It was time to return back home, so I’d booked a slightly different way back so as to try another one of Etihad’s products. I was flying on flight EY51 from Abu Dhabi to Geneva, operated by an A330-300 in a three class configuration.
The flight left at 09.00 in the morning, so around 07.30 I arrived at the business class check-in desks through the dedicated entrance at terminal three. After a few taps on the computer, the machine spat out my boarding pass and I was done.
I used one of the immigration e-gates to exit the country and then proceeded to security where there were a number of scanners open, and no queue at all. Somewhat disconcertingly being used to US and European levels of security, there was no need to remove anything from my bags such as laptop or liquids, simply to remove belts and go through the metal detector arch.
It was then a ten to fifteen minute walk through the duty free shop to find my gate. It was clearly a peak time and the airport was packed. I arrived at gate 37 to find it was a bus gate. At exactly 08.00 hours they started boarding, however providing an entirely separate bus for those customers in first and business. For anyone who’s experienced British Airways departures at T5 from the dreaded A10 (or A4) this is really how it should be done.
It was a good ten minutes drive across the apron to our waiting aeroplane where we were warmly greeted by the crew.
The seat on the A330 is a previous generation one to the 787-9. The cabin is a lot more open and there’s less privacy for the seats closer to the aisle in particular. However it’s still very comfortable but very much a business class product, rather than something that I would say competed with first like the 787-9 one.
Pre-departure beverages were offered with a choice of water, orange juice, mint and lemon (which is what I had). Champers was on request, I believe due to Ramadan. It was served with a hot scented towel.
Etihad do dine on demand in business class, however I was quite peckish so elected to eat as they were doing most people. Food orders were taken on the ground, as well as what we wanted to drink after take-off and with our meals. I chose to have a glass of the delicious Billecart-Salmon and then for food picked the salmon to start and then the beef tenderloin. Having had the Shiraz on my way out, decided on the Tempranillo with the beef this time.
It was a short taxi out to the runway and in no time we’d taken off. The crew were very efficient, and in no time I had a glass of fizz in my hand, served with warm nuts.
It wasn’t long before the food came along and the salmon arrived. I was fairly hungry and my plate was quickly replaced by possibly the best bit of beef I’ve had on an aircraft. Now I do like my beef as close to still moo-ing as possible and this was really spot-on. Perfectly rare in the middle (as I’d asked for).
After that, I opted for the cheese (rather than dessert as I did on the outbound) with a rather lovely glass of port. An espresso finished the meal off.
After all of that, it was time for a nap, so reclined my seat and promptly slept for the next three hours solidly! What was very nice about the cabin is they have a twinkly star effect in the ceiling, which when the cabin is in darkness looks really nice. Not quite sure that the photo does it justice though.
I woke up in need of refreshment and being a creature of habit, ordered a gin and tonic. I dozed for a bit more, watched some movies, and tv shows. Again, this aircraft had an excellent and response IFE system with Wifi as well.
Soon we were approaching Geneva and the captain came on the Tannoy announcing that in 30 seconds we’d be passing right over Mont Blanc on the right hand side. Pretty much most of the business class cabin walked over to take a look!
After a few more minutes we were on the ground in Geneva. Like Abu Dhabi, it was a bus gate, and also like Abu Dhabi, there was a bus for first and business class passengers. This dropped us off at a completely packed immigration hall. Very un-Swiss.
Thankfully as a EU resident (Brexit hasn’t happened yet), it only took about fifteen minutes in the queue, before I found the transit security and made my way into the departure lounge for my Swiss flight back to London. But more of that in the next report.
Overall, Etihad Business class is an excellent product. The A330 seat isn’t as good as the 787-9 one (and noticeably not a first-class like product), but the food and service provided were still top notch, with the best beef I’ve ever had on an aircraft. Highly recommended.