Date: December 28, 2005
Airline: Etihad Airways
Flight: EY 222
Router: Karachi to Abu Dhabi
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Time: 0705 (7:05am)
It was time to head back to Toronto with Etihad Airways via Abu Dhabi and Brussels. With an early 7:05am departure from Karachi, I had to get to the terminal by 5:00am. Very soon after completing all security checks, I was in the lounge waiting to board the B767-300 that would fly us all the way to Abu Dhabi. I had only one disappointment I was seated right over the wing , and I was not very happy about it. However it being a short 2-hour flight, and it still not very bright outside I settled in my seat and tried to be happy. I was after all flying with Etihad who had impressed me tremendously on the inbound journey.
We did not leave the gate until 7:20am and by then it had gone significantly brighter outside . I asked one of the Russian flight attendants if there was any window seat I could move to. She replied saying the flight was full and she would look around, of course she never came back. I looked around and indeed every seat was taken. We taxied to the active runway which was 25L , pausing briefly to allow a PIA 747-300 to pass by us with priority . It looked wonderful in the morning light in its new livery as it moved quite quickly outside. I was busy setting my camera to click it when I heard a thundering roar as the beast was racing down 25L . Mr. Captain was really in a hurry that morning, having done a rolling take off. We still remained in our position and soon enough the outline of the B747-300 could be seen heading east against the backdrop of the early morning rays of light. Soon we were racing down 25L passing the terminal and some MNG planes, being chartered for pilgrimage flights, and some PK heavies, before climbing out and banking to the left, passing the famous Shahrah-e-faisal with some light traffic below, heading South West towards the Arabian Sea, banking right again climbing up towards the main coastline that stretches for miles to meet Iran, and then banking left again to fly parallel along the Makran Coast.
The captain announced our flight level would be FL340 and our flight would take us towards Muscat from where we would begin our descent into the Abu Dhabi area. We seemed to reach FL340 soon, considering the steep climb we had out of Karachi. Fortunately breakfast was served after that and not before! Menu cards were distributed and the single screen up front showed our progress towards Abu Dhabi. While breakfast was being cleared later, I asked the same flight attendant to grab a photo of the crew in the galley. She came back with at least three shots, all taken very nicely.
Shortly after flying over the Arabian Sea, the rugged coastline of Oman appeared in the distance with the rays of sunlight lighting the tops of the moutains. Having passed that we began our descent somewhere over the middle of the United Arab Emirates. Sand dunes and a very brown landscape against the 8:15am skies of Abu Dhabi added to the homes below which seemed to be formed out the sand itself, as we passed over them.
Soon the announcement went out for cabin crew to take their seats, the sound of wheel carriage opening below and flaps descending, prepared us for our touch down into Abu Dhabi. It was not very busy at that time, and after landing we made our way to a remote stand where stairs were waiting to take us off the plane into buses, and into the terminal.
I had a passenger at the side of me that had a fracture and was waiting for medical assistance to take her of the plane, so I had no choice but to wait till she got off her seat. It meant staying longer on the aircraft. . Very soon I was the last to leave the aircraft and having gained enough boldness to ask cabin crew to pose for me, I asked the head flight attendant if I could take her and her team’s photo. She said it was not allowed outside the aircraft , as I was hoping to get the Etihad Airways sign behind her, hoping to take the photo while standing on the stairs. So we went back inside and in the meantime the catering unit was knocking on the door on the other side. She opened the door and almost forgot about me. I had to remind her showing the camera in my hand, she smiled almost apologizing through it, and asked two of her team to stand alongside her. Click, click..Another Etihad Airways cabin crew shot.
(The Purser in the centre is featured on the Etihad website
I was the last to get off the plane and security stood below, almost like they would take me away for taking so long to get off. I reached down for my camera, and asked one of the Etihad ground crew if I could get a pic of the plane, refusing to listen what the head flight attendant had told me. He told me if I did, the police would confiscate my camera . I did not delay to get into the waiting bus, to avoid the security around the plane, pretending to ignore the beautiful B767-300 waiting to be photographed. I slid into a quite corner of the bus, and when no one was looking quickly snapped a portion of the port engine and the tail , almost in the same breath putting the camera neatly back into my bag .
