Good Advice Tried and Tested

Etihad B777-300ER Coral economy

03/11/2013

BACKGROUND

I had booked these flights several months before ready for an October family holiday. At first I had tried to do this on the website, but there were various problems, and in the end I booked them over the phone with a helpful Etihad call centre person, making sure that I paid the same for the flights as I had seen on the website (there is a charge for phone bookings).

During the intervening months I had occasion to ring for other reasons – one time so it could be explained to me how to add my family to the Etihad Guest programme so that the miles earned went through to my account, and also with a query about a name correction on one of the bookings. Each time it was quick to get through, and the employees were helpful.

CHECK-IN

We arrived at HeathrowT4 at 0700 for the 0915 Saturday morning departure on EY012. The check-in area is Zone C, and there was a long queue for economy class passengers, but this was fairly quickly dealt with and it took only 10 minutes. We then walked to security, which was swift, but then were held up while my daughter’s bag hand baggage waited to be checked; eventually removing all the large bottles and sprays she had packed.

BOARDING

We were boarding from Gate 10, where just as it was time to board we were told there would be a 30-minute delay due to a late incoming aircraft. My wife used this time to queue for a cup of tea which arrived seconds before we boarded the aircraft. She was allowed to take it on, though I saw several nervous passengers who were already in their seats eyeing her progress down the aisle with interest as she juggled this half pint of boiling liquid along with two bags and children keen to grab her arm for attention. My contribution was ensuring that we had enough distance between us so that, in case of an accident, she might gain sympathy for being a single mother.

THE SEAT

The seating configuration on this three-class flight is eight First Class suites, 40 business class seats and 282 economy seats. Click here for a seatplan. Note that although I had understood that Etihad was dropping the "Coral" from its economy class, it is still referred to as such and so I have done so here.

The economy seating was in three cabins: a first, very small cabin of only two rows, then our own cabin, and then a further cabin at the rear / stern of the aircraft.

Note that in economy the configuration is 3-4-3 (10-across) and so there is less room – in terms of seat width) than in, for instance, the British Airways B777-300ER which has 3-3-3 (9-across). Knowing this (thanks to seatplans.com) I had booked the four centre seats, reasoning that since my two children would take up less room than most passengers, if my wife and I took aisle seats (D and G) with the children in the two centre seats (E and F) we would have more room, and be able to keep easier control of them.

Our seats had pale brown leather headrests (adjustable) covered with a napkin, and stripped upholstery. Interestingly, there were no IFE boxes under our seats, which meant we had lots of leg room and could move our feet around without any interference. We each put our backpacks under the seats in front and still had lots of room.

Each seat is very well equipped, with an IFE screen, multipoint plug (taking EU, US and UK plugs, though using a UK plug I got no power for my laptop, and so had to use a EU adaptor - I don't know why. There was also a DIN style plug, USB and Ethernet Cable. In the seat pocket there was details of the wifi and mobile phone service, and this was turned on once we had reach cruising altitude. I imagine a business flight at this time might have had more people logging in to the service, but certainly on this flight on a Saturday morning at the beginning of half term, I didn’t notice anyone on wifi. That said, you would struggle working on a laptop in these seats. The passenger in front of me apologised as he put his seat back, but said he had to as the person in front of him had done the same, and while it was possible to work (and write this review) for a short time, I would have had difficulty working for long periods.

Of course you could use the wifi for a tablet, mobile phone or other device. I didn’t on this trip, but I did look at it on the next flight, and to see a review of that including the pricing for wifi, click here.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?

Let's do it by negatives. Avoid the centre seats on aLl rows - so that would be B, EF and J.

Let's assume you like window seats, and don;t mind having to ask two people to stand up When you need to stretch your legs or use the washroms, then among those other than the obvious candidates at the front of the cabin, there isn't much to choose between them. If going for An aisle seat (which is what I would do), avoid at all costs seats C and G. Why? fFirstly, because the aisles are narrow. Take  look at the picture on this page of our sister website seatplans.com here.

