Review: Etihad Airways First Class 777-300ER London To Abu Dhabi

Introduction
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Gulf Air Business Class A330 London To Bahrain
Westin Bahrain City Centre
Etihad Airways Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Airport
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Sheraton London Heathrow Hotel
Cathay Pacific Lounge London Heathrow Airport
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Etihad Airways Lounge London Heathrow Airport
Etihad Airways First Class 777-300ER London To Abu Dhabi
Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa
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Qatar Airways First Class 777-300ER Cairo To Doha
The Airport Hotel Doha Hamad International Airport
Qatar Airways A350 Inaugural Flight Gate Party
Qatar Airways Business Class A350 Doha To Frankfurt
Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt Airport
US Airways Business Class A330 Frankfurt To Philadelphia


Etihad 20
London (LHR) – Abu Dhabi (AUH)
Monday, January 12
Depart: 2:05PM
Arrive: 12:55AM (+1 day)
Duration: 6hr50min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 1K (First Class)

I boarded through door 2L, and was escorted by one of the business class crew to my seat, 1K.

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Etihad first class aisle 777-300ER

This flight was operated by a Boeing 777-300ER, which features eight first class suites, spread across two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. While the product has been around for years, it’s still gorgeous and among the better seats out there, in my opinion. I especially love the understated finishes, unlike the cabins of one of their UAE rivals. 😉

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Etihad first class cabin 777-300ER

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Etihad first class, seats 1D & 1G

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Etihad first class, view from seat 1K

I had selected seat 1K, which is the first window seat on the right side.

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Etihad first class, seat 1K

Etihad’s first class seats are lovely — they’re spacious and fully enclosed, and comfortable for sitting, lounging, and sleeping. Ideally they’d be a bit wider for sleeping, but all things considered it’s a great seat.

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Etihad first class, seat 1K

There’s a large TV and ottoman across from the seat, and to the left of that is the private closet.

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Etihad first class, seat 1K

Then on the right side of the seat is a compartment which opens to reveal the entertainment controls, power plug, USB plug, etc. In front of that is a control surface from which you can control your seat.

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Etihad first class seat entertainment controls

Then at the front right of the seat is the small minibar with bottled still and sparkling water, as well as trail mix.

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Etihad first class seat minibar

Once settled in all three first class crew members came by to introduce themselves. First off Succorina, the Indian cabin manager, came by to introduce herself. Then Pannatee, the Thai onboard chef came by to introduce herself. And then the half-German half-Japanese first class flight attendant (I never got her name, unfortunately) introduced herself as well.

I can’t say enough about how freaking awesome these three were. Any three of those crew individually would have made a great flight, but together it was an all-star crew.

Succorina wasn’t just extremely attentive, but was hilarious, engaging, and informal in a way I’ve not experienced on Etihad before.

Pannatee wasn’t only great at preparing food and drinks, but also had the most genuine smile.

And the Japanese/German flight attendant was awesome as well since we could communicate in German, and she was extremely attentive and proactive.

I could tell it would be a fantastic flight.

I was quickly offered a pre-departure beverage, and selected some champagne. I had a glass of Gosset, which was served with a bowl of dates, a hot towel, and a note from the cabin manager.

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Etihad first class pre-departure champagne

Shortly thereafter I was offered Arabic coffee.

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Etihad first class pre-departure Arabic coffee

Shortly thereafter Pannatee offered me the menu and wine list for the flight, while the flight attendant offered me an amenity kit, pajamas, and headphones for the flight.

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Etihad first class pajamas, amenity kit, headphones, blanket

Also waiting at my seat was a light blanket. I love Etihad’s new blankets. They couldn’t be more comfortable.

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Etihad first class blanket

Etihad’s headphones are okay. They’re decent in terms of canceling noise, though they’re not very comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.

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Etihad first class headphones

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Etihad first class headphones

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Etihad first class amenity kit

I also love the pajamas Etihad currently offers, which are light and simple, but very comfortable. I changed into those right away.

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Etihad first class pajamas

Boarding was quick, and at 2:25PM the door was closed, just 15 minutes after boarding began. There were three other passengers in first class. They were all seated on the other side of the cabin, and all women. That was my first time being the only guy in first class on a Middle Eastern carrier.

The Emirati captain came on the PA shortly before departure to advise us of our flight time of 6hr20min, promising to make up as much time as possible once we were airborne.

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View prior to pushback London Heathrow

We commenced our pushback at 2:35PM, at which point the safety video began to play, starting with the travel prayer (which I know catches many first-timers off guard). Here’s the A330 version of the video:

I’m pretty sure we had a record taxi speed, as we were at the runway and cleared for takeoff by 2:45PM, just 10 minutes after pushing back. I watched the nose camera the entire way to the runway.

