Etihad Airways EY151
Abu Dhabi International (UAE) to Chicago O'Hare Intl. (USA)
January 8th 2017
0355 hours GST to 0915 hours CST
Seat 51H/K, Economy Class
A6-ETG, 5.7 years old, Boeing 777-3FX/ER
Second longest flight
5th flight on Boeing 777-300ER
9th flight on Boeing 777
Partial route: MOGAG SSM TVC PAITN4
Flight aware historyFind the video trip report here!INTRODUCTION
What a trip it had been. What I hope for from a single itinerary from Fargo to Kolkata turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. It started off with a bit of an avoidable delay on American Eagle. A long ordeal awaited us at Chicago.
A pleasantly surprising flight across the Atlantic to Manchester on American's pencil jet
was quickly followed by an impressive flight on Qatar Airways' 787 middle seat.
A 17 hour layover in Doha later, it was on to the home run: another 787 to Kolkata.
Our trip then went on as per schedule, with a JetKonnect 737 to Kaziranga
and then an ATR back to CCU.
Following new year's, we had been left impressed by Etihad's A320 from Kolkata.
This was it then. The second longest flight for me, and the longest for my girlfriend. 14 hours. It was A6-ETG that would take us half way across the world (this was the plane parked by A6-APG at gate 61, which was off to JFK). And once again, the silver lining to the delays on the way home - this would’ve been my second flight on A6-ETG had it been for plan A! ACTIVITIES AT ABU DHABI INTL.
On to the day of. I was left highly impressed with Etihad’s medium haul service (albeit on an A320, while the competitors operate a B777/B787 to Kolkata at least). It was time to put Etihad up against Emirates and Qatar. Transit security was pretty quick, given the number of passengers heading towards departures. Duty free - T3 felt very very cramped.
However, most of them were in fact heading towards the USA pre-clearance facility. And again, we were towards the tail end of the line, but some brisk walking meant that we ‘overtook’ some others, and made it towards the middle/tail end of it. The long walk to the pre-clearance facility.USA PRE-CLEARENCE AT ABU DHABI
So here’s how it works. Before heading in to the facility, a person checks your boarding pass to make sure you are heading to the USA. After that, some Etihad agents will check your documents (visa, passport, I20 for students), and issue a new boarding pass if need be (which was the case for us). The comprehensive security was next. There was an unbelievably long line here, and we waited a good 25-30 minutes. So a security agent would ask you to remove the shoes/belts and put out any thing from your pocket (even a wrapper), while gadgets would be turned on by the security agent. The last part doesn't happen with TSA in the USA, but this largely felt like TSA-style security procedures. Pass through the scanner, and its all good. SLIGHTLY LONG (BUT CONVENIENT!) IMMIGRATION
Immigration was next. A long line for people coming in from different countries, but not as long for American citizens, they could sail through Global Entry. With the New York JFK A380 departing 20 minutes prior to the Chicago flight, the JFK folk got priority, which meant the Chicago passengers had to wait much much longer. Not helped by the fact that the Etihad staff ‘organizing’ this line, Alaister, was pretty rude to passengers who did not go by his instructions. Oh well. Took me a little long to get through, but not too much of an issue. The CBP officer who processed my paperwork happened to be transferred from Detroit (on the basis of his ID). SO THEN, THE PRE-CLEARANCE VERDICT...
Entered the facility at 0155 hours, and I was out at 0303 hours. A total of 1hr08min in there, but most of the time was at security rather than immigration, which instantly made this the quickest I made it in to the USA (although not being there!), and definitely my favorite, for sure.Following pre-clearance.ALL CLEAR! ON TO THE FLIGHT!
I reunited with my girlfriend, and headed to gate 60. The flight to New York had boarding procedures on going. We found a place closest to the B777-300ER: I was to fly on my favorite aircraft!A6-ETG will operate the 14hr flight to Chicago - this 5.7 year old birdie had just operated the flights to and from Jeddah - EY311/312BOARDING
Boarding was called at 0313 hours, about 42 minutes prior to departure time (despite the boarding passes reading 0225 hours, showing Etihad’s overly padded schedules). Being seated in Zone 5, the very rear of the aircraft, my girlfriend and I wasted no time in getting in line. A bit of wait enroute to the plane'From Abu Dhabi to the World'One of the two monstrous GE90-115B engines that'll power this birdie across the world.ONBOARD
I was onboard at 0324 hours, to generally welcoming crew member. There was no long line clogging the boarding process, for once! Went through the ‘refurbished’ business class cabin, which was followed by 340 Economy seats configured in a 3-4-3 configuration. To be honest, this didn’t look too bad especially since I had managed to snag 51H/K, the twin seats.40 Business Studio seats - and with direct aisle access you say?!Some of 340....
