I admit that I have the “inaugural bug” since I flew the Qatar A350-900 inaugural. With narrowly missed out Etihad’s A380 inaugural (flew 3 weeks later), their B787-9 Dreamliner is the last major type inducting into their fleet for a while. Being a local UAE resident in Etihad’s hometown, I ain’t going to miss it.
An inaugural is so much fun than regular flight, it is one of a kind experience that there is only one inaugural on every aircraft type in every airline. Flight certificate, gift pack, champagne toasting, meeting up with other Avgeeks, great service with hand-picked crew are all regular features of the inaugurals which makes it so more enjoyable and memorable of course.
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EY23 Abu Dhabi to Dusseldorf
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Etihad originally plan to have both A380 and B787-9, the two major types of planes that would carry Etihad to the future operating in end of December. The A380 entered service on 27 December 2014; the B787-9 is delayed till 1 February 2015 to enter its service. Düsseldorf is the first destination for Etihad Boeing 787 and I believe it is a perfect market for it.
I arrived by complimentary Etihad Limo at airport 3 hours before departure to allow myself plenty of time in the lounge to relax and mingle with a couple of like minded aviation enthusiasts who are also on the inaugural flight.
Etihad have kindly reserved us the “Residence Room” in their premium lounge. This room is used for A380 Residence passengers but they didn’t have a booking that evening so it was avail to us to enjoy it. I must also add that Etihad is renovating the First Class lounge till coming summer so all First and Business Class customer are invited to use the current premium lounge near gate 35.
Private dining inside the Residence Room
Chef special: Beef Tenderloin cooked to order. Food is restricted to the extensive buffet on offer but the chef was kind enough to cook a steak specially for me.
Bar and general dining area
After a late dinner, I took advantage of the new concept “Etihad Shave” in the men’s shave lounge and a back massage at the Six Sense Spa. First Class passenger is entitled to a free shave and hair cut. I think Business passengers have to pay a small amount for the service but both are entitled for free at the arrival lounge.
At 1:30am, 2 Etihad ground operation lady came along with the lounge supervisor escorted us to gate 32, our entourage also includes 2 porters who carry our bags making us truly VIP and boarding with great style. A lot of passengers have no clue they’re on the inaugural flight of Etihad B787 at all. To most it is just another overnight flight. To aviation enthusiast like me, it is show time!
I was so impressed by the excellent ground service provide by Etihad. At the gate I met up with ground Ops manager Jordan and flight dispatcher Chris, both from Australia. Naturally we exchanged conversation base on B787 and its competitor A350; you can see we are definitely Avgeeks.
I was escorted by the purser, Eva from Bulgaria to my Suite 2A and the porter stored my bag without me to do anything. I felt well treated like royalty! The First Class crew and chef came to introduce them and they understood I am flying to Düsseldorf for no other reasons than wanting to be on the inaugural flight!
We received a flight certificate signed by CEO James Hogan.
We also received an inaugural gift pack which include a nice 100% genuine leather wallet and travel tag by Etihad.
A visit to the cockpit to say Hi to the pilot. Tonight’s flight we have Emirati (local) captain Fouad, first officer Marcus and a Boeing consultant pilot assisting in the cockpit. You can see the greeting from the crew on my Youtube video.
With chilled mini-fridge ensuite
The suite is bigger than the current suite on Etihad’s main fleet, with a much bigger ottoman and wider seat. Suite 2A is a forward facing suite while Suite 1A is a rearward facing suite.
Airborne from runway 13R around 02:40. Flight time to Düsseldorf was just under 7 hours with speed at Mach 0.84-5. We have a derated takeoff resulted late rotation at almost end of runway. After the seat belt sign turned off, I further explore the cabin.
A small area between the front door, galley and first class cabin.
Since it is an overnight flight to Düsseldorf, I chose to just have Éclairs and an ice cream before going to bed for some sleep. My bed was turned down immediately after the snack.
The suite door is still manual (not electronic controlled like on Emirates) but it wasn’t difficult to slide it to close position. The suite is a tad bigger than the current mainfleet suite, there is a gap between the door and your bed allow you to sit down with door closed. The leather seat is very soft and the mattress is good, the duvet is a little thin and flimsy in my opinion. I prefer the Lufthansa bed in First!
After 3 hours of solid sleep, I was awakened by the purser just a little too early (with 1 hour 45 mins to land) and decided to sleep a bit more until we get closer to the destination.
English breakfast with beef sausage, baked beans, fried eggs to order.
Couple more pictures of the cabin of the quiet overnight flight before landing into DUS.