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Taxiing to runway London Heathrow

There was only one plane ahead of us for takeoff, which was a British Airways 747 in the oneworld livery.

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Taxiing to runway London Heathrow

Soon enough we were cleared for takeoff, and had some great views of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 on the climb out.

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Taking off London Heathrow

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View after takeoff from London Heathrow

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View after takeoff from London Heathrow

The weather on the climb out wasn’t great so we hit a bit of light chop, but nothing too bad.

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View after takeoff from London Heathrow

As seems to be the norm, the views got considerably better after we were airborne. Bad weather below the clouds generally translates into great views above the clouds.

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View on climb out

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Etihad airshow enroute from London to Abu Dhabi

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Etihad airshow enroute from London to Abu Dhabi

I browsed the entertainment selection, which was excellent as always.

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Etihad E-Box entertainment system

They had several episodes of The Mentalist which I hadn’t yet seen, so I started by watching those.

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Etihad E-Box entertainment system

The flight also had wifi, which was $21.95 with unlimited data for the entire flight. Etihad has among the best onboard wifi, as it’s consistently quite fast, in my experience.

About 15 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off and service began. Pannatee came by to take my meal order.

The menu read as follows:

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And the wine/beverage list read as follows:

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Like HOLY CRAP! Etihad’s menu between London and Abu Dhabi is amazing. The quantity and quality of the options are just about unmatched for a six hour flight. The menu almost looked more extensive to me than what I’ve seen on flights more than twice as long, on which they run out of food halfway through the flight.

If the chef on Etihad is good I’ll usually just tell them what I like and let them decide for me, which I did in this case.

I started off with a glass of champagne, which was served on a beautiful tray with nuts, olives, and some sort of veggie chips.

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Etihad first class champagne and nibbles

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Etihad first class snacks

Then I was offered an amuse bouche, which consisted of duck.

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Etihad first class amuse bouche

Etihad recently changed their plating, and as part seems to have downgraded the mezze. I used to love Etihad’s mezze, but in my opinion now it looks more like toddler puke than a proper mezze. The taste is still quite good, though it’s a bit weird to me that they plop it all on one plate, as opposed to the more “traditional” way of having more plates/containers.

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Etihad first class mezze

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Etihad first class mezze

The bread selection was fantastic, between the pretzel, garlic, and pita bread.

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Etihad first class bread selection

After the mezze I was offered sorbet as a palate cleanser.

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Etihad first class sorbet

For the main course I had the fish biryani, which was spectacular.

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Etihad first class fish biryani

And then for dessert I had the chocolate and orange sphere, per the chef’s recommendation. Not only was it visually stunning, but it tasted great as well.

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Etihad first class bitter chocolate and orange sphere

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Etihad first class bitter chocolate and orange sphere

Lastly I had a cappuccino to finish off the meal.

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Etihad first class cappuccino

The meal service was done at a great pace, and I had plenty of chance to interact with and talk to the crew. As I said above, all three crew were lovely. The cabin manager had some especially interesting stories, as she used to work for another Middle Eastern airline, and happened to have a lot of “interesting” interaction with the airline’s most excellent CEO. 😉

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Etihad airshow enroute from London to Abu Dhabi

As I finished up the meal I asked if I could have my bed made in 2K, which the crew gladly accommodated. They asked if I wanted to be woken for another meal before landing, which I declined. I simply asked if I could be woken 30 minutes before landing with a cappuccino.

Etihad’s bedding is extremely comfortable. While I’m also a fan of Cathay Pacific’s first class bed, there is something really nice about having a “fully enclosed” suite.

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Etihad first class turndown service

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Etihad first class turndown service

I slept very well, and as requested was woken up 30 minutes before landing with a cappuccino. I changed out of my pajamas and stowed my carry-ons. As we descended the captain came on the PA to provide updated arrival information, informing us we’d be touching down at around 1:10AM.

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Etihad airshow enroute from London to Abu Dhabi

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Etihad airshow enroute from London to Abu Dhabi

The views on approach into Abu Dhabi were typical. It’s tough to describe, but there’s something uniquely “Abu Dhabi” about the views on approach at night. It’s not that the skyline is unique or that there’s a unique grid system or anything, but it’s sort of desolate-looking in a unique way. I dunno, maybe I’m going crazy…

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View on final approach into Abu Dhabi

We had a smooth touchdown at 1:10AM, and from there it was a really long taxi to the terminal. Ever since the new Abu Dhabi terminal is under construction it seemingly takes forever to get between the runway and terminal. We arrived at the gate after a roughly 15 minute taxi.

And yes, that’s right. We arrived at a gate. Something that almost never happens in Abu Dhabi, in my experience. While I don’t mind the first class BMW tarmac transfer, I do love just arriving at a gate and heading straight for immigration.

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Arriving at gate in Abu Dhabi

I bid farewell to the crew, told them they were one of the best I’ve ever had, and was on my merry way.

