Review: Etihad Airways Flight From New York to Abu Dhabi

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I have heard good things about Etihad Airways; and this is the first time I fly on an airplane operated by that airline as a passenger. I walked up to the counter at the gate in Terminal 4 of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York when it opened and had absolutely no problems checking in for my flights to Johannesburg via Abu Dhabi. I received my boarding passes within minutes. I then went to sit down in a chair at a gate opposite the one being used by Etihad Airways.

Although passengers were being boarded by zones aboard what became a full economy class cabin inside of the Boeing 777-300 aircraft operated by Etihad Airways, there was a long line to board anyway; but it moved fairly quickly.

Seat and Amenities

I then approach my seat; and some goodies were awaiting me.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Awaiting me in my seat is a blanket, headphones, a small amenity kit, and a pillow which you are encouraged to tear up that middle slot so that you may wear the pillow around your neck. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The seat was reasonably comfortable; although the flat cushion of the seat could use a little more padding. I was not exactly thrilled about the angle of the lower half of the seat. It reminded me somewhat of the seat I experienced on an airplane operated by Alitalia several months ago during my unintentional trip around the world — yes, I still have more trip reports from that trip to post — but it was not nearly as uncomfortable.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
These noise-cancelling headphones came in quite handy when there were a could of children crying aboard the aircraft. The sound was great when playing the music from my portable electronic device. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
This blanket was freshly laundered, according to the plastic bag in which it was sealed. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I then noticed the back of the seat in front of me. I was pleased that it was equipped with many features, as explained in the captions of the photographs below.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
The back of this seat was equipped with a large monitor with controls; a retractable control unit; a retractable coat hook; an electrical outlet which accepts multiple formats; a USB port; what appeared to be a port for a RJ45 jack; and an obsolete EmPower port for devices such as an Apple iPod. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
The seat was also equipped with a cup holder. The tray table folded in two before locked in its stowed position. Also included in this photograph is a closer view of the universal electrical outlet and the bizarre port for an Apple iPod device. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I did not like the tray table because items kept sliding off of it for some reason. I was unsure why. Could it have been the angle when it is completely opened flat? Was the surface too smooth? Whatever was the reason, the tray table was not convenient to use.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
There is an extra mesh pocket attached to the typical seat pocket for extra storage. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

First Meal Service

The first meal then arrived. Before I began this trip, I looked at the special meal options offered by Etihad Airways; and among the choices was seafood. Yes! It has been a long time since I had last seen that meal option; and I had the forethought to order it before my trip.

Here is the printed menu with a choice of three meals for passengers seated in the economy class cabin; and all meals are prepared to conform with Halal dietary laws:

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The special meals are served well in advance of the regular meals, so I was amongst the first to receive a meal. The problem is that because the drinks are served with the regular meals, I finished my meal long before I had the option to order a drink.

This is how my meal was presented to me — and I apologize in advance for the poor lighting conditions:

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I then unwrapped everything…

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
My special seafood meal consisted of salmon with rice; smoked salmon as an appetizer; crackers and cheese; a roll which came later; and apple crumble cake for dessert. It was quite good, actually. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The salmon was moist yet flaked nicely. I would have liked to have a crusty roll with the smoked salmon, which was slightly tough but good. A few sprigs of the bed of greens on which the smoked salmon rested were turning brown; but that would be my most significant criticism of this meal.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Mid-Flight Snack

Somewhere over the United Kingdom halfway during the flight, we received a paper bag which contained this:

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

It was purportedly a turkey sandwich.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The roll was far more appealing to me; so I scraped out whatever was inside of the sandwich and ate the roll.

In-Flight Entertainment Options

There are many options with the in-flight entertainment system — so many that because I fell asleep during much of the flight, I was not able to try them all. One thing I did like was that there were two cameras with live feeds of the outside during the flight which you can watch.