How crazy we aviation freaks can be sometimes. The stairway was active with ground personnel moving up and down, while moving aside at the same time to make way for the Etihad Airways cabin crew coming down, along with the flight deck crew. The all looked so smart in the bright morning sun heading down from what seemed like a ladder from heaven . A few boarded the bus, along with some airport security staff that sat right in front of me. Had they not been there , I would have got even closer shots of the aircraft we passed on the way, the Gulf Air Traveller B767-300 and the Etihad Airways A330-200 and the most incredible shot of the terminal itself all in the brown sand dune colours with the tails of some more Etihad Airways tails all around the dome shaped gate. The bus finally stopped at the terminal doors and we soon into the crowded, smoky and congested Abu Dhabi terminal, with its navy blue tile ceilings forcing me not to look up at them . It shaped made me realize what it must feel to be inside an apple, the core of the fruit, being the structure that reaches down into the center with a counter that run around it, Selling watches and jewellery. I had six hours in this place and I only wished time would fly.
Time did fly and after what seemed a chaotic check in with one line for both EY 501 to Toronto and GF 005 to London Heathrow, I was soon up front. The security officer pleaded in a heavy Arab accent…”Etihad Toronto, come front please now” “Hurry, Hurry please not delay”. It was almost 12:50pm and we were scheduled to leave the gate at 1:15pm.
Date: December 28, 2005
Airline: Etihad Airways
Flight: EY 501
Router: Abu Dhabi to Toronto (via Brussels)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200
Time: 1305 (1:05pm)
I could see the tail of the Etihad A330-200 that would take us to Toronto and was hoping it was not the same ex-TAM aircraft we had flown in before. It had now become a ritual on Etihad Airways to take a photo of the welcoming cabin crew, and I held my camera in hand. I had done the same in Karachi, but was strictly told to put it away by one of the ground staff standing nearby the welcoming cabin crew. I could have explained I needed it for my album, but realized he would have off loaded me instead if I persisted. I had better luck in Abu Dhabi, the crew quickly turning around to pose with the head flight attendant providing the biggest smile of the group! I explained I was taking photos of the crew all the way from Toronto and something I felt very comfortable doing on Etihad (and later Emirates). I let them have their red carpet moment, something I think they probably have never had before.
My heart raced as I realized we were on the brand new Etihad A330-200. The First Class and business class seats were a far cry from the ex-TAM business class seats I had seen on the older aircraft. The light green colour of the first class seats matched the dark green colour of my face, as I envied the guests settling into them, some already sipping some drink and reading their newspapers. We passed business and the seats were quite envious in this zone too. The seats were full here and drinks were served quickly to these guests too . I realized soon enough I was seated in the last seat on the aircraft, which meant I had restricted recline and was close to the lavatory and galley . I was hoping the lavatory would not smell before we had even taken off like on some other Middle Eastern carrier I had traveled with. I wrongly mentioned that Etihad and Emirates were the only two Middle Eastern carriers I had flown with, but forgot Kuwait Airways with whom I have had the most flights. Must be the age catching up.
The crews busy assisted passengers with bags, directing them to their seats and doing all this with smiles . Soon the announcement came for ground crew to leave the aircraft, and I decided a career change to a ground staff member would be a nice change for me, considering I could be inside an aircraft every time I went to work . We push backed and passed the GF005 to Heathrow that was still busy with little trucks, baggage and ground personnel working around it. Like a sprinter praying and meditating before the quick dash down the racetrack, our jet paused and then made it’s way to the active runway. We paused again momentarily before the engines roared and increased in pitch as our speed picked up, our jet passing the terminal to the left. The wings bent slightly upward as we pitched nose up and left the brown sands below very quickly passing over the sparkling blue waters below, and the stretch of a highway that ran along the border that seperated the sand from the sea.
