After my most luxurious flight in The Residence on Etihad A380, I stayed one night in Seoul before my return flight in....Economy. This is my idea of sampling both the top luxury in private and seeing what travel with 400 others in the main cabin is like. In this review, I focus on giving personal tips on how to make flying Economy more comfortable. (I was invited by Etihad on both of the flight, views and opinions are my own.)
Economy Space Seats
On Etihad A380 Economy seats in row 40-47 have extra leg room; this is called Economy Space. These seats either have extra leg room or no seat in front; this was also the case for my seat, 69D. Economy Space seats offer 36" of leg room.
To purchase Economy Space seating you can do so: during online booking, online check-in or simply ask at the check-in desk. Price varies between $60 to $80 depending on the length of the flight.
In my opinion, on Etihad (or any A380), the best Economy section is the forward section between door 1 and door 2; this is because this area is: more quiet, first to disembark and has many toilets nearby.
Walking down to my seat 69D, I realised tonight's flight was going to be totally full. I was thankful to have the Economy Space seat. This makes ALL the difference!
In my opinion, nothing is more important than comfort and space when traveling on a flight.
This is the key to having an enjoyable flight. My seat was quite comfortable for an economy seat, it had a unique headrest that provides a shoulder to lean on and good cushioning for back comfort.
You may be wondering why there is no seat in front of seat 69D? the space in front is actually an emergency escape hatch from the crew rest below it. The table and IFE screen are in and under the arm rest of my seat respectively.
New Bistro Economy Dining
After a non-eventful takeoff, drinks and dinner were served. There were 3 choices: Korean chicken japchae (glass noodle), braised beef with rice and a vegetarian pasta option.
Since April, Etihad have launched a new concept of bistro dining. Gone are the salad/appetizer. The main courses became slightly bigger in portion size now with a bigger and deeper tray. In a bid to cut cost, flight attendant built up the food tray with main course, bread roll, dessert and cutlery.
I had the Korean chicken japchae, which tasted quite good! The dessert brownie cake was ok but as someone with a sweet tooth, I'd have preferred a more proper dessert than a packaged cake. (Update: It seems Etihad have now brought back a better quality dessert now)
In addition to the complimentary coffee, tea, beer, spirit, juice and soft drinks in Economy, there was a Sweet or Salty menu in the seat back, from which you could purchase premium items like Starbucks branded coffee, Thorntons hot chocolate, cold cut meat and cheeseboard etc.
After dinner, I met a dance band from Saudi Arabia travelling on-board; Al Raya Al Douwaliah from Dammam. They performed some dances and invited me to join them dancing at 36,000 ft!
Back to my seat, I enjoyed watching Wimbledon tennis on Live TV in the E-box in-flight entertainment. In fact, I could enjoy 2 programs at the same time with the help of the small handset.
The flight itself took 9 hours and 4 minutes, according to FlightRadar 24. We flew over Beijing, then continued to head West towards Xinjiang, turned SW towards Pakistan and finally over the Gulf of Oman. The Westbound trips typically battle with a strong head wind, which this time resulted in a 1 hour longer flight time than Eastbound leg.
I was very tired after a long day sightseeing in Seoul and producing my vlog. I brought my own eye mask and managed to sleep for a good 4 hours solid, I woke up shortly before the cabin lights came back on for the breakfast service.
The breakfast was a choice between cod fish and rice or pancakes. It also came with a muesli bar and a packaged croissant, but I would have preferred some fresh fruit.
From the tail camera, I could watch the A380 landing in Abu Dhabi around 05:25, 15 minutes ahead of schedule; even at this early hour, the outside temperature was already 36 degrees Celsius.
Etihad Economy Verdict
To me, the key to having a good Economy long haul flight is to have comfort and good rest.
I don't often travel in Economy. I always try to find something better but if you're ending in Economy, I think it is worth the extra investment for the Economy Space seating. With a good sleep, you will be able to comfortably pass many hours and enjoy the rest of your flight, be it using the the in-flight entertainment or enjoying the meals offered. This is exactly what I did on my 9 hour flight from Incheon to Abu Dhabi.
I'd also recommend you bring a water bottle to stay hydrated. You can refill the bottle on-board. After all, the mentality of flying in Economy is also very important. With a positive outlook, you could still have a good flight!
I especially like the Etihad A380 seating with the good cushioning and adaptable headrests (same as the seat on their B787). I am hoping that with the opening of the new Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal, later this year, that the whole experience in Abu Dhabi airport will be elevated.