Chauffeur + Washington Dulles Airport
Dulles to Abu Dhabi Etihad Diamond First
St. Regis Abu Dhabi Nation Towers
Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island
Abu Dhabi to Male Etihad Pearl Business
Conrad Lounge & Seaplane
Male to Hong Kong Cathay Pacific Business Class
W Hong Kong
Hong Kong Airport
Hong Kong to New York Cathay Pacific First Class
JFK Airport and AA Flagship Lounge
New York to DC American First Class
Cara still had a few minutes of work to take care of in the lounge, so I boarded first since I wanted to get empty cabin pictures.
Up until 3-4 days before the flight, the seat map showed us as the only 2 passengers in first class, and I was excited about the possibility of a “private charter” to Abu Dhabi with our seats in 2D/G. However, just a couple days out, somebody appeared in seat 2A. I later found out, of a couple traveling in business class, the wife upgraded her husband as a birthday surprise, so hard to get upset about that.
As I boarded, I was greeted by Constantine, the cabin service manager, and escorted to my seat, 2D. He offered to help with the baggage and asked what I would like to drink. I ordered a champagne for both of us but asked for them to wait until Cara boards to serve it.
Here are the pictures I ditched Cara to take of the empty first class cabin:
My first impression of the cabin was this is *really* cool. We’ve flown many first rate first class products before, but this was our first experience with a closed-door suite concept. I’ll discuss in further detail later on, but the closed-off sensation did help me sleep.
Once Cara boarded, we were served champagne, offered amenity kits and PJs and the main flight attendant for the cabin, James, showed us around our suite, including how to turn on/off the various lights, recline the seats (all of which is done via touch screen), and most importantly how to close the doors (unfortunately this is done manually). He also introduced the food menu, duty free options, and provided us with amenity kits and PJ’s, which we both tossed onto our ottomans until later.
After pouring a few glasses of champagne, our chef also took orders from the extensive food menu:
Here’s the aforementioned menu:
A LA CARTE DINNER
Arabic Mezze – A Selection of Middle Eastern hot and cold appetizers
Oven-baked Chicken – grilled baby courgettes, yellow squash, red pepper dressing
Lentil soup – yellow pepper, chopped carrots
Pea and mint soup – sour cream with chives
Lamb ghouzi – slow cooked Arabic-style lamb with aromatic rice, roasted vegetables and kabsa sauce.
Your choice of biryani – with fried onions, cashews and raisins
Tagliatelle pasta – artichoke, chunky olive and tomato sauce basil pesto, mozzerlla
Chef’s Special – ask our chef about the “special of the day” or to create something especially for you
FROM THE GRILL
Select your choice of meat or fish from the options below together with your preferred side dishes and sauces and our chef will prepare it all to your taste.
Grass-fed beef tenderloin
U.S. rib-eye steak
Herb filled mushroom
Honey and tamarind carrots
Steamed green beans
Roasted chat potatoes with rosemary
Creamy mashed potatoes
White cream sauce
Cafe de Paris butter
Red Peppercorn and shallot sauce
During taxi, the captain informed us of a flight time of just under 12 hours putting us into Abu Dhabi nearly an hour early due to our ~15 minute late takeoff. He also said that due to extremely strong tailwinds, we might experience a bit of chop for the first three hours.
After takeoff, James began service which started with choice of beverage and another hot towel as well as the table being set for dinner service. I chose water for now and red wine with the main course. Etihad uses 2 table cloths and it definitely looks cooler than your standard white. We were also served individual bread baskets right away:
I got the Arabic mezze starter:
We were then served a palette cleansing sorbet:
…and the beef tenderloin main course with a side of mashed potatoes, green beans and carrots:
I find that, in general, beef tenderloin is one of the cuts that “travels” the best, and while I generally prefer other cuts on the ground, tenderloin is the most consistent in the air.
I also had the dessert “sampler” which was amazing:
The food was outstanding and I’m a believer in the on board chef concept after this flight. Cara requested a custom dish (vegetable fried rice) which she executed very well and my food was cooked perfectly as well.
We requested seats 3D/G be made into beds during dinner service, so that we could go to sleep at our leisure, and Constantine took care of that during dinner.
The bedding was comfortable, though my one complaint is that they don’t really have a mattress pad, so much as just a fitted sheet that covers the seat. So the bed is only as comfortable as the seat (still very good), but more importantly for me is that you can barely move the seat back up without the fitted sheet coming off. I generally prefer to raise the seat back just a smidge to mimic the angle of sleeping with 2 pillows (which I do at home) and compensate for the plane’s very small natural incline.
We must’ve been really moving because I woke up just before we crossed into Egyptian airspace. [We were really moving as several times the airshow displayed us traveling in excess of 700mph).
I was hungry, so I ordered a smoothie and bagel from the kitchen anytime menu which read as follows:
A selection of sweet and savoury items to enjoy at any time during the flight
A selection of bread and pastries
Wild berry smootie
A range of breakfast cereals – with full-cream or low-fat milk
Breakfast taster – a selection of four mini breakfast items: muesli, yoghurt cream with granola, fruit salad, fruit smoothie
New York cheesecake – rasberry coulis
Fresh eggs cooked to order and served with your selection of chicken sausage, rosti potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, baked beans or foul medames
Toasted bagel with smoked salmon, cream cheese, rocket leaves
Herb omelette – lamb sausage, potato gratin
Sandwiches – made to order
The Etihad Steak Sandwich – with rocket leaves, turkey rashers, red onion compote, melted cheese, mayonnaise and grain mustard
Pea and mint soup – sour cream and chives
Cheese – a selection of international cheeses
Potato crisps in a variety of flavors
Freshly baked cookies and madeleines
Swedish crisp breads
The bagel and smoothie were both very, very good. Among the best things I’ve ever consumed in the sky (which, I know, is unusual for a bagel and cream cheese).
I took a few pictures out of the window:
And soon it was time to land, so I moved over to a window seat. I don’t know if the sensation of moving from a “double” suite to a “single” was the reason, but I got immediately claustrophobic and a little bit dizzy… and I don’t get claustrophobic.
It was too dark to take any meaningful pictures, but we landed in Abu Dhabi and taxied in to our gate. Unfortunately door 1L wasn’t used for disembarkation, so we basically ended up at the end of the business class stampede out of door 2L. Economy passengers were held, however, until we disembarked.
We quickly made our way through immigration, and found the chauffeur desk for our ride into town. I’ll cover that briefly in the next bit.