A little delayed, but, finally, here is a report from my trip in April to Sydney on Etihad in J. I was tempted to make some rather unfavourable comparisons with the dreadful service I experienced on BA
last year, but feel free to read my trip report on that flight, and compare for yourself. Suffice to say that the EY
flight was about £700 cheaper, and much better value.
Anyway, I realise that gripes are a bore, so let me get back to Etihad. I was going down to Australia to meet the sixth-month-old son of my oldest friend, who emigrated about four years ago. I did look into flyluxury4less, as my dad and brother-in-law had both used them recently for first class tickets to China, and I was about to book with them, when I found out that they wouldn’t accept credit cards, and, frankly, I didn’t want to shell out that sort of cash from my bank account. So, I booked, as usual, through Expedia, which I highly recommend. There was an excellent first class fare on Etihad for the dates, but I restrained myself and booked into Business Class. I had read a lot about Etihad’s J class seat (Pearl Zone) and the feedback was pretty mixed. I can understand the criticisms of the seat that I had read, although I didn’t necessarily agree with them, but these have been addressed in Etihad’s new generation J class seat, which, to my complete surprise, featured on 3 of the 4 legs on this trip. I hadn’t seen this seat advertised or featured anywhere, either on this site or, indeed, on Etihad’s own website, which I found surprising. Anyway, the new cabin, as I have tried to capture in this report and photographs, should appease the detractors. I should point out, however, that I found it very difficult to do the cabin justice in my photos, so please be tolerant!
Ok, so to the trip and the features. Firstly, limo service in Business Class is great. I live 96.8 miles from Terminal 4 at LHR
, so was just within the 100 mile radius for EY
’s J class rules for free limo service. I was unable to book the limo service on EY
’s website – I just kept going round in circles on there – but the call centre staff, based, I believe, in India, were very helpful and the limo service itself was very good. Nice ride in a BMW 730D (this means nothing to me, but it might to people who know about cars). Water and newspapers were in the car, and despite a major pile-up on the M3
, we arrived in good time, as we diverted.
I have to say, I love the EY
lounge at LHR
. It is a combined F/J lounge, but caters more towards the F end. It is a little small perhaps, but then flight EY18 was the only flight going out that night, so it was easily big enough to cope with the passengers on that flight. I was quite early arriving, and was offered spa treatments by the very friendly spa staff, but I didn’t really fancy them (the treatments, I mean, not the staff). There is a bar, but also waiter service, and I have to say the staff were outstanding. I am torn between this lounge and the Virgin Atlantic LHR
clubhouse as my favourite lounge. I think EY
might just have it, but perhaps unfairly, as the last time I was in the VS
lounge, the hot water had failed, and so there was no hot food. However, the food in EY
lounge was excellent. The à la carte menu was a bit limited, but the buffet selection was superb. I had a bit of everything – tiger prawn salad, chicken and Singapore noodle salad, spinach, beetroot and goat’s cheese salad, all delicious. I then moved on to hot dishes of pasta with fresh parmesan, and beef stew and excellent potatoes dauphinoise. I do realise that I sound like a pig now. A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to fly Emirates First Class down to Australia, and experienced their lounge at Gatwick. Etihad’s lounge at LHR
beats it hands down.
Seating area in LHR
Sit down meal area in lounge
Buffet selection 2
Bar area in lounge
Dining area in lounge
Arabic coffee was served just before departure. Departure wasn’t announced until about 15 minutes before scheduled departure time, but the gate was virtually opposite the lounge, so F/J passengers could board very easily after the majority of passengers were already on board.
I was greeted at the door by name, and escorted to my seat. Always such a nice touch. And here’s the much advertised J class seat
Footrest and ptv.
