Etihad Airways: LHR-AUH-BKK and BKK-AUH-LGW

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19 years 9 months

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At approximately 5:30am this morning, I arrived back in London after almost 3 weeks in Thailand. Previous flights to Thailand have been with EVA Air and Thai Airways, so I was very excited to be travelling with a new airline (for me anyway) - Etihad Airways - the national airline of the United Arab Emirates. I had been looking forward to this trip for numerous reasons. Apart from the flights being with Etihad, I was also excited about the prospect of flying on two new types of aircraft as well - 1 trip on the A340-500 and 3 trips on the 777-300ER. And these flights were not direct, so a visit to Abu Dhabi was something to look forward to. But the biggest highlight of the trip was the Bangkok's new Suvarnabhumi Airport, which had only opened about a fortnight before we arrived. Anyway, I'm not going to bore you with long reports of each of the four flights. I'll just talk a bit about what I think of this airline. These are the aircraft I flew on (no duplicates, fortunately!): EY304 - London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi - A340-500 - A6-EHB http://www.airliners.net/open.file/1129821/L/ EY401 - Abu Dhabi to Bangkok - B777-300ER - A6-ETB http://www.airliners.net/open.file/1047881/L/ EY402 - Bangkok to Abu Dhabi - B777-300ER - A6-ETA http://www.airliners.net/open.file/1132566/L/ EY307 - Abu Dhabi to London Gatwick - B777-300ER - A6-ETC http://www.airliners.net/open.file/1045069/L/ Overall, I feel that Etihad still has a long way to go before it's level of service can be compared to it's competitors - both on the ground and in the air. At Heathrow Airport, Scandinavian (SAS) handles all Etihad flights, so turning up at Terminal 3 to find two economy desks open was not a good start. The queue for these two desks was very long and the majority of the passengers in the queue were actually flying with SAS and not Etihad. Etihad Airways staff are present at every airport they fly into (even Gatwick with it's one flight a day) and the staff wear suits and hats similar to those worn by Emirates staff. At Heathrow, we were checked in by a chap who didn't say anything, and considering the heightened security, it was disappointing that he didn't even bother to ask the security questions. He pointed to a new sign stating the current restrictions on hand baggage and left us to sort out the liquids in our hand baggage. After a few minutes, we had re-packed prohibited items into our cases and waited. This miserable man was staring into space and then turned to his colleague next to him for a good old chat before continuing to check us in. Anyway, on all flights, our seats had been pre-allocated (thanks to the staff at the Etihad Airways office in London) and we were seated in two lots of two on all flights. On all three of our 777-300ER flights, our seats never changed - always row 20 and 21, with windows all the way. There is such a huge difference between the service at Heathrow and the service at Bangkok, where Etihad staff operate check-in. The process was very swift, the staff were very bubbly and chatty and helpful, too. And at Abu Dhabi (Etihad's hub), although I didn't experience check-in as we had been checked all the way through to Bangkok, there were plenty of members of staff around the airport, on-hand to help. The aircraft themselves are excellent. The much newer A340-500 was very spacious, the 10.4" PTV was great and the mood lighting was nifty, too. The aircraft is in a 2-4-2 seating configuration in economy class. The 777-300ERs (the three that I flew) already appeared shabby compared to the A340. These have the mood lighting (light panels that continually change colour to help you relax.. blue, orange, pink, yellow, red etc.), the huge PTVs and plenty of space. Etihad offers economy class 'guests' an average 32" of seat pitch, but unlike just about every other carrier in the world, passengers also benefit from a footrest and a seat recline unlike any other. The economy class seats are extremely comfortable and sleeping is not a problem. The inflight entertainment is AVOD (Audio/Video on Demand) on the A340 and the B777, so there is more than 300 hours of entertainment to choose from, ranging from the latest movie releases to popular TV shows. You can choose to listen to one of dozens of music albums of a variety of genres or you can instead opt for one of the airline's inflight radio stations. The IFE also boasts 24 games, including 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire', 'Hangman', 'Ten-Pin Bowling' and more. No matter what it is you're after, there is something that appeals to everybody. And with a moving map and two cameras to watch as well, it really is quite an impressive set-up. But the inflight entertainment seems to have serious flaws. Whilst on the A340-500, I could not pick any faults, the 777-300ERs were very different. The system was very slow on all three flights and on the Bangkok to Abu Dhabi flight, it was necessary about an hour after takeoff to re-boot the system. Several passengers were complaining that they were either not seeing anything or what they were seeing was very jerky and unwatchable. I was one of those who had to put up with jerkiness, but a re-boot seemed to do the trick, even if it did take more than 15 minutes to complete the process! The handsets differ between the A340 and the B777. On the A340, the handset is quite advanced and also doubles up as a phone, complete with credit card slot to pay for phone calls. The B777 is quite a simple version (without a phone) and already, the buttons on the