You have a choice of viewing the flight map several different ways; viewing the landscape camera of the topography below the airplane live during flight; viewing the forward camera of whatever was ahead of the aircraft live during flight; and viewing connecting gate information if you are connecting to another flight. Information at the lower right of the screen updates you with information pertaining to the flight in real time. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
You have a choice of viewing the flight map several different ways; viewing the landscape camera of the topography below the airplane live during flight; viewing the forward camera of whatever was ahead of the aircraft live during flight; and viewing connecting gate information if you are connecting to another flight. Information at the lower right of the screen updates you with information pertaining to the flight in real time. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Here is a view of mountains covered with snow somewhere between Yerevan and Baghdad from the Landscape Camera:

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Being assigned to an aisle seat, I thought this was pretty darn cool. This does not, however, replace the actual view from a window seat, as I have expressed my thoughts far more clearly here pertaining to windowless aircraft.

Final Meal Service

The final meal came 90 minutes before the conclusion of the flight. Again, it was a special seafood meal. This is how my meal was presented to me:

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I then unwrapped everything…

My special seafood meal consisted of what seemed to be a fish curry with rice and stewed mixed vegetables; two large shrimp as an appetizer; and an American KitKat chocolate bar for dessert. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
My special seafood meal consisted of what seemed to be a fish curry with rice and stewed mixed vegetables; two large shrimp as an appetizer; and an American KitKat chocolate bar for dessert. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The meal did not look very appetizing at all; but do not let the appearance fool you — the meal was far more delicious than it looked. There was a moderate heat in the spice of the meal; and the tomato and other flavors were quite full and rich. The fish was in large, moist chunks; and the bland rice complemented the flavorful stewed vegetables well.

I wrote in the caption to the above photograph that the meal came with an American KitKat chocolate bar because everywhere else in the world, KitKat is by Nestlé; but for some reason, KitKat is by Hershey’s in the United States. I have heard people prefer the Nestlé version over the Hershey’s version.

Other Notes

It was nice to see the connecting gate information.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

When the lights were dimmed aboard the airplane, mood lighting bathed the interior of the aircraft with a glow of color.

Mood lighting dimly lit the cabin in all of the colors of the rainbow. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Mood lighting dimly lit the cabin in all of the colors of the rainbow. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The mood lighting was at the windows in addition to the ceiling.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The lavatories located in the center of the economy class cabin were significantly more spacious than those typically found in the economy class cabins of airplanes operated by other airlines. Moreover, they contain hand sanitizer for those who are inclined to use it.

Summary

If you plan on being a passenger in the economy class cabin of an airplane, my first experience suggests that Etihad Airways is a top choice. One other tip: although the other meals appeared to be all right, choose the seafood meals in advance. I was glad I did; and I highly recommend you do the same.

Overview

Release Date

November 8, 2015

Pros

Clean airplane interior — including clean sealed blanket
Neck pillow is provided
The seafood meal option is an absolute must to order
Noise-cancelling headphones of good quality are provided
Electrical outlet provided to power your portable electronic device
Flight attendants provided good service, were polite and somewhat attentive
Airplane landed at destination on time
Plenty of options for in-flight entertainment, including two outdoor cameras to view during flight

Cons

Economy class cabin was full of passengers
Aisles were quite narrow
Flight attendants not as warm or friendly as on some other airlines
Difficult to keep tray on flimsy split tray table
Plastic cups and other refuse not collected in a timely manner by members of the flight crew, causing them to pile up at the seat
No direct way to connect your portable electronic device to the in-flight entertainment system unless you have the obsolete EmPower cable
USB port at the seat did not seem to be in operation
Must have an adaptor to plug the two-prong jack from the headphones into your portable electronic device.
Long lines during boarding process
Sandwich during the flight was not very good
No options other than juice, soda, water and one snack item during the long flight when hungry or thirsty between meals

Service

Comfort

Food and Beverage

Amenities

Value

Overall Rating

Conclusion

The economy class cabin aboard airplanes operated by Etihad Airways is one of the more superior products being offered in commercial aviation these days. All in all, I enjoyed my experience as a passenger aboard Etihad Airways. While I did not exactly cavort in The Residences or Apartments or anything like that — this aircraft was not equipped with them anyway — this is one of the better economy class cabins I have ever experienced.

