Etihad Airways B777-300ER Pearl Business04/10/2012
BACKGROUND Etihad is the only airline flying the Abu Dhabi-Bangkok route direct. The flight is scheduled to take six hours and 20 minutes. Alternatives exist with Thai Airways, Gulf Air, Jet Airways, Emirates, Kuwait Airways and Qatar Airways but all involve a stopover or codeshare.
Etihad flies twice daily to Bangkok from Abu Dhabi. EY408 leaves at 0925 and arrives at Suvarnabhumi International airport at 1845, while EY402 leaves at 2155 and arrives in Bangkok at 0715 the following day.
CHECK-IN I checked in online and was allocated a central aisle seat 6G. Since the flight was full, it wasn’t possible to change this. A day before my flight an Etihad representative called me at my hotel to check details of my departure. I gave her my local mobile number and was told that my driver would call me on arrival at the hotel lobby. In fact, the driver called me 20 minutes before the assigned pick-up time to check I was ready and to ask where I was headed so he could drop me off at the right terminal. All nice touches.
I arrived at the airport about two hours before departure. I was dropped off at the premier entrance and was met and greeted by staff, given my boarding pass and directed through the fast-track security and immigration lines.
THE LOUNGE I made my way to the business class lounge, which is stylish and well staffed and offers snacks and drinks with an attentive waiter service. The lounge also has a kindergarten and a spa. The only criticism is that there were a number of transit passengers who had been misdirected to the wrong terminal lounge – this happened with two of the three passengers ahead of me. I chatted with some friends who I spotted in the lounge and headed for the gate when my flight was called.
THE FLIGHT This was a B777-300ER aircraft in a two-class configuration. I took supreme advantage of the flat-bed seat in business class and was sound asleep soon after take-off. I didn’t wake until about 40 minutes before landing, only having time to grab an orange juice. Had I eaten dinner I would have had the choice of either masala-spiced chicken with white-bean salad and rocket leaves or a Sicilian-style salad for starters. Mains included a slow-poached cod fillet with lentils or a herb and goat’s cheese-encrusted chicken. The vegetarian option was a vegetable bake. Dessert included a cheese selection, steamed fig pudding, tarte tatin, fresh seasonal fruit or Providore ice cream.
Breakfast consisted of a selection of breads and cereals, fresh cream yoghurt with honey and fresh berries, and a continental breakfast. Etihad also offers an express breakfast option if you fill in a card, and there was a “kitchen anytime” menu of snacks such as club sandwiches, popcorn, cookies, ice cream and baklava that could be ordered during the flight.
ARRIVAL We touched down perfectly on time. Before landing, Thai immigration arrival cards were handed out. Flight attendants also provided a Suvarnabhumi Premium fast-track card to speed those going through immigration. The card came with a 1,000 baht coupon for use in duty free shops for purchases of 5,000 baht or more, but as I was in transit I headed for my next flight.
VERDICT While I can’t complain about the comfort of the flat-bed seat, I regretted not taking more advantage of Etihad’s impressive in-flight hospitality.
PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight in April started from AED6,000 (£1,091).