Settled in to our seats as passengers filled up the cabin. Once agin, the cabin crew helped the passengers out, but for some reason they didn’t seem to be as friendly as on EY255. (And how wrong I was!)Home for the next 15-ish hours. Time to make ourselves at home!
Around the seat itself, power ports and USB were on setbacks, pillows and blankets.
The pillows were innovative - cover was designed in such a way that one could rip up the center and use it as a neck pillow, or a regular pillow.
Legroom felt a little tight due to the curvature of the fuselage, but I appreciated the fact that there was no middle seat. Much rather this! Panasonic eFX IFE equipped on the B77W - these are much older than what's on some of the A320s, and all A380s/B787s. One of many cabin shots
EY103 to JFK departed a minute later than scheduled, and we were next in line pretty much (and we’d be chasing it for a large part of our flight). The captain are around and welcomed us onboard. It would be a 13hr52min flight over to the United States, just skimming the edges of the north pole. Some turbulence would be present, as well. EY103 is off! I wonder what the A380s would be like...
Usual announcement followed, acknowledging each and every Etihad partner airline… Crew members secured the cabin as the travel prayer/safety video played. DEPARTURE
A6-ETG was pushed back largely on time - just 4 minutes late at 0359 hours. The silence onboard was deafening as the GE90 monsters were being awoken from their sleep. And then it happened, as both the monsters were awaken for their 14 hour mission to Chicago O’Hare!
We taxied to runway 31L, passing by some narrow bodies at T1, a Royal Jordanian B787, as well as some few other Etihad planes.
0413 hours, A6-ETG thundered down the runway at Abu Dhabi with raging fury, the heavy B777-300ER took the skies after a very long take off roll. A very pretty Ferrari World was just underneath, an amazing sight! Take off videoINFLIGHT
Once again the usual after take off announcements were made. I found it especially interesting that it was US laws that prevented passengers from congregating at common areas of the plane (such as galleys and exits), but I hadn’t heard these announcements on Emirates (DXB-SFO), Delta (CDG-ORD) or United (MUC-ORD).
The crew on this flight spoke Arabic, English, Hindi (!!), Greek, Romanian, French, Serbian, Thai, Armenian, Russian, Portuguese, and Spanish.
A purple hue mood lighting was set up to simulate dawn (I guess), while the crew set up for service. My girlfriend and I took this time to change in to our shorts - this was our plan right from the get go in order to try and get some sleep. While coming out of the lavatory, one of the crew members saw me do thiss and commented ‘that’s actually very smart!’ Back in the seat just in time, as turbulence kicked in over the Arabian Sea.
The amenity kit that was placed on every seat was pretty nice - with socks, earbuds, dental kit and an eye shade with messages (wake me up for a meal or do not disturb but I do not think this would’ve been effective in the dark cabin), all placed in a cute bag which we still use to date. One appreciates small things like these - and they go a long way especially today when amenity kits in Y are rare.
The IFE content was pretty much the same as the same as the A320, but the hardware itself was a little old - Panasonic eFX system’s touchscreen wasn’t as sensitive, but hey it wasn’t a hammer screen at least! This was operated with the remote too. My onboard camera did not work either, sadly. It kept flashing to a dark screen. So much for the mood lighting - it was turned off to a dark cabin. THE FIRST MEAL SERVICE
I get the feeling that Etihad kinda lags in meals on the ultra long hauls. While Emirates offers options for the two ‘main’ meals and a hot snack, Etihad only has one main meal with options, a cold snack (also with options, usually a sandwich), and another hot meal but with no option - a single vegetarian option for everyone, usually an Indian dish.
With that in mind, at 5am Abu Dhabi time, the light dinner was served. This was the no option Indian vegetarian option - saag paneer and turmeric rice. This was the vegetarian option on EY255.
The entree and sides were actually quite decent and tasted good, just like you’d find in India.
The marrow and carrot salad however was very cold, and didn’t taste as good.
For dessert, there was just a BREAK chocolate.
A 7/10 meal. The cabin crew were fighting quite a bit of turbulence, and perhaps their worst nightmare came true: trays fell off of their hands, twice.
