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February 9, 2015 / oneworld82

Etihad First Class Rocks My World Yet Again! AUH-IAD on EY First Class (A346) with a Refreshed Brand

Very few airlines are, in my mind, as aspirational as Etihad Airways. I am primarily talking about premium cabin here, but even coach is good on this airline. Having just flown Etihad from Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi in Business Class, I was really looking forward to another – my third – segment in First Class on this incredible carrier.

Luck wanted that on December 1st Etihad launched its new brand (in anticipation of the A380 launch), which included refreshed cutlery, tablecloth, menu, etc. So, while this was no Apartment on the A380, I was still on for a treat!

After leaving the Premium Lounge I proceeded through the U.S. pre-Clearance facility, expecting long lines and a painful experience overall. You can imagine my surprise when I encountered no lines at security and at immigration. The whole process lasted no more than 15 minutes, and thirty minutes before departure I was in the departure area waiting for my flight. Granted, I had nothing really to do at that point, and it would have been nice to just wait at the lounge a little longer; but overall it wasn’t a bad experience at all – especially because I would not have to go through immigration at IAD once landed.

Boarding started about ten minutes beyond schedule, and First Class passengers were let on board first. Upon boarding, a flight attendant personally escorted me to my suite after recognizing me as a first class passenger. I had seat 2K today, which is by the window and which enables ample privacy when traveling alone.

Etihad’s first class cabin always looks gorgeous – even more so with the new, refreshed amenities and relative color scheme. Etihad is trying – successfully if you ask me – to refresh its brand and image, shedding the very Emirati logo in favor of a modernist one. While I loved the old black and white striped pattern, I like the new beige one.

After a few minutes the flight attendant serving my aisle stopped by to introduce herself and to offer me something to drink. I of course ordered some champagne – Gosset Brut Grand Reserve in this case. At my table were also some pralines already.

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The FA also brought me an amenity kit (featuring Le Labo amenities) and my pj.

Amenity kit

Amenity kit

PJ

PJ

The chef came to introduce himself shortly after, and he made sure I knew that he would try to accommodate any request I might have during the flight. Excellent, because  I was very hungry 😉 In any case, 10 minutes after sitting down Arabic coffee and dates were served to guests, as tradition on Etihad. Always a very nice gesture.

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Etihad First Class suite is timeless, in my opinion. It’s gorgeously stylish, spacious, well-appointed. While I am longing to try the Apartment, I feel that this suite is already top notch.

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Noise-canceling headphones are provided, but they are not Bose or any other good brand. It surprises me every time more how many airlines go cheap on something as important as headphones, but likely this is not a top priority for customers, I suppose.

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Etihad entertainment system is definitely top notch as well, even though American Airlines’ new system on the 773 is just as good. I love, in particular, the big screen that you get in first class! It’s really like a mini personal cinema.

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On this particular flight, though, the flight map seemed not to be working across the entire plane. This was a little annoying on a 15 hours flight, especially because you lose track of time really easily.

We pushed back on time, and we soon were on our way after a short taxing. Once airborne, the chef came by taking lunch orders. I was feeling rather hungry, and I placed my order accordingly. My aperitif was served shortly after. I had a Campari & Soda, which was accompanied by some olives, almonds, and green beans chips. Very tasty overall (but again, my Campari & Soda was a bit weak).

The menu read as follows:

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And here’s the drinks menu:

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About 20 minutes after the flight attendant set up my table, and the feast began.

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First we had an amuse bouche made of salmon – sashimi style. It was quite tasty and enjoyable – the tenderness and texture of the salmon was well-complemented by the accompanying puree.

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Afterwards, the appetizer was brought out – I went for the Balik salmon and seared tuna. This dish was another winner.

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Balik salmon is one of the highest grade of salmon – perfect to be eaten raw. And as the picture above shows, the seared tuna was just perfectly done. Presentation was top notch.

After finishing up my appetizer, a raspberry sorbet (I think it was raspberry, at least) was served. A very nice off-the-menu touch!

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This was followed by the lamb byriani dish, which was good. Not Indian restaurant good, but still good.

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Done? Not quite! I switched my champagne for a glass of Valpolicella and here it came my steak, medium-rare, with bernaise sauce and roasted potatoes. It tasted way better than it looked!

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At this point I was really, REALLY stuffed, and decided to skip dessert (for now). I instead ordered an espresso, which was served with a praline and cubed sugar.

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Overall, this meal was excellent – likely the best meal I had had on a plane so far. Service was attentive, polite, never over-bearing (albeit not particularly friendly). The food was top notch, drinks were excellent, and the pace of the meal was great. I also really liked the new tableware – it felt very classy yet modern. Kudos to Etihad for surprising me every time!

After lunch I changed into my pajama while my FA made my bed; I laid down and fell asleep quite instantly for a good three hours. Etihad bed is very comfortable and spacious, and the TV looks great even when you lay down.

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After waking up I ordered a glass of Blue Label and after another hour or so decided that it was time for some dessert. The Crunchy Hazelnut Tart was hard to pass on, especially when accompanied by some good Botrytis Sauvignon Blanc.

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I then proceeded to read, watch a movie (Ninja Turtles – do not judge me), read some more… time wasn’t passing by – as flights from the Middle East to North America are very, very long. I thoroughly enjoyed my suite, which really felt like a little room in the sky.

About 3 hours before landing (and about 12 hours into the flight) I decided to have what amounted to a midnight snack. I did not really have any idea of what time of day (or night) it was, but I was hungry, and so I ate some more. I am happy to report that I was able to order everything I wanted and that I was never told that something had run out.

The ones of you who follow me regularly know that I cannot say no to cheese. And so I decided to try what Etihad had to offer (which, by the way, hasn’t changed since the first time I flew EY F in 2013 to SYD).

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Again, top notch presentation and great flavors! All this good cheese was followed by the unmistakably-Etihad steak sandwich – something I crave every time I fly this awesome carrier.

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Again, this sandwich was a winner and the meat was incredibly tender and flavorful!

About 45 minutes before landing the captain announced that we would soon start our descent into IAD. I went to the washroom and changed out of my pajama, and in no time we landed in a rainy IAD.

Overall, this was a spectacular Etihad flight. The understated class and elegance of EY First Class blows my mind away each and every time, and I really cannot think of a better way to burn AA miles than on EY F. In just a few weeks I will be flying Etihad’s The Apartment on the company’s brand new A380. My expectations are really high for that product, but I am quite confident that I will not be disappointed.

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