i just had the delight of flying on EK's new business class from DXB to ZRH and on the way back from FRA-AUH i went with Etihad airways.
The following trip report focuses on the Business class product as such. Have fun reading through
EK088/23 August DXB-ZRH
A340-500 A6- ERD
Dep. Time 08:40
Departure Gate 26
Checked in and went to that gate. To my disappointment, there was no plane at the departure gate, so I wondered if I will get to fly the A345 today. At around 08:10, the A345 was towed and positioned at our gate. It was obvious that we will have a delay. No announcements were made. Boarding started at 08:45 considering Families and children to board first which took a very long time.
Finally I entered the plane from Door 1L and went though the famous new F/Cl with its separate Compartments which looked very neat. The seat as such looked a bit narrow to me, well I didn’t have the chance to physically check this out…, then i settled in my window seat in the last C/Cl. Row. The F/A’s welcomed the Passengers, served welcome drinks and then at 09:10 (Scheduled Dep. was 08:40) the first announcement was made apologizing for the late departure due to the late incoming arrival from MEL.
There were two pax in F, 20 in C and about 120 in Y on this flight.
The new Business class seats are in a 2-2-2 Config. and in general way better than the outdated old ones mainly on board the A332 fleet. Though the seat-pitch is not as big as on the A332 however its more than enough and i always felt the old C/Cl. to have an exaggerated seat-pitch. The Armrest between the two seats is a bit narrow and can cause elbows to meet quite often. The color of the seat-covers and wooden parts integrated in the armrest are EK’s standard colors. The new seats are in a white PVC-type shell that is quite high if you look at your front seat. Good storage facilities in the middle console of the front seats and no more net-type storage else wise. This unit is quite far outstretching causing feet to hit quite often which leaves black dirt marks on the lower part (The original color is white!) The middle armrest unit houses the control panel of the seat (18 X12 cm heavy touch screen) to control the seat, Massage functions and some Screen functions like Volume, Brightness.etc.) This control unit is a push to eject type and quite easy to handle. The armrest also holds a power and phone socket.
I checked the various massage functions throughout the flight. There are five areas that can be controlled individually: two for the back, two for the thigh and one for the calfs. There are 4 programs: “Normal”, “Wave”, “Zig Zag” and “Pulse”. Further the intensity and speed are regulated through +/- buttons. The functions are very good and helpful to make your seating a more comfortable one however the “Wave” program causes quite a lot of Seat vibration (The PVC-Curb) which is very annoying when watching a TV.
The armrests houses also the regular control unit (shaped like the Standard EK one) to control all other functions for TV, Audio, Phone and games)
In addition, one can send Email and SMS’s against a reasonable fee (between 5-10 USD)
The seat recline is good however I expected a more flexible footrest. The back recline is good, all in all a very good seat though not a sleeper one.
Finally we pushed back at 09:28, next to us was a EK A345 (A6-ERB with DFS Sticker). Other planes on the tarmac included: BA 772, PK A313in old c/s (AP-BEG), EK772 A7-CJA, AF 332, SQ CGO 744 “Mega ARK”. Also some more interesting equipment parked at terminal 2 including Asseman Airlines 727 + Fokker 100, DHL 727, 3X IL76, IL18, AN74, short before our take off, a nice AN-12 (4L-I205) landed. T/O was from RWY 12L, a quick take-off role , you could feel the difference to the rather sluggish t/o of the A343… we were airborne at 10:55 over flying Mirdef before going in a right turn heading towards the sea.
The Overhead bins in the C/Cl cabin where the new Airbus style ones giving more ceiling space. And the aisle ceilings incorporated the shining stars to improve falling asleep. The wash rooms were also the new style with very good lighting giving the WC-Visit a refreshing touch. Most of the items were in drawers so no more stuff hanging/placed around thus looking very organized. Opposite to the washing basin is a Tall mirror in full human length. The main Mirror also includes a small magnifying mirror.
