On September 19 my girlfriend and I arrived at Frankfurt Airport on time at 18.47 after enjoying two smooth train rides from our home. First of all we went to Terminal 1B where we received our tickets at a counter of our tour operator. Then we headed to Terminal 2 for check-in. From the Skytrain station I spotted the Etihad plane and tried to have a closer look at the engine. It looked like a RR shape but I wasn’t sure – the Varig B777 parked alongside was not really helpful…
Anyways, after arriving at T2 I had another look from the McDonald’s and the RR engines were confirmed: the plane was A6-EYD, as I had hoped.
19. September 2005
Frankfurt (FRA) – Abu Dhabi (AUH)
Etihad Airways EY326
A6-EYD (c/n 658), delivered 05/2005
Coral Zone (Plus), seat 10B
Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
Photo © Alexander Jonsson
Photo © Laurent Arsac
Etihad’s counters would open at 20.00 and we lined up along with some 50 other passengers. While we were waiting we overheard another woman’s telephone call – she apparently wanted to tell her friend or family at home about the airline. “Imagine, the airline’s name is “E---D---I---HADD. EDI-HADD. And imagine, they only have three tiny check-in counters!!!”, the lady emphasized. Wow, how I like those people who don’t have a clue about anything. Why don’t they just stay at home or fly their beloved Lufthansa if they don’t trust Etihad?
These people should really be stuck in the middle of a holiday cattle carrier aircraft rather than having the pleasure of flying an almost brand new A332 equipped with the latest cabin features…
Etihad’s staff first had a briefing and then they opened the counters absolutely on time. There were about 20 people ahead but it took only some 15 minutes until we were called. A friendly agent took our tickets and – as planned – I expressed a special request. Thanks to a trip report by a.net member UK_Dispatcher I knew A6-EYD is equipped with a F12C24W28Y152 configuration. However, the 28 seats of Coral Zone Plus (Eco Plus) would not be sold yet but allocated to as normal Coral Zone, with regular Eco service. So I asked the agent if those seats were available. He smiled and said “Yes, we can do that”. After some moments he said: “Which bird has chirped that to you?” ("Welcher Vogel hat Ihnen denn das gezwitschert?“) I replied: “Talk on the Internet and an insider with Etihad”.
We received our boarding passes and started one more tour around the airport as there was plenty of time left. On the way through Terminal 1A I examined a A380 “mockup” which Lufthansa installed there:
It’s equipped with several TV screens and boards which show information about the aircraft and the required A380 investments at Frankfurt Airport. Interestingly, all airline customers are covered, not just Lufthansa. There were also some Lufthansa seats on the upper deck and while being seated in these "chairs" for a while I suddenly was even more glad about flying Etihad soon…
We passed through security and just as last time at DUS there were some really kind and funny screeners. While waiting for my girlfriend one screener asked me where we would be flying to. I said “Abu Dhabi” and he replied “Oh, that’s were my wife and I will spend our wedding anniversary. Of course we fly Etihad, just as last time! Did you know that they already belong to the three best airlines worldwide?” Well, I didn’t want to go into a longer discussion and just replied “Aha”. Then he added: “The airline was started by the brother of the guy who owns Emirates”. Again I was a bit amused but just replied “Oh?” Then my girlfriend was ready, he wished us a pleasant flight and we said good bye.
The gate area for our flight was quite filled and it seemed to be a good load for Etihad. Most passengers were German tourists and some German business travellers, hardly any “others”. Picture options weren’t satisfying, but I didn’t want to leave without a picture of A6-EYD, so this was the result:
Boarding started shortly after 22.20 and as soon as the call was made people jumped up and lined up. We remained seated for a while and then joined the rest. Very friendly F/As welcomed us on board and as we headed to our row I was surprised to find a 2-3-2 configuration – I had expected more pitch but not necessarily one seat less per row. The Coral Plus section is equipped with beige seats, while Diamond (First) seats are beige & brown, Pearl (Business) seats are turquoise and Coral seats feature a mix of both colors. A true pleasure for my eyes: large PTVs!
Seating comfort is amazing, not just because of wider seats but also because of the cushion. Adjustable headrests and foot rests are also available. I don’t know exactly how much the pitch is, but it’s definitely enough.
While Coral Zone and our section were really packed (around 85-90 percent) there weren’t many pax in Pearl Zone. I have no idea about Diamond (First) as we entered the plane via the second door.
At 22.47 we were pushed back and soon taxied towards runway 18 (“Startbahn West”). Great feature: front camera.
We had to wait some time in line, directly ahead of us was a Lufthansa A346 bound for Sao Paulo and Santiago de Chile. Then we turned in and at 23.10 the two Trents went to work. Runway lights well visible on the screen:
Takeoff was not really impressive – one disadvantage of sitting in the front or middle section of the aircraft. The T/O roll was not very long and soon we lifted off. On the screen we could still see the Lufthansa A346’s lights for some time until we turned east.
