Recently I flew Kathmandu - Abu Dhabi - Tokyo - Abu Dhabi - Delhi sectors on Etihad Airways. I've originally issued the entire ticket with Business Class, but decided to go for a bidding upgrade on AUH
to First for around USD 660 (the minimum was USD 650), which got accepted. In this report, I will write about my onboard experience with Etihad's First Class, and in my second report (if I get the time to write), I will write about Business Class experience on NRT
*Why Such Routing*
I live in Delhi, but I decided to fly out from Kathmandu, and ending the journey in Delhi. This ticket is not considered as an open-jaw because the ticket fare is actually a combination of half the price of KTM
/return and again half the price of NRT
/return. Yes, Etihad has a very unique fare combination system allowing one to combine two totally different routes under one ticket, while charging half the price of return ticket on each route. You can even do Delhi - Abu Dhabi - Johannesburg - Abu Dhabi - Tokyo, or Delhi - Abu Dhabi - Johannesburg/Tokyo - Abu Dhabi - Delhi or something like that. So, if transfer in Abu Dhabi is convenient and want to avoid purchasing two one-way tickets, Etihad will be a good airline to consider. Since purchasing a simple return ticket from Delhi to Tokyo was more expensive, and ex-KTM
had a good deal plus ex-NRT
had a good promotional fare in Business Class, I booked this ticket.
*Transit Experience at AUH
My previous flight from Kathmandu, EY291, was scheduled to arrive at AUH
at 20:20, and the next flight to Tokyo was to depart at 22:05. My earlier flight was delayed by 30mins, and due to remote stand parking and the bus to terminal took around 15mins, I was only left with an hour connection at AUH
. Then I found out that my onward flight would actually departs from T1 and not T3
, which is another 15-20mins walk. Oh boy I was in a big hurry. Originally I planned to get a free hair-cut at T3
's Premium Lounge (a benefit of flying F Class), but definitely no time for that and rushed directly to the departure gate.
The flight was on A340-500, one of the 4 same aircraft type operated by Etihad. The aircraft registration number is A6-EHD, and the first flight was operated back in 2006. It's one of oldest aircraft in Etihad but didn't feel like so. The scheduled departure time is 22:05 and arrival time is 13:20 the next day, which makes it 10hrs15mins flight, but the actual flying time was 9hrs30mins.
I was one of three passengers travelling on F Class today, out of 12 seats. As soon as I entered through Door 2 I headed to my seat 2K. This was my first experience with long-haul First Class and it's been a really while since I took my last First Class (in 3 class setting) - which was back in 1999 with Emirates A310-300 on Sana'a - Dubai route, which had just 60" pitch seats with 2-2-2 configuration. What a big difference now! Etihad's F is configured in 1-2-1 with a fully enclosed suite, with seat-pitch of 80". Sure aviation industry has grown in the past fifteen years! Apparently, Etihad's First seats are manufactured by Poltrona Frau, the same company that makes seats for Ferrari cars.
My seat 2K.
My empty neighbors.
The other 2 passengers were a couple seated in the middle of 3rd row, so my entire row plus the row in front of me was empty. Felt really like my own private cabin!
Inside the 'suite'.
A mini storage with entetainment controller, USB sockets, and a power socket.
As soon as I was seated an inflight chef M from Australia introduced himself and greeted each passenger, asking for a pre-take-off drink. I ordered mimosa. Then later, a French crew named Pauline came to deliver a "welcome tray" consisting of mimosa, a cup of dates, a towel, and a welcome letter. The letter had a signiture of Cabin Manager Nikita, from Philippines. There were total of 3 crew serving in First Class. That means (according to calculation) each passenger gets one exclusive crew! How private is that!
The welcome tray.
The champagne used in mimosa was: Champagne Bollinger La Grade Annee 2005, France.
The welcome letter.
Soon after, the chef M came to serve Arabic coffee, which goes well with the dates.
While enjoying the pre-departure service, I decided to check out some facilities in the suite.
A panel where you can touch to select lightings and seat positions.
4 different lights are available around the seat: one at ottoman, one for lighting the table, one behind the seat, and a reading light.
For seat positions and massage.