We landed on-time on Runway 23L. It was still very dark outside and we were one of the first landings of the day. After a short taxi to C gate area, the inaugural B787-9 flight was concluded. I waited other passenger to deplane and took a couple more interior shots.
Excellent crew (all hand picked) in First Class
Chef Christopher from Germany
I found myself back in Düsseldorf, one of my favorite airports in Germany again in just 4 weeks. The German immigration officer was amused with my answer of staying in DUS for just a coffee and back! I visited the supermarket on arrival floor to load up some excellent German pork products and the Lufthansa world shop bought a new big Matte Black Lufthansa Rimowa suitcase (take advantage of cheaper Euro). Then I have a pleasant business meeting with one of the owner of Airevents on future excursion trips to the Arctic region. I finally checked in for the return flight EY24 to Abu Dhabi an hour before departure
Etihad does not have its own lounge in DUS; guests are invited to use its partner airberlin lounge. I stayed a short 10 minutes before heading downstairs for boarding.
At boarding gate C40, there is an inaugural board set up for the event. However, no one seems to be interested taking pictures there. Quite a few passengers look out to the Dreamliner from the window
When I step into the aircraft, the new staff already knew I flew from Abu Dhabi in the morning and straight away welcome me back and escort to my seat 1A, a reverse facing suite.
Quite a crowd turns out on the observation deck to see the inaugural Etihad Dreamliner despite in freezing weather.
We pushed back on-time and taxied shortly to the de-icing bay for some de-ice.
My friend Lukas Baudach caught us taxiing in his superb photos
Photo copyright Lukas Baudach
You can see the de-icing and experience full power takeoff action from my video:
Our routing on a straight line, but this is not the actual routing; we didn’t fly over Iraq or Syria. Flight time to Abu Dhabi was just 5 hour 45 minutes with good tail wind.
From my seat, I can look into the engine and wing.
Partner Jet Airways A330 was having a race but couldn’t keep up with our Mach 0.85 speed.
In my fellow aviation enthusiast suite 2A
More cabin look in daylight
Table were set for lunch
Amuse Bouche: Boiled beef
Excellent Artichoke and Ginger Soup
Prawns with seaweed and quinoa salad starter
Sorbet between courses
Rib-eye steak cooked medium with veal jus
Dessert sampler with cheesecake, pudding and chocolate mousse.
I must say the catering is excellent on this flight, even better than my recent flight on the A380 from London to Abu Dhabi. Europe does have much better catering enable the skillful chef to cook well. Chef Yasser from Jordan/Palestine cooked one of the best meal I have on many Etihad First Class flight. I was very impressed.
Chef Yasser and purser Bridget (from Germany, again hand picked crew on inaugural flight)
After a big meal, its time for a nap.
I woke up 1.5 hours before landing; we were over Zagros mountain range in Iran coming down to Persian Gulf with a gorgeous sunset over the desert.
I have an afternoon tea before landing with English scones with cream and jam and breakfast tea.
Purser came around handed every passenger an inaugural flight certificate, again signed by CEO James Hogan. So I have two in total, one from EY23 AUH-DUS and one on EY24 DUS-AUH!
Landing into Abu Dhabi with cockpit view mode
After a smooth touch down on new runway 31R of AUH, we took further 15 minutes to taxi to a remote stand as Abu Dhabi airport has only a few contact gates and it is far beyond its capacity at night. Surprisingly, Etihad arranged a BMW 7 series await for us downstairs and we were treated like VVIP and taken straight to terminal with our escort and porters.
I was very satisfied and impressed with the Etihad inaugural on the Boeing B787-9 Dreamliner. This is the last aircraft type to be introduced into Etihad’s fleet and provide Etihad with a very promising future. Boeing 787 dreamliner is a versatile airplane that makes flying a pleasure with its dimmed window shade and improved cabin pressure. I have only flown a handful of B787 so far so I am still quite new to be accustomed to it. The Etihad first class suite is very comfortable and I enjoyed being cozy watching TV/Movies with doors closed. However, as an avgeek, I still prefer an open First/Business class cabin to look around and appreciate the space rather than walls and cubicles but I think most passengers benefit from the privacy provided. Thanks Etihad for providing VVIP ground service, I met up with so many people that actually follow my trip report and pictures with strong aviation passion, you guys are great and I wish I could spend more time with you! The crew on EY23 and EY24 were the best of Etihad crew I have experienced. An inaugural very well done.
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EY23 Abu Dhabi to Dusseldorf
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Youtube: Sam Chui