controls are knackered. With some of the buttons, no matter how hard you press, nothing happens! The screens are touchscreen, so when the controller does pack up, you have a backup. The quality of food on Etihad is again, 'average'. One nice touch is the menu handed out shortly before the meal service commences. On each sector, a main meal and a snack was served. These meals and snacks varied drastically in quality. With the hot dinners, economy passengers have a choice of three meals and all meat is prepared in accordance with Halal. On the first flight, I enjoyed a lamb curry with vegetables and rice. I had high hopes for the snack, which was served about 90 minutes before landing - two rock hard rolls, one containing a slice of ham and a gherkin, the other containing a small lump of what I believed to be egg mayonnaise. Even with a nice fruit salad (pineapple, papaya and watermelon) to accompany every meal/snack and the classy desserts and salad starters, I didn't feel completely stuffed, so perhaps the portions were a bit on the small side! On the Bangkok to Abu Dhabi flight, I was asked what I wanted for my dinner - fish, chicken or ravioli - so I opted for the chicken in yoghurt. The stewardess explained that she would have to return to the galley to fetch more meals. All she had on her trolley was 'pan-fried fish', which didn't appeal. Anyway, on her way back from the galley, she dished out the few remaining chicken meals to other passengers. When she got to me she apologised that they had actually run out of chicken, so did I want one of the other options - a rancid smelling fishy conconction or stone-cold ravioli, which had not taste and had dried up after sitting on some trolley for half an hour. Starving to death, I had the ravioli. As she handed the tray to me, she said that she had a beef crew meal and offered it to me. Being as considerate as I am and not wanting a member of the crew to go without dinner, I politely declined. After all, I was so looking forward to the ravioli! On the flights between Abu Dhabi and Bangkok, we enjoyed our meals with proper, metal cutlery. On those flights to/from the UK, we had to put up with plastic equipment. The airline doesn't offer complimentary amenity kits to it's economy class passengers. Waiting for you in your seat is nothing but a pillow. If you want a blanket, there are plenty to go around and they can be requested from the crew. I visited four different airports on my latest voyage - London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Abu Dhabi and Bangkok's new Suvarnabhumi Airport. London Heathrow never changes - it's dated, expensive, dirty and whatever else you can think of. London Gatwick was surprisingly nice. I've not flown out of Gatwick for two years and it's been nearly four years since I have visited the North Terminal, which looked very clean and very new. Our trip through the airport was swift, with the exception of immigration, where the queues were huge. Our flight was the first of the day and it was at least half an hour before the next aircraft landed, so I dread to think what sort of state the immigration hall can get into. Abu Dhabi is much smaller than I had imagined and I was slightly disappointed. Like Heathrow, it's interior is very dated with a huge green and blue mosaic type thing working it's way from the floor to the ceiling, however, there is a good selection of good value duty free shops and everything here seems to run like clockwork. And as for Bangkok, what a huge surprise! The Thai people care a lot about their new airport and that's all they seem to ask the tourists - "what did you think of the new airport?" - it's had some bad reviews so far, unfortunately. Some say that the airport was opened long before it was finished, but what I saw of it was brilliant. High ceilings, lots of glass and fully-functional air-conditioning! Shopping here is great for everybody and there is little chance that you'll be able to visit every shop in the few hours between checking in and departing. I can't wait to get back! The experience with Etihad Airways was a good one. I would fly them again but I'd like to see one or two changes. I think they are trying to expand far too quickly and they do not seem to be improving the service they provide at the moment. Their latest route, utilising the Airbus A340-500, is Abu Dhabi to New York. In terms of punctuality, the airline cannot be faulted. All four flights departed bang on-time and each arrived at least 20 minutes earlier than scheduled. Comfort is also spot on - there is sufficient legroom and the entire seat moves when you recline, so economy passengers seem to be able to lie back further than ever before! I did take about 25 photos on my first two flights out to Bangkok, including shots of the new Survarnabhumi Airport, however, my camera malfunctioned whilst away, so I've lost them all. I took a couple of photos in Bangkok last night. Although not brilliant, you can hopefully appreciate the size of Thailand's new airport. http://www.web-wings.co.uk/screenshots/albums/userpics/10001/bkk1.jpg http://www.web-wings.co.uk/screenshots/albums/userpics/10001/bkk2.jpg http://www.web-wings.co.uk/screenshots/albums/userpics/10001/bkk3.jpg The next flight for me is this coming Friday. I'll be flying with Korean Air to Seoul on the 747-400 and onwards to Gwangju with Asiana on the 737-500.
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Profile picture for user bmi-star

Member for

15 years 7 months

Posts: 4,255

Great report there! BKK looks very much like HKG with the long pier!
Profile picture for user G-CDFF

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14 years 1 month

Posts: 1,289

Cool report :cool: