Introduction: New Years In The Maldives, Summer In New Zealand
Review: Etihad Airways Lounge New York JFK
Review: Etihad First Class A380 New York To Abu Dhabi
Review: Etihad Airways Arrivals Lounge Abu Dhabi
Review: Etihad Business Class A340 Abu Dhabi To Male
Review: Returning To The Park Hyatt Maldives
This Is What A $570 Per Person New Year’s Eve Hotel Gala Is Like
Review: Etihad First Class A380 Abu Dhabi To Sydney
Review: Park Hyatt Sydney
Review: Qantas Business Class 737 Sydney To Auckland
Review: Hilton Auckland
Review: Air New Zealand Lounge Auckland
Review: Hilton Queenstown
Review: American First Class 777-300ER Sydney To Los Angeles
We had an awesome night in Abu Dhabi. As I mentioned in the previous installment, we stayed at the Hyatt Capital Gate. We visited the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, walked along the Corniche, visited the Emirates Palace (where we had a great dinner at the Emirati restaurant), etc.
After a good night of sleep we headed back to Abu Dhabi Airport and bid farewell to Matt. I won’t be reviewing the Etihad Premium Lounge again, since I’ve done so before. Instead I’ll be sticking to the flight itself.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at 9:20AM from gate 55. Unfortunately that’s a remote gate, meaning we’d have to take a bus to the plane.
Boarding commenced at around 8:30AM, a full 50 minutes before our scheduled departure. The boarding process was rather chaotic, as everyone crowded around the gate and ignored the boarding calls.
Within a few minutes we managed to get on the bus, one of which was reserved for first & business class passengers (these buses have a good amount of seating, while the other buses are typically standing room only).
The ride to the plane took about five minutes. Our flight was operated by an Airbus A340-500, which is a very rare treat (just from an aviation geek’s perspective), as the flight is typically otherwise operated by an A330. They used just one set of stairs for the plane, meaning everyone boarded through door L2.
The A340-500/600 sure is a mighty fine plane, one of my favorites in the sky (at least physically — I don’t love the passenger experience).
Abu Dhabi (AUH) – Male (MLE)
Monday, December 28
Aircraft: Airbus A340-500
Seat: 7K (Business Class)
We boarded through door L2, located between the first & business class cabins. Upon presenting our boarding passes to the cabin manager we were directed to the far aisle, where our seats were located.
This plane has a fairly small business class cabin, with just 28 seats. All the seats are in one cabin, and they’re in a staggered configuration. There are four seats per row, with the seats in each row staggered to maximize the efficiency of the cabin. These are similar business class seats to what you’re find on airberlin, Alitalia, etc.
In the center section, seats alternated between being further apart from one another (in which case they were near the aisles), and being in a “honeymoon” configuration (where the seats were as close to one another as you’d find in economy).
The window seats are also in a staggered configuration. I was in seat 7K, which was a “true” window seat. The true window seats feel very private, though also a bit confined.
Then there are seats closer to the aisle, which I’m not as much a fan of, since they feel really exposed, and lack privacy.
The benefit of these types of staggered configurations is that you have plenty of legroom, and you don’t have to fit your feet into a tiny cubby when you’re trying to sleep. So the seat is fairly comfortable in the fully reclined position.
However, these particular seats are extremely worn, and Etihad really should update them. My seat cushion was so worn that I felt like I was sitting on wires.
Below the ottoman was a small compartment big enough for a pair of shoes.
The seat controls were located to the left of my seat, and were easy to use.
Below the seat controls was a rather awkward storage compartment, which was shallow, narrow, and exposed, so wasn’t especially practical for storing anything other than a pair of glasses.
Below that were the entertainment controls, which were rather outdated.
Already waiting at my seat upon boarding were a pillow and blanket. The pillow featured Etihad’s new branding, which is pretty swanky. The pillow was plush and the blanket was large, so they were more than sufficient for a short flight.
Also waiting at my seat were headphones.
Within about 15 minutes of settling in, the cabin crew came through with pre-departure beverages. I had a glass of juice. I could tell early on this wasn’t the best crew. They lacked any sort of charm, and seemed to almost be robotic.
Eventually the crew also distributed hot towels.
Then they distributed menus for the flight.
And then finally eyeshades and socks.
Boarding was reasonably efficient, at least as efficient as it can get with a completely full A340 using one jet bridge to board. Within about 30 minutes boarding was complete, at which point the captain (who was Mexican) added his welcome aboard, informing us of our flight time of 3hr35min, and our cruising alttiude of 39,000 feet.
We pushed back at 9:35AM, at which point the cabin manager, Joanna, added her welcome aboard and also screened the safety video.
I loved the Etihad Cargo 747-8 we taxied by — such a gorgeous plane!
Abu Dhabi Airport is under construction (they’re building a new terminal, which should hopefully open next year), so the taxi from the current terminal to the runway is long.
It was about a 20 minute taxi, at which point we found ourselves in the takeoff queue, behind five other planes.
At around 10AM we were cleared for takeoff, and I could see Abu Dhabi’s distinctive ATC tower in the distance.
Initially we had views of the new terminal, which they seem to be making good progress on.
Other areas of the airport don’t look quite as promising in terms of progress.
The cool thing about departing Abu Dhabi Airport is that you sometimes have a view of Ferrari World about a minute after takeoff, as was the case on this flight. Such a cool view!
While the interior of the Gulf countries can be somewhat boring in terms of the landscape, I find the coastal areas to be fascinating.
About 10 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off.
I decided to browse the entertainment selection. While the selection was reasonably good, the system on this plane felt rather outdated, and the video quality wasn’t very good.
So I just turned on the airshow, which I enjoyed watching.
While I didn’t love the entertainment system, this flight did feature wifi, so I bought a pass for ~$20, which lasted the whole flight without data restrictions. That was incredibly useful, given that it was a Monday morning, and I’d be disconnected for much of the rest of the day after landing (since we had to take a small plane and then boat to get to the Park Hyatt Maldives).
About 20 minutes after takeoff the crew came around to take breakfast and drink orders.
The breakfast menu read as follows:
And the beverage list read as follows:
The entire meal was served on one tray. I ordered the Emirati breakfast along with a cappuccino.
The meal was accompanied by fresh fruit and a croissant, and was reasonably tasty.
Meanwhile Ford had the chive omelet with the beef fillet. It wasn’t the tastiest looking steak I’ve ever seen…
The meals were quickly cleared, though I ordered another cappuccino after breakfast, which was served on a nice tray, accompanied by a chocolate.
This crew was subpar. They just weren’t friendly, weren’t smiling, and stuck to the absolute basics. That was fine since this was a short flight and I was happy just working, but it’s always a bit disappointing when you have a crew which lacks personality.
About an hour before landing the crew distributed landing cards for the Maldives, along with a fast track card.
Soon enough we began our descent into Male, at which point we started to hit some chop. I love the views on approach into Male, as you can sometimes even see overwater bungalows from the plane.
We had a smooth touchdown on runway 18 at Male Airport at 2:40PM.
We had a long roll as we slowed down, given that the airport only has a taxiway in the center of the airport.
The way the bigger planes get to the terminal is by rolling to the end of the runway, then making a 180 degree turn, and then turning into the parking area.
As we taxied on the runway we had a view of all the private jets which were parked at the airport.
There was even a Qatar Airways private jet.
Once at the terminal we pulled in next to a Qatar Airways A330 and an Emirates 777.
While the airport doesn’t have any gates, the good news is that our plane parked close enough to the terminal so we could walk to immigration without having to take a bus.
I do love being up close with heavy aircraft, so I can’t say I minded that.
Immigration took about 20 minutes, and at that point we began the process of checking in for our Maldivian flight to Kooddoo. I won’t be discussing the transfer experience again in this installment, but check out my review from my previous trip to the Maldives, where I reviewed the Maldivian Moonimaa Lounge Male Airport, as well as the Maldivian Dash 8 Male to Kooddoo flight and Park Hyatt boat transfer.
Etihad business class A340 bottom line
Ultimately this was a great product for a short flight. Getting a fully flat bed on a three hour flight is always awesome, and having wifi is even better. However, other than that I wasn’t especially impressed by this flight. The crew wasn’t friendly, the seats were worn, and the product overall could really use a refresh. Fortunately Etihad’s new business class looks excellent, though they don’t have any immediate plans to install it on the A340. I wouldn’t be thrilled if I were booked in these seats on a longhaul flight.