Etihad A340-600 Pearl business class05/05/2014
I arrived at the airport early, at 1925 for the 2210 flight. My upgrade did not come through at check-in, so after immigration and security, which had very few people, I settled at 1945 at a restaurant called The Pub, and started working with the airport’s free wifi while enjoying a Moroccan chicken couscous wrap (AED35/US$9.5) and a Kilkenny (AED40/US$11, 500ml).
I was monitoring the flight status from my iPad, but final call was announced quite suddenly, some 35 minutes before departure. As I had to go from T3 to T1 it was a bit of a sprint. I made it to Gate 7 at 2140 and had to go through another security check right before it, but there were no long queues. I got upgraded to seat 12K in business at the gate, but the staff simply hand-wrote my new seat number onto the economy pass, which caused some confused looks at the plane door, as the flight attendant must have thought I’d scribbled it myself.
I settled in my seat at around 2145 and was offered a drink right away.
The 1-2-1 configuration allows aisle access from all seats. The seat is quite user-friendly, with various storage spaces for small items. My iPad fitted comfortably in the literature compartment below the stowed tray table, while another space by the cocktail table near the window was good for my wallet and phone. There is another compartment for literature by the TV monitor, and shoes can be stored under the footrest.
There are two reading lights – one from the ceiling and the other above the cocktail table, as well as an ambient light. An easy-to-use back-lit control panel adjusts the seat into various positions, including fully flat. The duvet provided was quite comfortable and the bed, at 74 inches (188cm), fitted me well. The seat also has built-in massage functions.
The tray table, which you pull out from the wall and flip over to use, is a good size and quite sturdy, and makes for a good work desk. The 15-inch screen and noise-cancelling headsets offer good IFE experience, and there are also audio/ethernet jacks and an in-seat power socket.
The early final call alert seemed unnecessary, as there were still passengers trying to board at 2220, when the crew closed the door. Curiously, they reopened it shortly after to allow more people in. A dispute between two passengers and a flight attendant ensued, which was eventually resolved when the pair were moved to the front end. Once again, the door was closed and re-opened, before another announcement came on at 2300 saying we would soon be bound for Seoul. In the event, the plane did not leave the gate until 2315 – more than an hour after the scheduled departure time.
Another announcement informed us that the aircraft in front of us had experienced technical problems, and was waiting to be towed away. We did not take off until almost 0010.
Twenty minutes later the seat-belt sign was still on, but I had to go to the bathroom, and the Korean flight attendant obliged me by unlocking the lavatory door, adding, sweetly, “Be careful, and hold on to something.”
The seat-belt sign remained on for more than an hour after takeoff, but nonetheless the crew commenced with in-flight services. Food was served in an à la carte or “Kitchen Anytime” concept, meaning food can be ordered when required. The seat-belt sign finally got turned off as I was enjoying the mezze platter, almost one and a half hours after takeoff.
I skipped dessert and watched The Last King of Scotland, after which I fell asleep. I woke up 1 hour and 35 minutes before arrival. The lights in business were off but those in economy were fully on; the gap in the curtain between classes meant that light from the back end illuminated my seat, which was in the last row.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?
The business cabin is split into two parts – one to the left of the entrance, closer to first class, and the other to the right. It seems that the quieter seats are closer to the front. I found Row 12 to be too close to economy.
We touched down around 1250 local time in Seoul, and arrived at the gate at 1300. It left me with a mere 45 minutes to make my connection to Hong Kong, but ground staff were standing by to pick me up, along with another passenger, to escort me to the right gate.
The flight, once it had taken off, was reasonably smooth. But there was simply not enough information about delays. The captain did not come out to help resolve the passenger dispute, leaving the cabin crew to deal with the situation.
- Plane type A340-600
- Configuration 1-2-1
- Seat width 21 inches (53cm)
- Seat pitch 82 inches (208cm)
- Seat length 74 inches (188cm)
- Seat recline 180 degrees
- Price The internet rate for a Business Freedom round-trip ticket in mid-June for mid-week travel is AED20,585 (US$5,604)