As I read on the forum not long ago, A6-EYD is the first ever Airbus aircraft to be equipped with the brand new Thales i4000 IFE system. Shortly after climb out the system was fully available and while browsing through the entertainment guide I realized there wasn’t any time to waste. Here’s the main menu (touch screen):
The IFE options were just huge, here’s a short summary of all features:
- 8 broadcast video channels
- 30 movies (video-on-demand)
- 24 hours of television (video-on-demand)
- 12 broadcast audio channels
- 30 music CDs (audio-on-demand)
- 29 games (games-on-demand)
- inflight boutique
- moving map
- front camera
- down camera
There were genres of all kinds, different languages available. I really liked the “Inflight Trivia Tournament” which even included an “aviation” category. Though the trivia was nice, it’s not as good as Northwest’s (which also shows seat numbers of players). Another game highlight is the “Berlitz World Traveller” (language training).
Unfortunately the moving map did not work. I told an F/A about it and he confirmed there was an error in the system. Meanwhile a friend in the business told me probably Etihad doesn’t have the “rights” yet – well, who knows. It didn’t work on the return flight either. As a result, I didn’t get any info on the routing.
Though not having my favourite IFE feature time still passed by very quickly thanks to that substantial programming.
Dinner service started some 40 minutes after takeoff and there was a choice of three main meals. Like certain other quality carriers, Etihad has menu cards, or better: booklets. There’s even an intro inside:
“Etihad is pleased to present our unique fusion menu, offering flavours from all corners of the globe created in a harmonious blend in one dish…” The text continues.
Interestingly, one of the three main meals was a typical German dish. The description came on an additional card put inside the booklet. It says the following:
“Etihad is pleased to introduce an additional choice of traditional German food & dessert along with our regular menu offering.”
Here’s the complete offering:
Baby Schrimps with Zucchini Salad
Fillet of Hoki in Black Bean sauce (signature fish)
Chinese Stir-Fry noodles with vegetables
Grilled Veal Loin with Spaetzle
German Cheese Cake
I chose the Thai fish and it was a very tasty choice. However there were some slices of capsicum on top and – though being used to spicy food – these were so extremely hot, I almost burnt my mouth!
Another nice surprise was the German cheese cake which came along as a second dessert. The whole meal was accompanied by crackers, cheese, a bread roll and chocolate – it was a very satisfying and filling dinner. They called it a “light meal” – what would a “real meal” look like? Two trays?
After dinner, tea and coffee were served and the Brazilian coffee was an excellent one. Drink service in general was very good, F/As passed through the cabin regularly, offering water and orange juice.
About one hour prior to landing a continental breakfast was served and I really had problems finishing that only some three hours after that big dinner. The fresh fruit tasted well, the croissant was rather average.
Earlier after dinner the bright cabin lights had been turned off and the passive lighting was activated. The blue and red illumination is amazing and feels very comfortable:
Later in the flight the sun appeared on the horizon which caused other beautiful lighting effects.
“The falcon is watching you!” – Etihad’s logo on the winglet:
As flying time was only 5:40 hours in total the descent into Abu Dhabi was coming closer. Too bad – the IFE system would have kept me entertained for another 10 hours I guess! Here’s a first impression of Abu Dhabi’s coastline:
Approach was quite straight and within minutes we were on short finals. Unfortunately, the front camera was switched off. Touchdown was soft and the aircraft was stopped smoothly. As expected, not really much traffic at Abu Dhabi Airport, though there were some interesting planes. I spotted a Cargolux B747-400F (LX-LCV), an Etihad A300-600F (TF-ELF), another Etihad A330-200 (A6-EYA), a Royal Jordanian A321 (F-OHGU) and a Qatar Airways A320 (A7-ADI).
On arrival at the gate the front camera was turned on again and it was funny to watch ground staff running around in front of the aircraft. We decided to remain seated until all other pax had left so that I could take some pictures of the cabin. I asked one F/A and she said “Sure, but it shouldn’t take too long.” Ok, I hadn’t planned to take a picture of every seat. However, here’s our row:
And another picture of the rows ahead, this time without flash:
One male F/A saw me with my camera and he offered me to come into Diamond Class for taking some more pictures. As we arrived in the Diamond cabin another F/A immediately grabbed some blankets, bags and trash at one row and threw it onto another seat out of sight (so that I can’t take a picture of a dirty and worn Etihad First Class cabin!). Then he switched the reading lights on, moved the seat into flat position and asked my girlfriend to lie down there for a picture. Really nice gesture! And no, I don’t post it here. Sorry guys, the picture is only for my personal use!
I said thanks to the crew and we left the aircraft. The captain was ahead of us and apparently inspected the aircraft’s nose from the jetway. Then he said something like “Yeah, there it is!” I don’t know what he was looking for, I only know he had an American or Canadian accent. Well, it was nothing serious of course because he said “Yes” after I asked about taking a picture. Finally, I got a shot of A6-EYD:
Then we headed to the terminal and directly went to immigration. Just in front of the counters we found immigration forms to be completed – I’m wondering why those weren’t given out during the flight. Anyways, within 20 minutes we had our luggage and soon enjoyed the UAE’s heat.
Flying Etihad Airways was a real pleasure, almost everything was perfect. Professional and kind crews & ground staff, superb food, comfortable and clean cabin, the latest IFE system available. FRA-AUH was indeed an excellent experience.
However, there were a few inconsistencies on the return flight – watch out for the report. Any feedback welcome.