We continued to climb and soon were banking to the right. I had remembered seeing a similar picture to what I wa about to see on airliners.net and also recalled seeing pics of the island shaped in the form of a palm tree in a circle taken as well. I crossed my fingers and hoped it would not pass us to the right . My eyes grew bigger with horror as I noticed the same island shape taking form in the bright afternoon hazy sunshine, just under the wing of the A330 . It seemed like it was after all going to pass by on the right. However, the captain banked to the right flying in a northerly direction and my joy grew as I realized I was going to have the best view ever . We were now flying alongside it and I clicked away.
(Of course this is now fully completed with homes, and has the World Islands as well)
Those on the right were probably having a view of Dubai below, but this view as far better. The jet banked to the left and we flew in a northwesterly direction towards Iran, leaving the magnificent island shape behind us. It was wonderful to see that from the sky under such clear sunny conditions.
The beverage service started shortly and menu cards indicated once again three choices. The game console in the armrest of the aircraft made me pull at it and when I randomly pressed the buttons on it, the screen in front of me displayed what seemed to be things moving very quickly on it. I tried to figure it out, as it was a bit blurry and then like the horror I had faced when I realized the island structure would pass on the right, I realized I was actually looking at live video of the Iranian mountain ranges below we were flying over . I blinked in disbelief that I had so totally missed watching the take off on camera. Another click of the button and the cockpit view appeared with the blue skies and some clouds in the distance filling the screen. On camera faced down, the other faced front, the latter not being very clear as part of the left of the screen seemed to be shrouded in some film that was probably on the camera screen. I sipped on my Gin and nibbled on my crackers a bit disappointed that the camera views had gone by un-noticed.
The smiling male cabin crew , an Aussie and an European cheered me up as they posed for yet another cabin crew shot.
They busied themselves serving lunch The latter crew member was just outstanding, sincerely friendly, attentive and making rounds down the aisle later many times. He even reminded me of a young Robin Williams!! I stopped him and personally told him what a great flight attendant he made and this got him a good comment on the passenger comment form later he asked me to fill out. He was even more surprised when I addressed the few paragraphs I wrote, dedicated only to him and his name in lights on it. The next time he made the rounds, he would beam even more at me , in appreciation. This materialized with a deck of Etihad Airways playing cards handed to me later .
Some four hours into the flight I flipped the game console over only to realize this side of the console controlled the Audio Video on Demand. I had been watching the regular movies so far, and listening to the standard audio available. Another disappointment learned later in the flight!! . A press of the button, displayed ”The World of Etihad” on the screen with four options, Video, Audio, Games, Elements (Etihad on board on line shopping). The movies had 29 options a mix of English, Arabic, Indian and some other language, including animated films. Some of the English films included, A Good Woman, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Skeleton Key, Goal. The Audio section had complete Albums, with the same mix of English, Arabic, Indian along with German and French. The complete albums included Rob Thomas – Something to Be, Mariah Carey – The Emancipation of Mimi , Amir Diab – Lealy Nahary including Jennifer Lopez, Craig David and others. I would have kicked myself if I was getting off in Brussels in the next two hours, but fortunately I had the 8 hours and 20 minutes stretch to Toronto coming up. I quickly decided what I was going to watch and listen to on this longer stretch while admiring the mood lighting inside the cabin. The Flight Map display was not working and I had no clue where we were at any particular point from our departure from Abu Dhabi.
Soon the light refreshment service began and thereafter once the trays had been cleared in some twenty minutes we began our descent into the Brussels area. It was cloudy outside and the stretch of grey cotton clouds lay below us. We descended lower into them and very briefly flew above them, cutting gently through it and stayed in them for a long time, as the wing was now completely shrouded in them, it’s outline appearing briefly as the strobe lights light up the clouds momentarily with each blink. We broke through the clouds, and a white Brussels appeared below, the whiteness stretching for miles. Soon the familiar sights I recall seeing while landing in brighter conditions from Toronto, appeared below, this time all covered in white.