Etihad first class bottom line

I kind of feel like my Etihad experiences are polarizing. Some of my best flights as well as some of my most underwhelming flights (not actually bad, but rather just flights that could easily be improved on) have been on Etihad.

When they get things right they hit them out of the park. Between the comfortable suite, incredible service, and delicious, extensive menu, this was as good as flying gets.

Kudos to Etihad on this one!

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Comments

  1. @Lucky.
    I am going to be travelling LHR-AUH-SYD First part of journey in J then in F. Will I get the BMW transfer?

  2. @ Ken — If you arrive at a remote stand in first class then you should be picked up, yes (if you’re flying an A380, though, those don’t arrive at remote stands).

  3. I’m flying a 77W in J In to AUH however I’m flying F out of AUH do I get treated as a F Pax on arrival? Meaning I get the transfer service because when I go on etihad.com to book a chauffeur it says not eligible.

  4. @ Alvin — That’s a toughie. Agree they’re a bit “out there,” but I guess they match the new branding somewhat.

  5. @Ben,
    Something makes me feel that the “excellent CEO” you’re talking about is HE Akbar Al Baker

  6. Another EY flight Between AUH and LHR in first class (of course) and the format of the review the same. I really enjoy your site and have been a dedicated reader but in my opinion there is a sameness to these posts that starting to show. I looked back through your previous reviews and they could be interchangeable. Same flights, same airlines (LH anyone?) and same locations. I know you are a passionate traveller and I still enjoy some of your more diverse posts but why not try different countries (South africa, North africa, more Asia etc) different airlines and fly business for more helpful reviews and even dare I say economy to get a better idea of a carrier. Though some are always able to turn left on entering a plane, there is a reason there are only 8 seats there and 300+ to the right. Also more of how you earn the points you do, points earning from other country perspectives and even some lighter posts (celebrities you have seen?) would keep it fresh. You have a great blog and keep up the great work… I would just like to see more diversity.

  7. @Craig,

    I actually find Ben’s multiple reviews of EY, LH, EK, CX, QR, SQ etc. to be very informative and useful. A single review of an airline’s premium class is not going to reveal one of the most important aspects of the service: consistency. Is the service uniformly great? We know from Ben’s multiple reviews that EY’s first class service standards can be erratic while CX’s is consistently great, despite the questionable quality of the inflight dining.

    However, you are quite correct in advocating for more diversity of airlines. And for more business class reviews. How I would love to read a review of Vietnam Airlines’ long haul business class! And Ben’s take on Aeroflot’s President Class would have the potential of being priceless.

  8. @Lucky,

    Thanks for the great trip report. While there’s no arguing that the A380 First Apartments are phenomenal products, I could actually see myself redeeming this product instead. If I were ever to travel to the Middle East, it would most likely be with my wife. The 1-2-1 configuration seems to be a better layout for traveling with a companion.

    I don’t recall you having reviewed the new A380 business class product, but how would you compare the 777-300ER F to the A380 J, especially when traveling with a companion? Thanks!

  9. @ Matt S — I’d say 777-300ER first class is still considerably better than A380 business class, in terms of personal space, privacy, bedding, food, service, etc. It’s worth the premium, in my opinion.

  10. @ Craig — I appreciate the feedback, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by some of my upcoming travels. 🙂

  11. Interesting in your nose cam picture that there’s a Concorde plane in the shot… Wonder who is using that these days…

  12. Can I just say – as an Australian – I completely agree that the menu looked impressive, but to have Victoria Bitter as a beer option – my god, what is wrong with the world…..

  13. Hi Jeremy,

    please allow me to answer. The Concorde can be found at the beggining of RWY 27L, it is a static, which means nobody is using it. Good catch though!

    George

  14. George, thanks for mentioning the Concorde. I saw it during a recent trip which had me connecting through Heathrow. I was shocked by how small it is!

  15. “Arabic appetisers”??? Applying the word Arabic to everything Arab (and not just the language and its literature) is a common mistake, sure, but surely Etihad should be able to get that one right!

  16. Can’t believe it but I was just able to book an Etihad first class ticket (Class O) from BOM to JFK next January. We can’t wait to try out the suites! Wanted to thank you for all the work presenting this information allowing and encouraging us to get the most from our miles. We will be arriving at the domestic BOM airport on a positioning flight from MAA. Are we entitled to a free ride from the domestic terminal to the new international terminal? Are we entitlee to a ride home from JFK to our house? Also what’s the Etihad lounge like at the BOM airport?

    Thanks and keep up the good work!
    BIll

  17. Thanks – Great review. My wife and I have a forthcoming trip to Sao Paulo with Etihad and I was thinking about upgrading from Business to First, the flight time is 15 hours and 40 minutes! Your review has made up my mind!

    Thanks again

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