The In-flight entertainment is simply the best I have seen, though I think its an overkill even for those who spend all time using it throughout the flight unless you have more than 10 hours to go, otherwise you want be able to discover half of it’s features and contents. The System is called ICE (I= Information, C= Communication and E= Entertainment) . The TV Screen is really huge (36 Cm Diameter). The handling is not too complicated and the uploading of Films is remarkably fast when considering that you have a total of 500 on-demand movies….) brief description and short preview of the film can help choosing. The selection (the one I flipped through) was very good including almost every category one could think of. I watched two action movies and one part of an Arabic movie The Screen quality is very good. The Headsets are the new EK Style including noise reduction features.
The F/A’s were very efficient and helpful and contributed much towards an enjoyable flight. The food and beverage service was very good, I opted for the Moroccan style Chicken and it was a good option, followed by a cheese selection afterwards.
After 5 hours and 20 minutes we started approach into Zurich-Kloten passing the beautiful and green Swiss mountains before touching down on RWY 14. At this time ZURICH was rather quite, managed to spot a Private Air 738 (HB-IIR) and an Edelweiss A320 (HB-IHY) beside an SQ 744. Out of the 60 minutes delay in departure, only 30 minutes late in arrival.
Verdict: the new business class seats of EK are a big improvement compared to the old ones however one can doubt if these seats -when finally installed on all the fleet- will be competitive enough with most of the EU carriers already having and/or currently upgrading to Flatbeds. I understand that currently EK is having this product only on their A345 and some of the new arriving B777-300ER.
The In-flight entertainment System is state of the art and one can hardly think of any further improvements.
Etihad Airways EY326/24 AUG
I was eager to make this Etihad flight since I never flew EY and they just recently started operating into FRA from AUH on daily Basis.
EY is in FRA Terminal 2 (opposite to EK’s checking area). There were 5 Check-In counters open, 3 for Y (Coral Zone), and one for each C (Pearl Zone) and F (Diamond Zone). I was greeted by a staff that checked the Ticket handed over my documents to the lady at the counter, placed my bag on the belt and went away after wishing me a nice flight. Check-In was very smooth, the lady asked me for seat priorities and blocked the next seat… and gave me a lounge invitation. EY shares the Delta lounge which is in gate area “D” next to JAL’s “Sakurra” lounge.
A huge comfortable lounge with a “quite-Zone” area. Including shower facilities.
Boarding started at Gate D3 well in advance though you could see that the plane was half empty.
They boarded the plane through one door only so all pax had to go through C/Cl. first.
The F/A’s at the door welcomed the F and C-Pax and escorted each to ones seat. Well there was a total of 10 Pax (Zero in F , 10 in Business) I am not sure if you can carry out this service when you go with full loads. The first impression of C/Cl. is refreshing by having much space, a sand colored cabin with light green seats, not the usual airline colors.
Seat configuration is 2-2-2 for both First and Business class. 4 Rows in C/Cl. (Total 24 seats)
The plane a brand new Airbus A330-243 (RR Trent 772B-60 engines) was delivered in May this year and had its first flight in June (according to the in-flight magazine and the crew)
Pre flight announcements were made in Arabic/English and German. The Captain (a native German speaker) also welcomed us. Shortly after, welcome drinks were served (selection of 4 including fresh Orange juice and Champaign served in real Champaign glasses)
The C/Cl Seats looks elegant in general, though the green color is a bit daring, fine with me. The seat is wide and the recline is quite O.K. The footrest can be brought up quite good (better than EK’s new seat). What amazed me was the fact that some of the seat control knobs already carried signs of using, but since the place is not old at all, it indicates that the materials might be of poor quality. This could also be seen when staring at the lower parts of the seats (colored in a very dirt sensitive light beige) which hardly 4 months old, shows signs of Dirt and use. The seat-pitch is good. The middle armrest is quite big and comfortable. Housing small trays that can be brought up to place a glass or a small dish. A Power-Socket is provided at each seat (can take EU and UK/US Style). The lumber support is very good though the handling is a bit confusing (through two knobs one horizontally and one vertically) I tried it out several times until i found a comforting position. The lower seat parts (Legs and foot) can only be regulated through one knob, when getting the footrest up, the lower parts get longer automatically. The foot rest is made of white colored leather which already showed strong usage signs…
The In-flight entertainment guide is for two months. TV programs quite O.K in variety, English, Arabic and one Hindi film. All repeating themselves three times during the flight. (no video on demand in C/Cl.).A Separate TV Program for the B767 is mentioned the guide.
