Hi Frugalistas! I wrote last year of the lovely Etihad Airways Diamond First Class, that really is a delight to travel. In October 2013 I was fortunate to be able to experience this service again, on a one way trip to Geneva, via Abu Dhabi. My updated review follows:
Etihad First Class Check In and Sydney Lounge
A dedicated First Class check in and security fast track card has me checked in and on my way through the mire of Duty Free shops that dominate the Sydney international terminal in no time.
Etihad is still using the Air New Zealand Star Alliance lounge at the far end of the terminal. I’d previously been a little critical of the food on offer in this lounge, and I note appreciably that the standard of offerings has improved. Salads, sweet mini focaccias and more fresh fruit are very apparent. The free wifi is easy to log into and works a treat. Boarding calls are made in plenty of time for that essential pre-take off champagne.
Etihad First Class in flight service
To celebrate its sponsorship of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Etihad is serving Mumm champagne, which goes down a treat prior to take off. I always find the Arabic coffee and the offer of a date a nice touch.
I’m delighted to discover the pyjamas are unchanged, and are available in different sizes (I’ve lost weight since my last journey). I love the very girly bling on the zip of the top. It’s nice to get changed in the change room, and feel comfortable – the leg from Sydney to Abu Dhabi comes in at just over 14hours so comfort is imperative!
We depart Sydney with only four passengers in the 16 suite First Class cabin. There’s still 3 crew, including Jeremy, the very chatty and friendly Australian chef who comes around to take drinks and food orders shortly after take off. Jeremy explains the menu well, and is helpful with the choice of a suitable wine to accompany my food choices.
The crew makes up beds for First Class passengers, and I’m thrilled to be offered an adjacent suite as my bed for the night, so I can sleep whenever I like without having to request my bed being made up. It is a decadent and luxurious way to travel, but what I appreciate the most, is the offer to do this without me requesting it – thoughtful and unexpected. When it’s time to go to bed, I merely swap suites, shut the doors and sleep – for about eight hours! Then back to my “day suite” to resume my reading and film watching without having to wait for my bed to be packed away (or doing it myself and having it clutter the suite till it is taken away).
The flight from Abu Dhabi to Geneva has a full First Class cabin with all eight suites occupied. There’s still a crew of three staff, including a chef, so we are still spoiled with lovely, attentive service. Unfortunately, I’m taken ill shortly after we depart Abu Dhabi (nothing to do with the flight or anything I’d eaten), and need the attentions of the crew on a couple of occasions. I’m super impressed with the service I receive – every time I ring my call bell I’m attended to promptly, with a smile. Every time a member of staff passes my suite, my welfare is checked – “are you alright Ms Karnaghan? Is there anything I can do for you? Can I get you anything?” Similarly, when I get up to stretch my legs or use the bathroom I’m asked if there is anything anyone can do for me. I feel comfortable and well cared for, despite being ill.
Eating and Drinking
Like most premium offerings, Etihad offer dining on request services in First Class. When he takes my order, Jeremy confirms when I’d like to eat. My table is set, and my meal brought exactly when I ask for it. The menu remains similar in style, with 3 menus available – a full a la carte menu featuring Arabian and Western choices, the lighter Mezze Grill menu, and the Anytime menu of light snacks and treats.
My evening meal out of Sydney is delicious – particularly my main course of slow cooked Arabic-style lamb. Coming into Abu Dhabi a fruit and cheese selection is lovely, and nicely served.
Due to my illness I forego the Breakfast Taster (4 small dishes) I had ordered for arrival into Geneva, and just go for some toast. It is lovingly served, and the toast is deliciously crisp. Despite not feeling well, I eat all of it. And enjoy it!
The Abu Dhabi First Class Lounge
The lounge is always quiet whenever I visit, and this time is no exception. It’s always easy to get a seat in a quiet spot. My first stop is to head to the Six Senses Spa and book my free treatment. Because I’ve got a facial booked for a day or so in Paris, I decide to skip my usual mini-facial, and go for the back massage instead. It is genuinely very relaxing, and my 15minutes passes in no time.
Apart from the odd chocolate, I’ve never eaten in the First Class Lounge before, so when the waiter approaches me with the menu, I can’t resist this time. There is plenty to choose from, but I end up with the mini tapas, which are definitely tasty, and beautifully served. Service is polite and attentive but not obtrusive.
Unlike my last visit to the First Class lounge the wifi is working, and is nice and fast.
The frugalfirstclasstravel verdict
Etihad has certainly cut back on some of the little extras that First Class passengers expect. No pen, no writing paper and a very different, and far less luxurious amenities kit. Some passengers would find this unacceptable, and while I’m disappointed they’ve cut back on these little treats, I’m delighted that much of what makes Etihad Diamond First Class so great still exists. The service remains friendly, thoughtful and very personal. Food is beautifully presented and tastes great. I suspect the pyjamas are the best in the sky.
If you are looking at air travel in First Class, the Etihad Airways Diamond First Class remains a superior product that I am sure you will enjoy.
Regardless of your preferred class of travel, you can book an Etihad flight in the advertisement in the sidebar. This is an affiliate link, so I do earn a small commission if you book.
Author’s note: I paid for this flight myself with Etihad Guest mileage points.