There is a mini-bar. I don't see a point of it when it's not refrigirated. There are stilled and sparkling water bottles plus a packet of nuts.
An amenity kit bag.
Noise cancelling headphones.
Inside the case.
And now taking-off.
See you Abu Dhabi!
Cabin lights have turned into mood lighting. Felt a bit like being in a karaoke box (lol), but the ambience was soft and relaxing.
My short legs couldn't reach the ottoman in front (lol).
My empty neighbors.
*Take-Off Drink and Dinner*
Here is what the menus look like. Pretty impressive selections! It feels a lot like being in a restaurant than actually inflight.
Champagne and white wines.
The rest of alcoholic items and mocktails.
Liquers and soft drinks.
Appetizer, soup, and main.
Japanese 'kaiseki' menu.
All day dining and Japanese breakfast.
Cheese and dessert.
I chose the item which was not available in Business Class: Champagne Duval Leroy Rose, France, NV
. Plus a glass of sparkling water. Then came was a tray consisting of 3 different snacks, which were cups of nuts, olives, and vegetable chips. Vegetable chips were unique in taste and quite nice - however didn't want want to get my stomach full in snacks, so I just had a bite each and decided to save my stomach for the dinner.
Snacks and champagne rose.
Soon after the tray was cleared dinner set up began. Pauline neatly set up cutleries and plates on the table. How nice! That's one thing I like about flying First Class. The first was amuse broche which was not part of the menu. Soon after the set-up the Cabin Manager Nikita came to my seat and explained about the amuse broche in detail, but couldn't remember much - I believe it was cottage cheese.
The set up and amuse broche.
Another round of rose to go with.
Love the color!
It was very very
Next was starter and soup. I chose Szechuan Smoked Salmon (which was fantastic!) and Oriental Hot And Sour Soup (again good).
The salmon. Although not clear the salmon was hidden inside vegetables.
Delicious soup with a hint of fresh bamboo shoots and vegetables.
Then came a palate cleanser. Again, this was not in the menu. I believe it was mango sorbet.
Next was the main. I chose from the grill menu and opted for Grass Fed Beef Terderloin with Creamy Mashed Potato and Vegetables. The chef asked how I wanted to have it cooked so I asked for medium. I asked the chef what sauce he would recommend, and said a combination of veal-jus, mayonaise, and mustard would be nice. So I accepted it.
What came out was more like well-done, but nevertheless it was delicious. I wasn't sure if mayonaise was a good choice for the sauce but the meat quality was good. To accompany the meat, I asked for a glass of red wine: Shiraz, MSV, 'Gomersal Vineyard' Barossa Valley, Australia, 2008.
The meat with condiments and a glass of Shiraz.
How it was cooked.
My stomach was almost full so I decided to skip the cheese plate, and asked for dessert. I chose Dessert Taster, which included orange financier, pistachio mousse, and honey-nut cake. Very good again.
After dessert, I had a cup of Morroccan Mint Tea. It came in a pot, with separate cups of mint, sugar (both brown and white cubes), and baklava sweets.
Finishing off with Morroccan Mint Tea.
Since I loved
the plates and other tablewares I wanted to check out what brand they were. To my surprise they were made by Nikko from Japan. I'm happy that they chose the brand from my country.
The back of saucer.
By the time the dinner was over, the plane was flying above Pakistan. I went to washroom to take some quick photos while I asked Pauline for a turn-down service.
First Class lavatory is pretty wide. It had Bergamote 22 amenities and hand towels were prepared beside the sink.
First Class lavatory.
First Class lavatory.
Bergamote 22 branded amenities.
When I returned to my seat, voila, the seat was actually turned into a bed! It had an extra sleeping pillow, along with bed sheets, and a light duvet. A pair of lounge wear and slippers were also placed on the bed.
Closing the doors, and it now turned into my own room!
Light and comfortable loungewears.
It was already around 2am local time above Pakistan. Since it had a bright moon-shine I could slightly make out the view outside, where it was right above high Karakoram mountain range. Interestingly, my camera actually caught the view better than my naked eyes (lol). I was also able to spot K2
, the second tallest mountain in the world, and later comfirmed with my Pakistani friend who makes frequent trekking visits around K2
, that the mountain in the picture below is indeed K2
. I was lucky.