And on one occasion, it unfortunately fell on my girlfriend. I don’t believe the hot food fell, but there were marrows and carrots everywhere. The crew member was very very apologetic about this as she helped clean up. SIGNS OF EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE?
The crew also took it a step further here - there was no alcoholic drinks on offer. However, when my girlfriend and I requested this, one of the crew members got out her note pad and took down our drink orders, and went straight back to the galley and made our drinks - awesome stuff! Vodka and sprite for me, while my girlfriend had rum & coke. And once again, the people aspect taking it a step ahead on Etihad.
Unfortunately, Etihad is one of those airlines who want all window shades to be pulled down during the entire flight, and so after service the crew members would come around ask for all blinds to be pulled down. I took this opportunity to swap seats with my girlfriend and sat in the aisle seat for some time, seeing as she was in the mood for sleeping (and I was just 777 excited!) I got some sleep for an hour or two, and that’s the most I ever got really. I woke up as we were flying over Moscow, Russia.Partial picture of the seatWelp, I guess I'm going to be awake for a large part of this flight... The sunrise followed us - for most of the flight.
The headphones on this flight were the overhead types, and apparently noise cancelling. It was decent though.
I settled to watching Deepwater Horizon, the movie which dramatizes the events of the BP Oil Spill, a malfunction onboard the oil rig Deepwater Horizon. However, there were two minutes worth of Abu Dhabi and Etihad ads to get through first, no option to skip through. Darn. THE SECOND MEAL SERVICE
The ‘Cafe Service’ followed. While we were all just handed a cold vegetarian sandwich, I saw that there were a few more sandwiches and I felt a tad hungry. I did not hesitate in asking for another and I was handed this promptly. The vegetarian sandwich had tomato and cheese in it, while the other one was chicken and mayonnaise. I had a glass of mango juice to go with it. It was just about half way in to the flight. Sandwiches galore!
A quick walk around the cabin after the cabin crew set up a self service bar. There were more sandwiches, juices and hot drinks (tea, coffee). We got some tea from there - after realizing there was no trash bag or box, but the flight attendant made a make shift one right there. A darkened cabinRestroom and amenitiesOne of the lovely flight attendants setting up for the next meal service. The self service barTHE THIRD MEAL SERVICE?!
If the abundance of food wasn’t enough - we were handed out caramel popcorn at 0239 hours CST. We had 7 hours to arrival.WIFI!
I claimed back my window seat, and connected to the WiFi. I should’ve known better - the WiFi package was unlimited for 24 hours! I could’ve used it for the entire flight, but oh well. By and large, the connection was very good. Good speed/data transfer. I even went live on my Facebook page which was real good.
I settled to watching the Conjuring 2, it helped pass by another 2.5 hours. What better than trundling across the skies in a dark plane with Valak all over the movie, right?
Cabin, still darkened
By the time I was done with this, we were over Greenland. Firing up FlightRadar24, we caught up with EY103, the A380 to New York. Very similar flight plans for both. Coincidentally, a friend of mine was coming in from Tokyo on the ANA flight - he would be in Chicago at roughly the same time as us. We set up a time to meet up, immigration permitting. BEVERAGE & SNACK
Things started picking up at around 0450 hours - almost time for lunch service. It started out with a drinks cart being rolled up the aisles. I shook things up a little bit, going for a mango juice and vodka. ‘Wow, that is very exotic!’
said the flight attendant. A snack pack was handed with (your average snack on a USA domestic, be it 5 hours or 45 minutes
). Refresher towels were handed out, prior to the start of lunch.
Lights were turned up -
Ohhh boy its been a while!
Iron Maiden - still there!
I tucked in to Suicide Squad (watching it for the first time on a plane, because how else would I use my time effectively watching such a shambolic Academy Award movie, lol).FOURTH MEAL SERVICE
Lunch service was around 0600 hours CST. Three options this time - fish, chicken and vegetarian. I opted for the baked fish and couscous, to which the same flight attendant said ‘that’s a good choice!’.
My girlfriend went for the chicken, which had to be got in from the galley since it was the most popular.
The sweet corn and pepper salad was pretty basic, but quite nice. Did the job.
Bread and butter
Baked fish with couscous and coriander lemon sauce was quite simply an amazing entree. The fish was back in the galley for the best part of this flight, frozen. In addition, it was probably cooked even further in advance. Considering these, the fish was really nice. Couscous went well with the sauce. Another impressive meal from Etihad!