 

That aisle is also what the flight attendants have to push thir cart up and down serving rinks and meals. This cart seems to be a specially narrow one, and has an overhang on one side with a nasty metal container whcih holds the bottles of wine they are serving. It's good and strong for that purpose, but also hits the seat on that side as the trolley gos up and down, and that is seats C and G. and often I saw it hit passengers' shoulders who were on that seat. You'd tolerate it once, perhaps, but it looked painful, and happened often. 

THE FLIGHT: 

The Etihad flight attendants were dressed either in the normal grey or in orange aprons to signify that they had received extra training in dealing with children and were now “Sky Nannies”. My own children had their kid’s menus confirmed once they were sitting down, and also were given play bags with colouring and puzzles in them.

Etihad flying nanny

The captain told us that there would be a further delay, though this time it was due to passengers being caught in the security line, apparently, We were then waiting for a slot for take-off, which we eventually did at 1000, 45 minutes after the scheduled departure time. During take-off the IFE screens switched to firstly the camera in the nose of the aircraft, and then once we had taken off, to one below looking down at the disappearing landscape of Surrey. It was possible to hide this and simply have the map, but most people seemed to watch it and the children certainly enjoyed the view, especially since they couldn’t see out of the window being in the centre seats.

Shortly after take-off the drinks service began, which starts at the front of the front economy cabin and the back of the rear cabin, and works towards one another, so row 25 where we were sitting was probably the last, but it’s a quick service and only took perhaps 15 minutes to reach us. The children got their meals early.

Children\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s meals, Etihad Airways

Just before take off we had been given a menu card, details from which follow:

Lunch

Appetizer:

  • Chicken with orzo pasta and mixed pepper salad, warm bread

Main course:

  • Seared chicken with cranberry sauce, red cabbage with apple and mashed potato;
  • Lamb cooked in harissa sauce with coriander, lemon rice and eggplant;
  • Penne pasta in tomato sauce and tortellini in mushroom sauce (V)

Dessert:

  • Wild berry compote with custard.

Café service: choice of gourmet pizzas.

Beverages: Choice or white and red wines, Dewars whisky, Bacaradi Run, Beefeater gin, Absolut Vodka. Beers: Heineken, Foster’s, Kronenburg. Juices: Orange, apple, mango, tomato

Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, 7-up, Soda, tonic, ginger ale, still water, filter coffee, cappuccino, hot chocolate, Dilmah teas: Ceylon, Green tea, Lemon and lime, Decaffeinated (coffee, I presume).

Adult meal, Etihad Airways

I enjoyed my meal (I chose the lamb) and was full at the end of it, though admittedly I had helped both children with their meals. 

The rest of the flight was uneventful, and I alternated between working and watching some of the films (The Grandmaster).

There are plenty of toilets, though these were only at the rear of our cabin. This was the view midway through the flight. 

Etihad Airways B777-300ER Economy Cabin

ARRIVAL

We arrived at Abu Dhabi around 1900 local time. We were off the aircraft quite quickly, but then endured a completely unnecessary wait at immigration by having the bad luck of choosing a queue where the attendant either had a faulty terminal or could not work it.

The supervisor seemed completely indifferent to the problem, despite my pointing it out to him, and in fact just chatted on his mobile phone as he strolled around the terminal. So everyone in our line stood there watching every other queue progress through, and new aircraft come into the hall and move through while we remained motionless.

In the end, when every other queue was empty, those attendants then started to take people from the front of our line, and in that way we finally got through to where our bags were waiting on the carousel.

Once we had our bags we then joined a very long queue for taxis, which nevertheless moved fairly quickly and after 10 minutes we were finally outside the terminal.

VERDICT

A very good flight. You can certainly fault Etihad for cramming 10 across in this B777-300ER, but for us it didn’t make any difference and so removed the one thing we might have complained about. The service was faultless, the food tasty, the IFE had a huge choice and I liked the fact that there was seat power available – and even connectivity for phones and wifi-enabled devices if needed.

www.etihad.com

Tom Otley