Let’s get down to business. I had many options for my return flight from Europe, and a few people have asked why I chose the long way home via Dubai. You know why? Because of Etihad Diamond First Class. It’s a well-known and well-reviewed product, but I had never been to the Middle East and kinda just wanted to treat myself after flying to Europe and Dubai in Coach.
So, how was it? Did it live up to the hype or was it all glam and little substance? Read on to find out.
My trip home began early in the morning. Etihad offers a chauffeur service to its First and Business class guests (including those on reward flights) and they’ll pick you up from any of the emirates. So, even though the flight left from Abu Dhabi and I was at the Park Hyatt Dubai, they still drove out to Dubai to get me.
They called me the day before to confirm my pickup time of 7am. While early, it’d give me some time to enjoy the First Class lounge at AUH, about which I had heard great things.
The only problem: I overslept my alarm. I got a call that woke me up at exactly 7am telling me my driver was here. I hadn’t packed yet either. Eek. You know that sound effect cartoons used to play when the character was starting to run? Pick any of these, and that’s what I sounded like. I hurriedly threw everything into my bag and jogged the quarter mile back to the reception area of the hotel to check out. The Etihad driver didn’t appear upset or anything, even though I put us behind schedule by about 20 minutes.
I was smoothly handed off to a bellhop who escorted my EXTREMELY HUGE carry-on with his massive wheeled cart to the First Class Check-in area, which was in a No Focus Zone.
The check-in area was nice for being so out of focus.
Checked in, I made my way to the First Class Lounge, which was surprisingly before the shopping area.
The lounge came with much fanfare and is highly touted in the frequent flyer community. It was indeed very nice.
I grabbed a seat in one of the huge oversized white leather chairs and ordered some breakfast. And planespotted like whoa.
Once breakfast came and went, I made my way to the spa for a wonderful 30-minute shoulder and back massage.
My time at the lounge came to a close pretty quickly after that, for one extremely stupid and ridiculous reason: the TSA Pre-clearance area at Abu Dhabi. There is no reason to have a pre-clearance facility at AUH, there are 5-6 flights a day to the USA, that’s it. If you have Global Entry, you can breeze on through. If you don’t, like me, you get to wait in a MASSIVE, HUGE, UNRELENTING, SLOW-MOVING line. US citizen line? HA. Not a chance. There’s one line. You wait and wait and wait while every visitor to the USA is cleared, then finally it’s your turn…and it takes 6 seconds.
I actually asked for a supervisor and (politely) asked why there wasn’t a US citizens line, since it’d be so much quicker and help avoid the massive delays suffered by flights leaving AUH due to passengers being stuck in line. He was understanding and very professional about the situation and thanked me for my comment. He said the political situation wasn’t such in Abu Dhabi that a line specifically for US citizens would be received very well. I understand there’s probably a lot going on behind the scenes that led to the facility (namely that Dubai’s airport doesn’t have one, most likely), but honestly it’d be quicker if they just got rid of it. They wouldn’t let me buy any duty-free items either, which was a bummer as I can’t buy my liqueur of choice in the USA, only abroad.
I had some pictures of the facility (which I wasn’t supposed to take) but honestly they’d just make me mad so I didn’t post them. If you go through AUH, trust me you’ll spend plenty of time there to get your fill.
Anyway, I finally made it through the stupidity and made my way to the gate to get my first look at the beautiful A340 taking me to Dulles, the most unattractively-named airport out there.
Like many others, I love the tag-line of Etihad. There is one huge thing that I cannot stand about one of Etihad’s political stances, but that is all I will say about that. Those who know, know.
Anyway, after a brief wait (for passengers making their way through the TSA facility), I was invited to board and made the coveted left turn to my beautiful suite!
Awaiting me were a menu, a welcome gift, and plenty of other stuff to keep me occupied. But first, before other passengers arrived, how about getting some pictures of the beautiful cabin?
How about an HDR photo of the cabin’s unique ceiling?
Ok, enough HDR for now, because it was time to explore the suite.
