This trip started at Abu Dhabi Int'l Airport (AUH). Etihad are flying a B777-300/ER 3 times a week between Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles. This flight is currently the longest flight in the Etihad global network, with a block time of 16 hours and 40 minutes.
As a Platinum member, I am entitled to use the Etihad First Class Lounge. The lounge wasn't crowded at 7am in the morning and I found a seat easily for breakfast. The lounge offers a la carte dining and a small side buffet spread. I had an Nasi Goreng with prawns and some smoked salmon before heading out.
You can read my extensive review of the Etihad First Class Lounge and Spa below.
Abu Dhabi airport is one of a few airports, and the only one in Middle East, that has US Customs and Border Protections Pre-clearance facility. You can see a full list of locations here.
The check-in for US bound flights closes 2 hours before departure and all passengers go through the US CBP pre-clearance, before boarding their flight. This is a huge advantage as the lines are often much longer in the US. I have spoken to few who prefer using this as they said "their anxiety is lower after a long flight to the US knowing they are already cleared". When the flight lands it will arrive as a domestic arrival.
The Los Angeles flight is the first of 4 US bound flights, so it was a breeze to go through the pre-clearance. Apart from Global Entry and many self kiosks, there is also a priority line for First and Business Class passengers.
After the security check and US CBP pre-clearance, there is a US Premium Lounge just before the boarding gate. The lounge is quite small and only offers fruit, pastry and sandwiches.
There are just 4 flights using the US CBP Pre-clearance; all in the morning and all within a few hours of each other. Etihad had dropped Dallas, San Francisco and a second daily to New York JFK, as part of the cost cutting and route rationalisation.
EY171 Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles
The flight is operated by one of 19 Etihads B777-300/ERs and registration for this flight was A6-ETL. Etihad retired their 5 ex Air India B777-200/LRs that used to fly Ultra Long Haul routes such as LAX. The B777-300/ER has payload restrictions due to the strong head wind and the cargo that it carries; up to 90 economy seats were blocked from sale. However the captain on my flight told me there was no payload restriction on our flight, as the winds were calm and we expected a 45 minutes shorter than scheduled time.
The Business Class of the Etihad B777-300/ER isn't Etihad's latest product; this is called Business Studio and can be found on their A380 and B787. Nevertheless, all seats can turned into flat beds and all have direct aisle access. My seat was 7K, in the second Business Class cabin sharing with 28 other passengers. There are a total of 40 seats in Business Class, spanning across 2 cabins.
The best seat on the Etihad B777-300/ER Business Class is in row 5, which is located in the first smaller section right after First Class. It is much quieter and feels more private, also with less foot traffic.
A Acqua di Parma branded amenity kit, menu and a nice comforter were already placed on my seat during boarding. The seat had nice padding and there was also an individual air nozzle too.
Etihad has order anytime a la carte dining. The menu is fairly similar on all Etihad long haul flights, with one full meal option and the remaining choices under all day dining. I like the idea of being able to mix and match.
We had to wait for 1 passenger who was stuck in US pre-clearance, this delayed the flight about 20 minutes. Our flight time was 15 hours and 45 minutes. We taxied past the airport with a lot of Etihad planes in all different liveries, including their latest B787-10 "Greenliner".
During takeoff, I was treated to a good view of the Abu Dhabi midfield terminal which has been delayed in its opening. The travel experience in, and out of, Abu Dhabi will be much improved once the midfield terminal opens. The question is when? No one seems to have the answer!
After passing the airport, we flew over Yas Island Marina and I was treated to this nice Ferrari World roof view. The plane then made a right turn to fly up the coast of UAE. It was really beautiful looking down the Abu Dhabi waterways.
About 10 minutes after takeoff, we were flying towards Dubai. The first landmark appeared was the Palm Jebel Ali. It was originally planned to be completed by mid-2008 and has been on hold since.
The next one was the famous Dubai Palm Jumeirah. You can see the Atlantis Hotel on the tip of the Palm. The Dubai Marina, JBR, Al Barsha can all be seen in this picture.
Next, and probably best seen from the air, was the Dubai World Islands; this is an artificial archipelago of various small islands, constructed in the rough shape of a world map. Up until today only one island has been developed upon.
Dubai Airport (DXB) can be seen in the middle of the picture. Deira and Dubai creek is on the right.
I started the flight with a breakfast tea, it came with warm toasted nuts and cookies.
I had salmon tartare, steak tenderloin and strawberry mousse dessert. The presentation was fantastic; also the food tasted fine, with steak cooked well done but not dry.
Given my early 5am start in the morning for a 08:45 takeoff. I went to sleep right after food. The blanket/comforter used on Etihad was fantastic. It was warm and comfortable.
The 1-2-1 Business Class seat is essentially a 2-4-2, depending on how you interpret the configuration. The seat is long enough to be comfortable in the fully reclined mode, but it did feel narrow; I slept on my side most of the time. The foot well in front didn't bother me to much. Though the padding on the seat is good there was no mattress provided, nor a cover of any description. There were also no pyjamas provided.
"Etihad Wi-Fly" has a 3 tier pricing system, but it comes with restrictions on bandwidth usage. I bought the lite one for $5.95 with 50 MB, but found it quite slow. It was however valid for the whole flight with no time restriction. I wouldn't recommend buying the premium package as, given that the speed is so slow, you can hardly use it all.
We flew initially at Flight Level 31,000 ft; we then climbed to 320, 340 and finally cruised at 370, as we became lighter. The flight flew up as far North as 81 degrees, before turning South. The light became dim and gradually faded out, 7 hours into the flight.
I slept for 6 hours and, upon waking up, decided to have a steak sandwich during mid-flight; then I feel asleep again. The steak sandwich on Etihad was fantastic!
After a few hours of darkness, the light came back while we were flying South towards Canada.
My dinner was this chicken foca, which is marinated chicken with yogurt and saffron rice. I also enjoyed a glass of Bellini by Cipriani.
The rest of flight was pretty non-eventful. I was able to work and watch several movies. The IFE was easy enough to use and had a good selection of foreign movies, which I enjoyed. I slept for a total of 9 hours, out of a near 16 hour flight.
The flight was pleasant enough in Business Class. With good window seat privacy, I was able to rest undisturbed. On an ultra long haul flight like this, nothing is more important to your well being than a good rest.
The seat isn't the latest version of Etihad Business Studio seat. However, given that I recently flew on Emirates B777 Business Class in the 2-3-2 configuration, I much prefer then 1-2-1 direct aisle access on Etihad B777.
We arrived LAX as a domestic flight. The flight docked at Tom Bradley International Terminal, but we followed the signs to Terminal 4 baggage claim as would passengers on a domestic flight. Given that I didn't have any checked bags, I was out onto the street within 10 minutes!
Here are some Pros and Cons of flying Etihad Business Class on B777-300/ER
- US Pre-clearance at Abu Dhabi Airport. Arrive at LAX as a domestic flight
- Dine anytime menu, with mix and match items
- Window seat has better privacy
- Not the latest Business Class seat from Etihad, seat is also narrow
- No free internet for premium guests
- No pyjamas, mattress or bedding products offered.
Below is my Business Class trip report on Emirates who compete with Etihad out of LA to Dubai on A380.