And my feet! I have read numerous complaints about Etihad’s J class seat, but I suppose because the people who choose to review seats on sites like airlinequality are generally only writing reviews because they have had a negative experience. However, I am 6 foot tall and of medium build, and the seat was plenty big enough for me, both in seated and bed positions. It is true that storage for small items or a drink/water bottle was lacking, and there could be more room for one’s feet, but these issues have all been successfully addressed in Etihad’s new J cabin, more of which later. There was plenty of room in overhead lockers, although there were no lockers over the central seats. The window seat in this cabin is clearly the best for people travelling on their own – very private. There is one criticism that I did have of the cabin on all four legs of the flight, however, and that was that it was kept uncomfortably warm, making sleep difficult. I have read that airlines up the temperature to make passengers fall asleep, but in my experience exactly the opposite is achieved.
Pre-departure champagne. Hot towels were also distributed on small wooden trays, rather than with tongs.
I just loved this warning! Can only imagine what had happened in the past!
Amenity kit turned into a shoulder bag, but not sure who would actually use it as such!
Menus distributed – didn’t realise you’re not really allowed to keep them! I did though.
Chardonnay and amuse-bouche.
This may not look great, but it was excellent! Was late night, and I’d already eaten like a pig in lounge, but this soup – carrot and almond – from the express menu was superb.
And breakfast was delicious too.
Very classy Voss water – I notice it’s disappeared from the service in the new J cabin, where Etihad’s own branded water is now served.
Beautiful view of engines!
F1 livery on our plane from LHR
Lounge was crowded, but still some people were happy to take up a couple of seats! The criticisms of the size of EK
’s J lounge at AUH
are quite justified at busy times, and the poor guy trying to keep the bathrooms serviced with towels etc simply couldn’t keep up. It does drive me nuts, however, that people are quite happy to occupy free seats in the lounge with their coats, just so that nobody will sit next to them. I rather pointedly asked one rather snotty looking woman if the seat next to her was actually taken, or whether the coat was hers. She VERY reluctantly then removed the coat. I meant to mutter a comment under my breath, but instead rather loudly said “selfish cow”. This did, however, have the bonus of her getting to leave fairly soon afterwards.
There was no PA system in the lounge – I imagine this is deliberate – so lounge staff walk around shouting out flight departure info, or a passenger’s name, if they were trying to page someone. I have to say, I found this rather irritating after a while.
Nice to have a shower in lounge – there was a “plate” showerhead over head too
Can’t deny beauty of A340
And here we are – the new generation Pearl Zone seat – love it!
Notice all the little extra storage bits?
Water storage, BUT, Voss water is now only in First Class I believe.
Table storage is an improvement on previous version of seat.
And much more room for feet, which I think was a common gripe about old version of seat.
Love the hot towel on wooden tray presentation.
I think my brother-in-law would be more interested in this shot than I am!
Bloody Mary and another interesting amuse-bouche!
And lunch – tiger prawns with a three-bread-loaf – was quite delicious.
This was grilled beef tenderloin with wasabi mashed potato and buttered carrots – it doesn’t look that special on the plate, but it was excellent.
Cheese was nice too!
This was breakfast coming into Sydney – was really delicious! And I could have asked for more or different combinations. The dine anytime menu system worked well, and FA
’s were attentive and happy to serve.
Sunrise over engines at Sydney
Etihad’s black and white blankets and pillows are great – very distinctive.
This is a great business class seat.
Seat lights and water storage.
Etihad business class check-in at Sydney.
Etihad, like so many other airlines, uses the Air New Zealand lounge at Sydney. Spacious and comfortable with a decent selection of hot and cold snacks and drinks. However, it didn’t match up to the offerings of the EY
lounges at AUH
in terms of catering.
On the other hand, I counted 35 bottles of a decent enough chardonnay, so was happy enough.
Interestingly, Etihad doesn’t get a mention on the “welcome” sign outside the lounge.
Back on board – not sure how many pics of this seat people really want to see!
But I did like the fact that every drinks service was accompanied by a different amuse-bouche, all delicious, if some a little unusual. Warm nuts were, however, available for anyone who wanted the more traditional offering.
Still a bloody long way to go to Abu Dhabi!
Chicken, asparagus and quail egg salad starter – the catering was very good, with one exception, of which more later.