Between the in-flight entertainment, the amenities and the meals, there is certainly enough to keep a person busy on a flight whose duration was greater than eleven hours — that is, if the person does not fall asleep.

4

Comments

  1. semsem says

    I am flying to Johannesburg but chose South African from New York for 2 reasons:

    1. Nonstop saving about 5 hours +.
    2. 33.5″ legroom over Ethihad’s 32.”

    Would have only saved about $100 and I don’t feel it’s worth it.

    • Brian Cohen says

      Spend $100.00 to save greater than five hours and have slightly more legroom?

      At less than $20.00 per hour, that rate would certainly be worth the South African flight for most people, semsem.

  2. MEDIO says

    DEAR BRIAN,

    GREAT!
    I HAVE MY QUESTIONS. IN A LONG FLIGHT BY ETIHAD, AUH TO ORD AS AN EXAMPLE, DO PASSENGER HAVE FREE DRINKS AS MUCH AS THEY WANT? IT IS BETTER TO SAY WHAT A PASSENGER COULD EAT FREELY AS MUCH AS THEY WANT? DO PASSENGERS HAVE FREE INTERNET? THESE ARE MY FRIENDS QUESTION.

    SINCERELY,
    MEDIO

    • Brian Cohen says

      Greetings, MEDIO

      Assuming you are referring to passengers seated in the economy class cabin, they can drink as much water, juice and soft drinks such as soda as they want — but I do not know about whether or not alcoholic beverages were free of charge, as I do not drink them.

      Internet was available if I paid extra for it, as it was not available free of charge.

      Food is limited to two meals and a sandwich, with a snack or two — such as popcorn coated in caramel or cold fresh sliced apples in a sealed bag — served by the flight attendants. The surplus of those snacks — as well as water and two kinds of soda — were kept in the rear galley of the aircraft where passengers can serve themselves and graze as long as supplies were available.

      I hope that answers your questions, MEDIO. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

      • MEDIO says

        It was great. Thank you so much.

        I have questions. A friend of mine told me that I can have my suits (with cover) besides a carrier and personal item (like my camera case). He meant I can bring more than 7 kg in cabin. And this 7 kg is just for a carrier
        What items I can have with me? and Is it possible I bring things more than 7 kg?

  3. Yasmin says

    This is first and last time traveling Etihad airlines. Flight delay was not informed till I came to the airport. Staff highly irresponsible and take things very lightly. I am on a short trip to India with family and none out of my 6 bags I received. Nobody answers the customer service calls. Will not fly even if m offered a free ticket..

    • Brian Cohen says

      With that kind of experience, I cannot say that I blame you, Yasmin.

      Have you tried communicating with their customer service department via e-mail message to express your displeasure with your experience?