An announcement from the flight deck for staff to take their seats, caused some crew to abandon their disposal of wine down the toilet bowl in the lavatory behind me. My friendly flight attendant raced down to take his seat, in just the white shirt without the grey Etihad coat the others had managed to put on. The stretch of houses that had grey rooftops, now all white indicated to me that our touch down was a few minutes away. Soon enough the green open spaces unlike the sandy brown of Abu Dhabi, welcomed the approaching A330 onto Brussels soil. As soon as the wheels touched the tarmac, white snowy dust kicked up towards the windows and the flaps that were forcing the aircraft to slow down. The foamy spray kicked all the way down until we turned right towards the terminal area. Soon the terminal building appeared and the jet parked into the gate. The last seat on the plane meant I was going to be the last to get off, and another photographic opportunity to capture the crew on film. As I made my way towards the exit, the three I initially clicked on the way into the plane, stood at the door. The Head flight attendant first seemed puzzled as she saw the camera in my hand and said, “Another photograph?” and then broke into an even bigger smile as I had “I can’t help it, you guys are so amazing”. I asked the other crew standing nearby and captured seven of them on film in one of the best shots ever!
Out of the plane and into the bright clean lounge at Brussels. The Brussels ground staff including airport personnel, store vendors are one of the friendliest I have ever met at any airport. I had one store vendor talk to me in French, and then apologize quickly changing to English. Of course, I did not indicate I somewhat understood what he had spoken.
Back on board and with some souvenirs of Belgium and some fine Belgian chocolates in hand, I struggled to click yet another pic of two very surprised cabin crew who had never before had such a request put them to pose. Click, Click…and back to the last seat on board.
This time I had a companion who had been visiting her sister in Brussels and was heading home. Later in the flight I explained the Brussels to Toronto stretch was purely SN Brussels as Etihad could not sell seats on the sector. That also put to rest her confusion of seeing the Display screen EY 502/SN8100 showing above the check in desk changing from Etihad Airways to SN Brussels and her thinking something was seriously wrong with it. It surprised her even more to see Etihad crew and a plane welcome her on her way out. She had after all gone to the SN Brussels website and purchased her ticket from there. She was impressed with Etihad Airways and the fact they had video, audio options and the drinks available for free. Soon we taxied out towards the main runway, with the lights out and the explanation this was done before take off, I readied my camera to capture the take off this time on the screen in front of me. Digital cameras should have an option “Take off mode” to avoid the violent shaking I incurred as the gentle beast now ferociously gathered speed and raced down the tarmac, each second getting captured on film. The nose gear lifted and the runway dropped downwards towards the bottom of the screen at the same moment, my 15-second clip coming to an end. We climbed straight out and Brussels sparkled below, for miles on end. Lights and lights and more lights in every single direction. What seemed liked downtown Brussels with larger sparkling structures in the distance seemed to be the captain’s point to make a right turn and now leave the buildings to our left. Soon the stretch of lights ended and appeared and disappeared under us as clouds that now appeared. Our flight plan was announced and we were some 140 miles east of London at the time. Our flight would take us over Scotland, the Atlantic and then down into Eastern Canada. Now with complete darkness outside it was hard to see any landscape below.
The crew serving my section on this flight were a far younger lot and a bit inexperienced, but yet maintaining the friendliness found on all my Etihad Airways flights. I managed to get a few pics of them, but by then the fatigue started to kick in and I was only thinking of getting back to Toronto. Dinner was served and after a couple of drinks , the unexpected happened. I feel off to sleep for three hours …
Fortunately I managed to get a movie or two, including some albums in the remaining three hours into Toronto. Like a blink of an eye, the announcements were made for our descent into the Toronto area. The lights were dimmed and the blinking lights on the wing once again light up the wing as we cut through clouds on the way down. We finally broke through the clouds and lights below raced under very quickly, as did the cars and trucks on the roads, before we slammed a minute later onto Rwy 05 and passed the familiar Fed EX ramp on the way. After almost 24 hours of flying I had reached Toronto. I left the aircraft content to be home, and having flown with an airline that had far exceeded my expectations. I wish Etihad Airways all the best as they grow into one of the world’s best airlines.