My flight attendant came by with champagne and interrupted PictureFest 2014. What a pleasant interruption!
Ok, now that I had some bubbles, let’s take a closer look around the suite.
There were many different power outlets and USB ports available.
There was a coat closet in the “wall” of the suite, but it was almost too narrow for even one coat. My hand for scale.
I was then interrupted by the bringing of gifts.
My attendant then insisted on taking a picture of me.
Arabic coffee and dates were then brought by.
Oh, you want some HDR shots of the suite area too? No? WELL TOO BAD.
At about this time, we actually had to get around to flying. I took my seat and enjoyed some scenery as we proceeded to the runway and enjoyed the A340’s famous leisurely takeoff roll (I swear we had driven back to Dubai by the time we took off).
HDR of the climb? You bet.
It was about lunchtime, so shortly after we took off the flight attendants made preparations for the meal service. The chef came by and introduced himself and informed me that I could have whatever I wanted at any time. I decided to go ahead and eat so I could try and get some sleep. Keep in mind the whole time I was instagramming the crap out of the experience for everyone. The in-flight wifi was $24 for the entire flight and was very fast. I even decided to hog bandwidth and livestream a CrossFit event on my iPad.
After a while I decided I was being a jerk and a bandwidth hog, plus the food was ready, so I put aside the iPad as they made the table ready for my meal.
I loved the table setting, it was very classy and elegant. Both of those things are typically wasted on people like me, but it was still nice.
I ordered the hummus, since I’m a bit of a hummus enthusiast, and it was excellent.
The service was precise if not a little infrequent. The flight attendants were well-trained in display and presentation, everything had its place and they did an artful job of making it look great.
I then had the steak. And for no reason I tried to make it HDR (no idea why, definitely overdone). The steak was delicious and fairly close to a medium/medium-well cooking, which is tough to do on an airplane.
I then settled in for a peaceful fliTHEN THE TURBULENCE HAPPENED. I don’t like turbulence and am actually a really nervous flyer. We had about an hour of consistent turbulence, not only up-and-down but also side-to-side (these I’m sure are the scientific names for turbulence). It eventually settled down, but it left me feeling uneasy for most of the rest of the flight.
After a while I decided to try and get some sleep, although my efforts would eventually prove fruitless. Since no one was in the suite next to me, the bed was made there.
Before laying down I went to the fairly large bathroom to change into my jammies.
Oh how warm the cabin was! I can’t sleep if it’s warm (or even if it’s cold actually, I don’t get very much sleep and am doing a sleep study this week). That was part of the reason I couldn’t get to sleep, the other reason probably was the turbulence.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying though, when the lights were turned out the ceiling even had fiber optic lighting to simulate stars! It would’ve been better I think if they would’ve had fiber optic ceiling fans that simulated actual ceiling fans so I could sleep, but oh well.
I gave up on sleeping and returned to my seat. I had heard great things about the steak sandwich and had to try one for myself.
After a long time we began to make our approach into the DC area (I didn’t get a picture of the moving map because it wasn’t working on our flight). Just beforehand, we were given some nuts and water.
Aaaaand it’s done
We landed and the flight was over. It was a long flight that felt long, unlike my previous journeys on other carriers. Did it live up to the hype? In certain ways, yes. The hard product was incredibly nice and elegant. The service wasn’t quite to the standard of Singapore Airlines in Suites Class or Cathay Pacific’s First Class but it was very good. They could’ve been a bit more proactive, but I guess I could’ve been more proactive as well and rang the call button when I needed something.
Best flight ever? Not really. Would I ever pay for it? Don’t have a choice on that one, I couldn’t afford it. Would I have been happy with the service if I had paid for it? I have absolutely no idea since I could never afford it. I will say though that 90,000 AAdvantage miles was a heck of a lot cheaper for me to acquire than the $8800 this ticket cost, so I got that going for me (which is nice).
And thus concludes my Eurabia trip report. Thanks for your patience and thanks for joining me!