Just when the mountain range starts, and the lights in horizon is likely to be somewhere in Indian administered Kashimir.
Flying near Hunza. Here the mountains are over 7,000 meters.
Here is K2
. It's the mountain in the middle of horizon. The height is 8,611 meters.
After taking this picture, I closed all the window blinds and went out to sleep. I had a solid 3hrs of sleep (could have slept longer but didn't want to waste my time not exploring First Class!).
When I woke up, the plane was flying above Taklamakan Desert.
Above Taklamakan Desert.
My 'private' room!
Taking off my lounge wear. Since it's fully enclosed I can do it at my seat!
Inside the amenity bag. Some items are Bergamote 22 branded.
The amenity bag is made with tradtional UAE style.
Onboard Wi-Fi. It was not available for most of the time above Taklamakan Desert.
Lavatory with sunlight. How nice...
Lavatory with sunlight.
What it looks like during day time.
Where Tibetan Plateau starts.
A closet which can be opened and closed.
The doors when fully closed.
When the plane had crossed Beijing, Pauline came to my seat and asked what I wanted for breakfast. Usually I don't prefer to have eggs or cereal in morning and rather like Asian options like noodles or rice, but since there was the chef who must have known how to cook eggs well and only in First Class I can experiene this, I went for Fresh Organic Eggs Cooked to Order (and chose plain Omelette), along with croissant and fresh fruits. Although for the bread I only asked for a roll of croissant, it came with Danish, and 2 slices of toast. What a service, but sadly I won't be able to finish all of them!
Fresh Fruit Platter.
An omelette with sausage, sauteed mushrooms, tomato, and hashed potato.
Hmm... the omelette was actually a bit of let-down to be honest. It was way too dry. May be something to do with cooking on a plane, but honestly I've had better eggs in Economy Class.
Inside the omelette.
Ah, I must have ordered something else. It was getting very close to Japanese airspace and to landing time, but since I had one more dish which I found very curious, I asked Pauline politely if I could order one more dish with a small quantity. She said she'd check with the chef and she came back with a smile. Great! The dish is Brakfast Taster, which is "wanton soup with prawn and egg noodles and friend prawn toast". In the meanwhile, I asked for a glass of Johnnie Walker Blue - since I've never tried it before. When it came and tasted, honestly, I couldn't tell the difference between the Blue and the Black, given there is a big price difference between the two. Can you?
A glass of Johnnie Walker Blue on the rocks.
Then came the second main dish for my breakfast. It was neither soup or egg noodles, but was much better than the omelette. Wanton was moist and juicy, the fried prawn toast was crisp, however, rice noodles were again a bit on dryer side and the sauce was just plain chilly-ish without having any taste of sweet or sour. I cannot complain on this one since there was very limited time, and the chef had to be rushed to make this. I was at least thankful that the chef agreed to make one more main dish in such a short time.
My second main plate.
By the time my second main plate was done a fasten-seat-belt sign was already on. Since I wanted to take some photos together with the crew I asked Pauline if I could take pictures with all of crew members in First Class. Despite of the seat-belt sign being turned on, she agreed, and I went up to galley for photographs.
Pauline and I. She was fantastic. Despite of many requests I asked for she didn't hesitate, and made my flight very memorable.
I also had a picture of myself with Nikita and the chef M. Nikita frequently came to check my seat to see if everything was fine. M was a friendly chef. Again, they were very hospitable.
One final photo of the cabin in daylight.
My empty neighbors once again!
Approaching Kujyukurihama beach.
T1 of Narita Airport where Etihad parks.
Simply, fantastic! Not only the hard products onboard but it was the team of crew that made the flight experience the most wonderful. I must admit that breakfast was a bit of let-down, but the crew service and their effort really covered up and really appreciated how they tried to make my experience a memorable one. It was not First Apartment on A380 nor First Suite on B787, but A340-500, despite of being old, was still functioning very well and extremely comfortable. I don't usually First Class and indeed it has been my first long-haul experience with First so can't compare with other airlines, but in one word it was wonderful. Thank You, Etihad!
[Edited 2015-05-08 05:11:55]