This veal with béarnaise sauce, corn fritter and green beans looks simple, but was quite wonderful. Veal really did melt in the mouth. Interestingly, although I was one of the first passengers to be served, the FA
at first said that there was none of this dish left. When I pointed out I was only the second passenger she had served she said “I’ll see what I can do”, and miraculously was able to conjure some up. Not sure what that was all about.
The praline cheesecake with red berry compote went down very nicely too.
Breakfast coming in to AUH
was very nice too. I didn’t worry about going for the full breakfast, as I knew that I had 7 hours in the lounge coming up, thanks to a peculiar schedule given to me by Expedia – I guess that’s why the fare was so reasonable though.
I guess petrol-heads will appreciate this shot.
Given that I had such a long time to kill, I did take advantage of the Six Senses Spa this time. Most of EY
’s flights had departed by about 10.00am, and I was pretty much the only person left in the lounge. Concerned staff occasionally approached to make sure I hadn’t missed my flight/died, but were more than happy to serve once they realised I was simply a scheduling moron.
Now I’m not one for spa treatments, and had never had one before, so I just went for the signature “Face Radiance” treatment.
Let me quote the spa brochure: “This signature facial helps to decrease the effects of environmental stress on your complexion. Refresh tired looking skin with a gentle cleanse, a smooth exfoliation, and a toner to hydrate and refine the pores. Your skin will radiate health and glow with well-being.”
Whilst all this I am sure is true, and would be appreciated by someone with more maturity than me, I’m afraid I started laughing when my therapist rubbed his hands in something and then cupped them over my nose and mouth and told me to breathe in. I found the rest of the treatment rather hard to take seriously, particularly as it was rather like having your face caressed by a lover, and scrubbed by your mother at the same time. Unfortunately this thought struck me rather suddenly in the middle of the treatment and I snorted rather vulgarly. Still it killed 15 minutes and the Spa staff could not have been nicer. Maybe I just need to get over “personal space” issues.
Incidentally, for those who complain that there is only one shower stall in the J lounge at AUH
, there are in fact rather more. True, there is only one shower in the male toilets, but there are plenty more in the Spa – all you have to do is ask. Unlike the showers in the Emirates First Class lounge at DXB
, the shower rooms here are complete bathrooms, with toilet, sink etc. Much better, I feel. There are also “quiet rooms” in the lounge, where you can take a nap, but these seemed to be fully occupied when I got there early in the morning, and I didn’t want to use them later.
The breakfast selection was very good, both hot and cold. There was a pretty convincing bacon substitute made from beef, and the unfortunately named “foul medames” is, in fact, a tasty bean dish, should you ever wonder. The lunch spread was put out – some nice salads and sushi. The hot selection was also pretty good, although I am not convinced of the wisdom in the choice of spaghetti Bolognese as a dish. It was also clear that lounge staff were happy to produce children’s meals to order. Chicken nuggets and chips seemed an odd choice for one family, though, given it was only 9.00am when they were eating.
I wasn’t a big fan of the shopping at AUH
, mainly because I am not nearly rich enough to be able to afford anything on offer. It is pretty much all high-end stores, catering to the rich (or, I suppose, those whose financial sense has been lubricated by the wine in the lounge).
Gulf Air jet on tarmac – love the colours of their livery.
Final leg, and it’s the new J class cabin again. Arabic Mezze starter was very good.
Airbag seatbelt and storage space.
Another view of seat
Gin and Tonic and another great amuse-bouche!
This veal roulade, however, was not so good. On the plus side, though, it was the only dish on all four legs that was disappointing.
The window in the bathroom has the old green housing of the previous J class cabin.
Coffee and Jim Beam to round off lunch, before a nap to take me into LHR
And the trusty RR
Trent 556 engines that got us there! (I’m not a technical expert, but I took this info from the inflight magazine fleet information page).
there was a member of staff unloading J/F passenger bags from the luggage carousel by the time we reached it, and the chauffeur was waiting in arrivals for the 2 hour drive back to Somerset.
I have to say I was very impressed by Etihad, and would heartily recommend the airline. I hope I have been able to give an idea of particularly the new J class seat, which, as I have said, I have not seen featured elsewhere.
Hope you enjoyed reading.