REVIEW: Etihad Airways Business Class
by Dominic Lalk.
Etihad started flying daily between Hong Kong and its Abu Dhabi hub in June. The national airline of the United Arab Emirates is codesharing on the route with Hong Kong Airlines and Air Seychelles. Etihad also offers great deals to Europe flying via Abu Dhabi.
As of July, Etihad uses the Premium Plaza Lounge located on Level 6 near Gate 1 at HKIA. However, Etihad guests are allowed to settle down in a separate Etihad-exclusive section of the facility, which is great because the lounge was very full with passengers lining up outside at the time I visited.
The lounge itself is of good quality, offering a decent food and beverage selection.
The A330-200s feature a total of 262 seats, 22 flat beds in "Pearl Business Class", and 240 standard recliners in "Coral Economy". Seating in business class is in a 1-2-1 configuration, with a staggered effect to allow all seats to recline fully but also have access to the aisle.
The seat is comfortable, but there is a lack of storage space, with only a narrow magazine pocket and a side table which has no lip on it so items would slide off. There is a small compartment on this table for perhaps a mobile phone, and a circular holder which had a bottle of Etihad-branded water in it, but other than that, for the course of the flight if you want to keep things with you there is only the floor to store them, and if recline the bed, even that is not possible since the seat reclines so that the footrest rises to meet the alcove under the IFE to make a flat bed. If you have a window seat there is a space where you can store books or magazines next to the IFE screen and against the wall of the aircraft, but not for takeoff or landing.
The IFE system is good, with a wide though not huge selection of entertainment supported by noise-cancelling headphones and high-definition screens. Etihad provides onboard Wi-Fi, chargeable at a fixed rate of $17.95.
Which seat to choose? I would always try and get the window seats since you have direct access to the aisle but are protected by a side table from the aisle. The seats on the aisle have the same amount of room, but it feels more exposed where you stretch out your legs is open to the aisle on these seats, and so there's a chance of being knocked if your knees stray into the aisle.
The cabin crew was excellent, not just in terms of smiling, introducing themselves and making sure they'd already taken meal and drinks orders before take-off, but also in remembering choices and regularly checking in on passengers to see if there was anything else they needed.
The dedicated food and beverage manager onboard explained that I could dine at my convenience, so after checking some emails and getting some work done, I had dinner. The menu and wine list were impressive.
I had mushroom soup to start, which was hot, tasty and fragrant. For the main, I tried both the beef and the fish. Both were of impressive quality, cooked to perfection and cleverly seasoned. The banana crumble for dessert was delicious and couldn't have been prepared any better.
Thirty minutes before arrival into Abu Dhabi, the crew came around to clear all lose items and hand out immigration forms and fast-track arrival passes. They also took the time to thank every passenger for flying with Etihad, and asked if they had had a pleasant journey. A nice personal touch.
Despite the late departure in Hong Kong, we actually touched down in Abu Dhabi way ahead of time. However, a busy airport and congested taxiways and parking bays meant we didn't arrive on stand and disembark the aircraft later than expected.
There was a separate bus waiting for business class passengers that took us to the terminal within minutes. There were no lines at immigration and the luggage arrived within minutes.
The Etihad Chauffeur Service is offered complimentary for first and business class passengers to take you to your final destination - for me it was Dubai.
Very impressive. The very well trained and professional cabin crew, as well as the extensive and delicious food and beverage offerings, made the journey feel special, despite small shortcomings with the seat design. Overall, this new service is a great addition for travel from Hong Kong to the Middle East and beyond.