The Safety film was quite informative and displayed in both English and Arabic (clear language) the film shows the “leased” A330 for demo.
We pushed back at 22:50 and headed to RWY 25R ( I was expecting RWY18) next to a LHA340-600. Nose-gear camera provided good RWY view. After a rather long take-off roll of 40 seconds, we were airborne and headed for a steep climb followed by a left turn heading south.
The In-flight crew consisted of many nationalities (sounds familiar…) and they even spoke, polish, Dutch, South African among other languages. The uniform is white shirts/blouses and black skirts/ trousers for the male FA’s. In general FA’s were quite helpful, nice and very attentive to Children. Though I couldn’t figure out the distribution of tasks as many different FA’s were carrying out different jobs rather than having let’s say one FA assigned to one aisle.
Business class kit consists of one small bag (Strong smelling PVC material) including useful items: tooth brush, lip balm, moisturizing cream, ear plugs, eye shade, and socks. This bag was put into a rather big black bag that can be folded and used later on. It included some solid slippers. Though this black bag can be used, the quality isn’t really something you would expect in C/Cl.
I started the TV programs and ejected the TV (housed in the armrest) just to find that the handle is already loose (the plane is new!!!) . The screen has 26 cm diameter. The colors were fade and hardly adjustable. They were showing 4 films in total. The audio quality was moderate. There were 12 Audio channels, including Quran, 3X Arabic and a Hindi one. All in all not the in-flight quality you expect from a new Middle Eastern carrier.
The duty free items can be displayed on the screen along with the details and prices.
Soon after take off, the Menu and Wine list were distributed. A light meal for dinner followed by a continental breakfast before landing in AUH.
The light dinner had a generous selection of:
- One appetizer: Smoked Tuna Carpaccio served with baby capres, parsley and creamed radish
3 X Main Course
- Fillet of Hoki in black bean sauce (Thai river fish)
- Arabian Lamb (Lamb and rice)
- Medley of Cold Selection (Turkey, fresh herb terrine with Gouda and Bavarian blue cheese)
Plus on this flight they had an additional choice of traditional German Food;Grilled Veal Loin with Spatzle followed by a German cheese cake.
I took the Thai fish and it was fairly O.K.
The Wine list includes, one Champaign, 3X white and 3X red wines.
The main dinner tray already included the crackers and cheese for dessert. I guess to make the whole dinner process a short one. The tray is made of light blue PVC, the cutleries didn’t look classy. The china stuff was a modern fresh looking “WEDGWOOD”. The Salt-Peppers containers were very stylish.
After the main course was finished a dessert service was carried out including 2 items: Blackcurrant Mousse served with raspberry coulis. or a selection of cut fruits. This was followed by Tea and coffee service including Brandy.
The Blankets are huge and very thick! A good item for freezing people. After the service was finalized, cabin lights were dimmed and nice blue ceiling lights were kept (maybe to help falling asleep)
The WC’s are the new style ones, organized through a lot of drawers. A full length mirror was facing the washing basin.
I slept afterwards and got up somewhere over Iran. The flight Map is a bit strange ad different from the usual stuff; it shows fewer details than usual. Hot towels and drinks were served including fresh orange juice and a fantastic yoghurt drink.
Soon after, i saw one of the best sun rises. It’s spectacular to see the sunlight through the left side of Cabin while your side is still dark.
A continental breakfast was served, cut fresh fruits, yoghurt, Jam (Strawberry and Orange). The selection of bread was a bit small mainly soft type bread and croissant.
Landing in AUH (RWY 13) was not very spectacular due to low visibility. Some planes were at the tarmac (beside the out of operation Tristars close to the Gamco hanger). A 738 royal jet, RJ A320 (F-OHGC), EY 763, EY332 from MUC and QR 320.
Though Eithad is clearly focusing on big number of Staff on the ground and in the air, the service didn’t meet my expectations. If they want to establish themselves in the Business class market I think they have a long way to go. Compared with EK and QR, the C/Cl. The EY product is good but not very competitive.