The girlfriend’s roast chicken with mashed potatos, vegetables and paprika gravy. Unfortunately, all of the contents literally got mashed up to one corner of the container. It didn’t look very nice. However, I tried a little bit of her’s and suffice to say, it was very nice indeed.
Crackers & cheese
Chocolate mousse was an amazing way to end this meal. Another decent meal from Etihad, albeit a little low on the quantity side. I had a filter coffee to end it all.
Following lunch, it was a little disorienting to see a sunrise outside. I guess Etihad went by Abu Dhabi time, while Emirates goes by the time at destination.
Mood lighting -
Flipped through the magazine till I could get some decent shots of the sunrise. Activity in the cabin increased as many passengers started darting towards the restroom. Yup, we were in that stage of the flight.Etihad's fleetSafety card
When I finally got to see land, I was reminded of the cold: snow everywhere! I for one was not very excited to get back to the frozen tundra that is North Dakota. Such is life, however. Moodlighting was turned on once again, this time to reflect the sunrise outside. As much as it seemed like a new day, the calendar date actually started while on the A320 descending in to Abu Dhabi…trippy how timezones work! The final hour, as always, felt like it was longest, but there were about 12 hours of flying time behind us - we were almost there!
And past the Orange Hour . DESCENT & ARRIVAL
Almost instantaneously the cabin crew started preparing for arrival - everything from cleaning up trash, to ensuring people had their bags up and USB chords disconnected. Descent commenced through some very pretty clouds as the sun rapidly rose over the horizon. My seat unfortunately had a broken camera - everyone else got a decent down view, but mine would keep switching back and forth with a black screen. We lined up with Runway 28C, with surprisingly no snow around!
Multi-colored on the mood lighting!
Approach to Runway 28C
Very smooth touchdown was executed at 0821 hours, a whole 39 minutes before scheduled arrival time.Landing video
I spotted my friend’s ANA Boeing 777-300ER: it was the Star Wars edition! Once the power was brought to idle, the GE90 made some strange and loud sounds all the way to the gate. I’m not quite sure if this was due to the cold weather or what, but do check out the video trip report link to get an idea of what I’m trying to say… (experts…?)
As we taxied to Terminal 5, gate M4, I reflected on what was a rather fantastic flight (or two flights) with Etihad. We were certainly in the right place. Right from check in at Kolkata with the many information dockets about the USA pre-clearance, to a fantastic set of crew members on both flights, I found Etihad to be a great airline. Food, IFE, WiFi, seat pitch and padding, everything was very nice. This flight kinda got me thinking - maybe I did want to fly on Etihad’s A380 the next time I went home. Having just got back from India, it was way too soon to think about that.
We docked at Gate M4, and I darted for the lavatory one last time, real quick. This was made easy as passengers in the very rear had to wait quite some time to get off of the 777.Toilet paper everywhere....We still be waiting! Cargo containers
Thank YOU Etihad!
We thanked the crew for a lovely flight, and headed for the restroom to make ourselves feel (relatively) presentable.
But this wasn’t without a couple of parting shots of A6-ETG (or so I thought). Thank you, Tango Golf! Until next time!
Heading down to the domestic baggage claim, there were about 200 or 250 passengers around. On double checking with the American Airlines ground staff, she confirmed that our luggage would make it to Fargo, and that we had nothing to worry about.
And with that, it was back to Chicago O’Hare, an airport that we had spent way too much time in on the way out. We just had to be there another couple of hours, and we’d be on our way to Fargo.CONCLUSION
If there was anything that won Etihad over for me, it was the pre-clearance and flight crew. A quick and definitely the most convenient way to get in to the USA, it is actually quite a pity that Etihad have not been able to exploit this for themselves as much (with SFO being culled, and 9W not really thinking about USA flights from AUH). The one flight attendant took really good care of us - from being extremely apologetic and attentive to clearing up her mess, to taking down alcohol orders for a service that didn't have any drinks involved.
The IFE hardware and seats were a little on the old side, but nothing significant that made us hate this - it was just fine. A pity my camera did not work for whatever reason.
Ground crew at Abu Dhabi marshaling lines were not the most hospitable, either.
WiFi was more than decent, and a lot can be done within 24 hours (yes, stream videos, as well!)