  4. Prasad says

    I had very bad experience for my travel MCI – ORD – AUH – TVM on May 25 th 2016. (E-ticket number – 6077753501319/20) at Chicago.
    I had a hand luggage which has linear size is less than 115 cm (53 * 35 * 25 including Hand and wheel). I have checked the size at MCI (Kansas) airport with American
    Airlines officials and made sure that it is the correct size. Also I got full boarding pass for entire ternary. Apart from I got email and verbal confirmation from Etihad customer
    service that, if luggage size is less than 115 cm (not any fixed dimension for L * B * H),there won’t be problem.
    But at Chicago before boarding, an ARROGANT guy came with a measurement box and asked me to put the luggage in the box. Unfortunately the luggage was not fit in the box
    even though my luggage is less than 115 cm. The guy asked 300 $ for check-in or buy new bag from airport and threatened me that will not allow to board the flight if I am
    not obeying this even though I have boarding pass after my luggage verification from MCI. I showed all email proof and measured the bag with a scale which I carried. I was
    really disappointed also my hand bag contains important Visa documents. Finally I forced to bought a new bag from airport for 125 $ to fit in that box and throw my old
    luggage. I never experienced like this situation from my past Etihad travels and other airlines and made unnecessary hassles at boarding point.
    I am pretty much sure that the complaint is not only for me, I saw a lot of cruel and pathetic scenes in the flight boarding point including for aged persons, ladies with Kids.
    Some of peoples were begging, some people are shouting etc… For more details, please inquire to the passengers who travelled in the flight.
    So I would like to get following actions from Airline.
    1. I need to get compensation for my hectic experience and cost of the luggage which I lost , cost of the luggage which I bought.
    Reasons
    a. In Etihad baggage site, it was saying only about linear size.115cm.(My luggage was 113 cm including wheels and handle). Also I have checked the cabin luggage size from Kansas airport with American Airlines officials
    with their cabin measurement box. I got entire boarding pass from MCI airport itself and got clearance for all luggage from there.
    2. Need to take action against the guy who threatened me to deny boarding even though I have valid boarding pass. I asked him for getting Manager to solve
    issue. He showed a Lady (I am not sure whether she is manager or not). I tried to talk with her, but she was not ready to discuss the issue.
    Escalation on top of their explanation
    ————————————–
    I got feedback from Etihad regarding my complaints. But their explanation is not satisfactory due to following reasons.
    1. My hand luggage size was verified from MCI airport by American airline which is Etihad’s code sharing flight with their standard measurement and I got full
    boarding pass from MCI – AUH – TVM . If any problem for the luggage, it has to be mentioned at MCI so that we had an option to change luggage.
    2. Etihad was saying that the maximum size of the luggage is 40x50x21. But American Air line standard is 14 * 22 * 9 inches. Even though it is code
    sharing flights, the dimensions are different. My hand luggage was as per US travel policy and used many airline travels including Qatar, United, American airline
    without any issues. Also it was under 14 * 22 * 9 standard US dimension and less than 15 pounds as weight.
    3. I already talked with Etihad Customer care and got both verbal and written document about the luggage size and they had explained me that we need to follow
    115 (cm) linear size including handle and wheel and they confirmed that the size 40x50x21 in the web site is for an example or informative sample to customer.
    Unfortunately, I did not record the customer service call.
    4. Just before 30 -45 minutes before boarding one guy came suddenly with a closed measurement box, and put the hand luggage in the box and tried to deny my boarding even though I have valid
    boarding pass without due to any issue from my side.
    I am pretty much sure that this is not only one case, a lot of people were suffered this at time of the boarding. I saw old peoples, mother with kids were begging. One woman was crying and throw their luggage and kept everything in one plastic bag. One lady was given 300$ for checking the bag and were saying that “I will not travel again in Etihad, I hate Etihad”
    I am believing that my case is reasonable. If need more clarification and proofs, I would suggest to conduct right investigation by DOT by looking at
    1. CC TV capture (if available) at the gate.
    2. Check with other Airlines.
    3. Check with my customer service call with Etihad on 23rd May around 10 am (Kansas time )
    4. Inquire to other passengers in that flight during the boarding.
    5. Check with Brook Store who was selling luggage. I have paid 115 dollar to buy new luggage by throwing old one,
    6. I can give detail of other Victim, who traveled the flight from Chicago in another day who faced the same issue.
    In short the Etihad made me the travel as horrible one and I would like to get compensation for my lost luggage, cost for new luggage and apart from that I am requesting to DOT that it is not only my issue, Could you please review or conduct investigation and make sure that whether it is valid case.
    Also I would like to talk with some responsible persons from Etihad (especially senior manager level, if frankly speaking I would like to talk with CEO of Etihad about this and behavior of a guy at boarding point, I forgot to notice the name of that employee)
    I am really sorry to give complaint like this, but I was really frustrated with that international travel.

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