporary stop the captain would authoritatively get on the PA and say “this is the captain, I request you stay in your seats as we have just reached a temporary stop. We are not at the stand.”

Shortly after 3AM we did arrive at a remote stand. Ugh, I was tired and I wasn’t feeling excited about the remote stand.

I bid the crew farewell and took the stairs down to the tarmac.

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Etihad A320 from remote stand Cairo Airport

Since I was the last business class passenger to deplane, the second I stepped into the shuttle the doors closed and we were driven to the terminal. I’ve never had such an aggressive tarmac bus driver. I felt like I was holding on for dear life, as he didn’t even pretend to slow down as we made turns. Unbelievable.

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Remote stand bus Cairo Airport

Once in the terminal I paid my $25USD arrival fee and was through immigration in a matter of minutes, where a representative from Le Meridien was waiting for me.

Etihad business class bottom line

Etihad really impressed me on this sector — great food, great service, plenty of personal space, and a good entertainment system. My only complaint would be the other passengers, who were just beyond words.

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Comments

  1. Flew Etihad Business A320 from Seychelles – Abu Dhabi and it was amazing. Great service, seat, and food for a 4 hr flight! Puts US & European regional flights to shame IMO.

  2. Imagine what the “other passengers” thought about you… Haha.

    But I totally get what you mean – hate it when there are rude people on board. And you feel so bad for the flight attendants, who (at least outside of the US) somehow manage to maintain awfully polite. I am always left feeling so insensitive, as I would probably have snapped and started an argument instead.

  3. Lucky,
    I really appreciated this report and your observations of other passengers. As a western raised Arab, I offer the following: Unfortunately, this is the norm in most Arab countries. The governments are not as organized and structured as in Western government, and the population have to be very aggressive to get what they want. If flying from western country to another, I doubt you would see this behavior. But when flying within the Arab states, they have this aggressive/chaotic mentality to try to get what is best for themselves. Everyone wishes it was more organized, but a huge cultural shift has to take place.

  4. Dear lucky, I love the blog. Just for your information, you wrote that the entertainment controller was East to use. Keep up the great work!

  5. @Lucky – Interesting that you too have an issue with swinging carry-ons in Cairo. I always pick the last row when flying to/from Cairo just to avoid being nailed in the face. I fondly recall a bloody nose on a CAI-SSH flight some years ago that prompted this course of action! It seems to be a Cairo thing for some reason – don’t have that problem on any other routes in the Middle East.

  6. Interesting trip report. I’ve been interested in traveling more of the Middle East. Will keep this report and SeanM comment in mind.

  7. @ Willy — Agreed. And funny enough they raised it recently, I guess due to lack of tourism. That’s a great way to encourage more people to visit, eh?

  8. Lucky, were the setbacks as filthy as they appear in your photos? Probably no dirtier than any other, but actually seeing it make me want to run and wash my hair! Do you catch colds very often, or are you immune to everything by now? Do you take any precautions at all, such as wiping down surfaces with towelettes? (Thanks for the great report!)

  9. @ Mairi — Hah, actually didn’t notice that. For the most part I only get sick VERY rarely. Think I’m immune to most things by now.

  10. Besides being as informative as always and with good visuals for better understanding, today you made me laugh hard with this TR. The scene you described of the shouting kid on the aisle & people hitting you on the face as they boarded due to all the junk they’re carrying on, is just priceless. Keep up the good work Ben and thanks for a great TR!

  11. @ Lucky — was the interior, specifically the color scheme, done by the same people responsible for Korean Air cabins you love so much? 😉

  12. @ Lucky — at least, with Korean they are using their signature airline color* but not sure what’s Etihad’s excuse.

    * — apparently, Korean’s color is “Celadon Green” which “represents the characteristics of Korea” (per Wikipedia). I presume Wikipedia refers to pale green-blue color of a glaze and ceramic wares from X-XIII centuries.

  13. I love this site for airplanes or airports first class travel is a dream to me/the passengers on this filght is like the middle east ,just waiting to go off any time,think they need to live iceland to cool off,great work/ps i love heathrow as its 20 min from me

  14. Hi, it is an old report but interesting , I liked how you described everything and also EVERYONE, but unfortunately I feel from your report and the others’ comments that you just come with the negative behaviors and attitudes of people “from your point of view” and did not see any positive thing although these cases I faced a lot in my travelling and life from different nationalities (Americans, Europeans Asians wherever) negative attitudes have no specific nationalities or places but they are only depends on people and how they want to see the other people !!!

  15. Excellent information. Very helpful. I am planning a trip from Bangalore to Cairo and this information really helps me feel more comfortable about what to expect. Thank you.

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