April 7 2006
Bangkok - Abu Dhabi
POB J25/28 Y231/350 total POB 256/378
Captain Zainuddin Hashim, FO Helmi Mohd. Ali
FL 340 Mach 0.84 Seat 9K
ATD 0900BKK ATA 1225AUH 6h20mins
Departure Rwy 21R BKK
Arrival Rwy 13 AUH
Airfare paid (roundtrip Bangkok-Abu Dhabi-Beirut x Amman-Abu Dhabi-Bangkok)
Business Class 51500 THB + tax (USD1355 + tax)
Needless to say, I held a lot of expectation on my first flight with Etihad Airways and their brand new B777-300/ER. I was curious to see how this young vibrant carrier fair with passengers and compare to the other premium carriers from the Gulf Region. The choice over Emirates and others (similar pricing out of Bangkok) was simply their new B777-300/ER with the unique seat configuration which offer full flat seat, in seat massage function, internet connection, AVOD and even video plug in playback.
Onboard Peral Zone (Business Class)
Coral Zone (Economy Class)
The seat, good looking and comfortable in relax position, is not without is own setbacks. It is narrow in width and when in full recline position, my legs could not be fully stretched (as a 6 foot person). On a different note, the in seat massage function worked great with different style and position selections. On the privacy level, Etihad did a great job in the design of the seat configuration, allowing passenger to move in and out freely from their seat without intrude and disturb others. Mood lighting was offered throughout the flight.
Appetizer, breakfast fruit plate and bread.
Main Course, Mixed Grill
Meals are well presented and delicious, the only complaint would be the portion of the meal is smaller to other airlines Business Class meals. I suspect Coral zone gets the same selection and serving. (like Thai business and economy)
After the meal service, I introduced myself as aviation enthusiast to in-flight manager Paul and he gladly accompanied me for a tour of the 777-300ER aircraft by showing me different control panel, galley and most interestingly, the crew rest area situated upstairs at the rear of the plane. I was also introduced to some of the young and friendly crew that are always willing to help. Like other Gulf carriers, crew were recruited from all over the world, with multilingual skills. Paul admitted that most of the crew have very limited and almost none airline experience since the airline is still in its infancy but most of the crew worked in the hospitality and tourism sector before hired with Etihad. Paul came from the defunct carrier Canada 3000.
After some relaxation time on the plane, I checked out the AVOD system, having flown the Emirates B777-300/ER last month, Etihad's entertainment system offered less choices. (but still ample) The system response time is longer. In Pearl Zone, screens are not touchable which one has to be patient to learn how to use the small delicate remote control.
Second Serving before landing in Abu Dhabi
Sandwiches and fruit.
Landing was made on time and the terminal was quite busy at noon with numerous flight already landed and ready to depart to Europe (LHR, FRA) and the Middle East. Most gates of the small satellite were occupied with Etihad's aircraft with only one Gulf Air A320 for the exception.
Abu Dhabi International
Unique terminal and duty free shop under the gates.
There were no signs of Etihad lounge from the satellite but I eventually found it by asking ground personnel.
The lounge first was a bit crowded and disorganized but with other passenger left for boarding, it became more spaced and pleasant. Etihad hired waiter/waitress in the lounge serving passenger drinks and a self-help food/drinks counter. The experience was a pleasant one with one waitress asking my drink of choice immediately after my arrival in the lounge. There were 3 internet terminals offering high speed internet. Lounge is divided into smoking, non-smoking section and a ladies section. With the current pace of expansion, both Abu Dhabi airport and airline lounge are both under constraint.
April 7 2006
Abu Dhabi - Beirut
POB F12/12 J12/24 Y157 total POB 181
Captain Philippe Delbecq, FO Olivier Koeune
FL 400 Mach 0.82 Seat 4K
ATD 1400AUH ATA 1620BEY 3h20mins
Departure Rwy 13 AUH
Arrival Rwy 16 BEY
Purser Mathias welcome each of his passengers in the premium cabin and not surprised, rich Lebanese family traveling occupied the whole first class section. I was lucky that A6-EYD was built to Etihad's specification and was newly delivered in May 2005 from Airbus.
I chose a glass of champagne to indulge myself for the pre-takeoff drink (although my fitness coach strongly against this move)
Middle Eastern Mezze
Seafood (Signature Dish)
Meals presentation was good again but taste was average. Crew were quick and felt a bit rushed on this sector. Chocolate were given with the tea/coffee service.
Window views from 40000 feet
Arriving into Beirut
There was a long silence when our plane made the final approach into Beirut, it reminded me earlier reading BBC world affairs editor John Simpsons description of Beirut. "You get the best view of Beirut from an aircraft. As you fly across the face of the Mediterranean, it juts out into the sea like a lovely dark gem: complex, valuable, something to be adored and envied. And, of course, fought over."
Indeed the coastline of Beirut emerged from the left hand side of our plane and the sights are to be adored and remembered. It was a rather hazy day but the city from above was charming in the warm glowing afternoon light.
Welcome to Beirut, Lebanon, voice of Purser Mathias from the PA came around after a dead silent landing. Perhaps the views are too spectacular that each of us were still shocked or was some of the memories of war by those war-torn buildings near the airport neighborhood. We spent few minutes of taxing and you get to see the airport is surrounded by factories and apartments. The most recognizable landscape were the mountains behind the airport. Within 20 minutes, I was on the street level and greeted by my new Lebanese friend.
To conclude, onboard Etihad experience is a very positive one with good memories recalled. I am confident that the crew will be more experienced as Etihad expands.
I would also like to present some of the sights from Beirut, Lebanon.
Views from my hotel room.
The Famous Rawshew Rock
Part of the city, which still shows the war torn such as the former Beirut Holiday Inn.
One of the greatest qualities of the Lebanese people is their charming, enthusiastic resilience. Very friendly, resourceful and respectful people. Nightlife is particular vibrant in Beirut with cafes, bars and restaurants open to the early mornings. Do not forget the popular belly dancing show (at 2am!), Arabic singing and fine Lebanese cuisine during your stay.
During my stay, I was fortunate by having a tour of Beirut Airport.
Old MEA 707
and its colorful interior
Air France departing from the Paris of the Middle East
Home Airline Middle East Airline MEA with striking landscape of Beirut.