Food lacked in quantity, but that was made up for with the quality (no, not the marrow salad, that was awful) and abundance of sandwiches. Etihad made our 14 hour flight one that we enjoyed. I was excited to see what opportunities I'd have in the future (if any) to try out their new flagship(s) the A380 and B787....
As I leave this here, find the video trip report here!My other trip reports: 2017Winter Break 2016/17 (7): Enticing Etihad to Abu Dhabi! (CCU-AUH, Jan '17, Y) (video trip report)2016[i]Winter Break 2016 (6): My last flight on Jet Airways' ATR (GAU-CCU, Y, Dec '16) + Scintillating Sunderbans (video trip report)Winter Break 2016 (5): Konnecting to Kaziranga (S24363 B73H CCU-GAU Y, Dec '16) (video trip report)Winter Break 2016 (4): Take us home, Qatar Airways! (QR540, DOH-CCU, Y, Dec'16) (video trip report)Winter Break 2016 (3): Long haul middle seat - our first flight on Qatar Airways! (QR28 MAN-DOH, Y, Dec'16) (video trip report)Winter Break 2016 (2): Pencil Jet across the Atlantic (AA54 MAN-ORD, Y+, Dec'16) (video trip report)Winter Break 2016 (1): The Frozen Embraer Delay - missed connection! (FAR-ORD, Dec '16) (video trip report)Thanksgiving '16 in the Sin City - My Allegiance with N891GA, to divert or not to divert (LAS-GFK Nov '16) (video trip report)Thanksgiving '16 in the Sin City - My Allegiance with Allegiant! (Part 1, many pictures) (video trip report)The day I flew the world's most popular plane (GFK-FAR-CKN-GFK, C172)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 14: Delta Connection, a quick hop in the Midwest! (MSP - GFK, Aug '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 13: Super old, Super 80, Mad Dog Across the Midwest! (AA ORD-MSP, Aug'16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 12: Flying the Friendly Skies... (United Munich to Chicago, Aug '16)) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 11: Epic Lufthansa, Epic A340! (Delhi to Munich, Aug '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 10: Konnect, Lite, Delight...(S2 B73H CCU-DEL, Aug '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 9: Take me home, Vistara! (DEL-CCU, Jul '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 8: Vistara's INAUGURAL flight out of Kolkata! (CCU-DEL, Jun '16)) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 7: Efficient IndiGo! (Mumbai to Kolkata, A320, May '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 6: Big delays, cracked windshield, angry passengers (SG CCU-BOM B73J) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 5: Air India's domestic Dream)liner (DEL-CCU May '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 4: Nearly First Class - stories of the empty A380! (LH FRA-DEL May '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 3: World's longest jet, Lufthansa's B748i! (ORD-FRA May '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 2: ChicaGO on United's A319! (MSP-ORD, May '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 1: Sun rise onboard the long range CRJ (DL GFK-MSP CRJ-900, May '16) (video trip report)The pencil jet(s) for spring break! (+ Iron Maiden bonus): Delta MSP-FLL-MSP, March '16
(DL1608 video trip report
, DL2027 video trip report)De-iced & Delayed, cold onboard a CRJ! (ORD-MSP-GFK on Delta, Jan '16) (ORD-MSP video report) (MSP-GFK video report)Delta's aged B767-300ER across the Atlantic! (CDG-ORD in Y, Jan '16)
)Air France's NEW Economy (B777-200ER, Bengaluru to Paris, Jan '16)
)Delays and despair: stressed out in the middle seat! (Jet Airways B737 Mumbai - Bengaluru, Jan '16)Air India's hybrid babybus from Kolkata to Mumbai (Jan '16, Y)
)2012South Africa 3: 12 days in Scintillating South Africa (Kruger, Kulula and Rand Airport, Apr' 12, LONG!)South Africa 2: Elegant Emirates Economy! (DXB-CPT, B77W, Apr '12)South Africa 1: My first flight on Emirates, my first flight on the 777 (CMB-DXB, Apr '12)2011International transit with Jet Airways (BOM-MAA-CMB, Oct. '11)Konnecting to Bhubaneswar (9W BOM-BBI-BOM, Jul '11)Three trips between India and Sri Lanka (9W BOM-CMB-BOM: Jun '11, Jul '11, Oct. 11)To India's Orange City: Mumbai - Nagpur - Mumbai on Jetlite & Tadoba National Park (May 2011)My last flight on Kingfisher Airlines (and 2 other Jet flights, May '11)