Abu Dhabi (AUH) – San Francisco (SFO)
Sunday, August 7th, 2016
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200LR
Seat: 13A (Business Class)
This was a flight that actually originated in Delhi, but I am reviewing the conneciting from AUH to SFO as it was a much longer flight (16 hours!) and thus a better flight to review.
The Etihad Business Class Lounge at Abu Dhabi
This review begins with the Business Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi, which I was blown away by. Upon entering the lounge, I was promptly given all the information I needed, such as the wifi code, location of the shower spa, and food options.
The lounge was extremely spacious, larger than any other business class lounge for an airline in a hub airport I have ever experienced. The shower spa was just what I needed, and there were masseuses in the same area to give massages on call. The cost of a 15 minute massage was ~$25 USD.
Before long ( and by long I mean 4 glasses of champagne, a shower at the spa and a power nap) I was called for boarding. Abu Dhabi airport features US Preclearance, so you get to handle all your customs paperwork before landing into the US. This is a huge help as the last thing anyone wants to do on the ground in the States after a flight is go through nasty immigration.
As I boarded the plane I was greeted by the crew and shown to my seat. This 777 was an older plane, but I found the overall layout to be better than I have experienced in business class on other 777s.
As you can see, this was no A380, but it was certainly leaps and bounds better than other standard 777 business class configurations I have experienced, such as that on Air India and even Emirates, where you are not guaranteed direct aisle access.
What’s truly important here is that the seats are lie-flat, so you can get excellent sleep on the plane no matter what time it is. This is crucial for business passengers and was a major reason why I knew it was a wise choice to fly busness class back from India to the US.
The seats were definitely wide and long enough to be comfrotable, however, after experiencing business class on an Emritates A380 last year I felt that there was something left to be desired. On this 777, you do not get as much space/storage to stow your personal belongings,and the overall space you have to work with can feel rather squished. Surely, I would have rather had a newer plane, but the fact is that because 777s hold more cargo, they are still frequently used on intercontinental routes like AUH-SFO.
Not all airlines offer a pre-flight beverage (usually because of tax implications), so I was grateful to be able to order champagne before taking flight.
A note on the flight attendants: This was a full flight, including the business class cabin. Every seat was taken, and the attendants tried to make sure everyone felt attended to in the cabin. You could tell the attendants were super busy throgh the entire 16 hour duration. It really was a great effort on their part. Whenever I pressed the call button, the attendants were there within a minute or two, and took care of all needs without making any sort of face. Each attendant was polite, answered all questions nicely, took food/drink orders and explained all features of the in-flight experience fairly well. Could not have been happier with the attendants given the amount of people they had to deal with.
Not long after boarding, I was able to place my dinner order with the staff and get started on a movie. The lights were immediately dimmed to help weary passengers get to sleep.
Here are some photos of the amenity kit:
I found the amenity kit to be suitable for all my major needs–however, it was lacking and far behind from the competition, as Emirates provides their business class passengers with a full suite of Bvlgari products, including but not limited to: fragrance (unisex), after shave lotion, and body lotion.
After the mezze and pea soup, I opted to skip a main dinner dish. I was tired and felt full from the food I ate in the lounge, so I decided to go for the Baklava paired with the white glass of Gruner Veltliner instead. This was probably one of the best decision I made the entire flight– I got to skip feeling overstuffed in lieu of getting nicely toasted with one of my favorite desserts of all time!
After the wine and baklava I decided to sleep– and slept very well for about 7 hours!
I thought the coffee service upon waking up was well presented. One small quip, though–truly great coffee service means the milk is served warm so as to not mess with the temperature of the coffee. I thought in business we would get served warm milk, perhaps it is different in first!
A short while later I opted for the chives omelette and fruit & gronola parfait (pictured) for breakfast. I appreciated that this was offered on-demand and that I could order it anytime I wanted, but as you can see, this was just an okay breakfast. Nothing particularly stellar about it. Although, I did half-consider pairing it with champagne instead of coffee..if only I did not have to get to work in a few hours! 🙂
I proceeded after breakfast to watch a couple of episodes of Silicon Valley, since we were still a solid 6 hours from landing. After watching, I tried to sleep again as much as I could, knowing I would need to hit the ground running upon landing.
Upon landing, what I could not help but ogle over and LOVE was the exit process. Because we had cleared US customs through US pre-clearance in Abu Dhabi, landing into SFO was just like any other domestic flght: pick up your bags, and go (thats it!). AND with Etihad business class, you get a chauffeur to take you where you want to go. I was landed, out the gate, with my priority checked bags and in my chauffeured car in less than 2o minutes. Say what you will, but this sort of operational efficiency upon landing is unparalleled. I could not have been happier with the service.
- Etihad is a great airline to fly if you are choosing to travel from India to the US. While it is not the direct flight on Air India from DEL-SFO, the service, food, and entertainment quality you get beats Air India hands down, and ultimately means a better experience. The 9pm flight time out of DEL on Sunday night and 7:30am arrival into SFO allows you to get plenty of sleep and make it to work on Monday fresh and rocking.
- While Etihad’s 777 experience is nowhere close to its A380 experience, the 777 experience on Etihad does still beat its competitors, as you get direct aisle access and attentive service all the way through the flight.
- US Pre-clearance is by far one of the best perks any airline can offer its passengers. There is just no substitute for being able to land, meet your chauffeur, pick up your priority-checked bags, and be out the door within 20 minutes of landing. Etihad has this down to a science.
- Speaking of chauffeur service, this in itself was just an extreme nice-to-have. While it wasn’t anything that Uber couldn’t provide, Nick was just excellent at making sure he helped me get my bags from the carousel, transport said bags to the car, and escort those bags up with me back to my ultimate destination. Highly recommend booking the caufeur service when flying business with Etihad.
- Make sure to keep an extra set of comfortable clothes with you in your hand baggage. The shower spa at the Etihad business class lounge is well worth it, and you don’t want to find yourself changing into the same clothes after that refreshing experience.
- Get as much sleep as you can while adjusting to the local time. You will depart at 2:30am, and your first instinct will be to go to sleep. But I find it’s way better to try and keep awake (read a book, watch a movie?) as long as you can while spending the last 8 hours of the flight getting sleep in the lie-flat setup.
Cheers and happy travel hacking!