As excited as I was to visit Abu Dhabi for the first time, I dreaded the 13-hour flight there from New York City. That changed the minute I stepped foot inside the Etihad Airways lounge, a perk for first and business class fliers. If the plane was anything like the lounge, the crew might have a hard time getting me to leave!
Preparing to Board Etihad Airways
Etihad Airways offers five non-stop routes from North America to the United Arab Emirates: New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto. I flew out of John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York. After checking in at the ticketing counter for my boarding pass, I made my way to the lounge.
Two things set the Etihad Airways lounge apart from others: the service and the food. Every staff member was courteous and helpful, which isn’t always the case when you fly, and the buffet featured restaurant-quality dishes like lamb tagine, Thai chicken, and paneer vegetable curry. Complimentary drink selections included champagne, six wine selections, cappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolate, and hot tea.
Joined by two traveling companions, we snacked on items from the buffet until an Etihad Airways employee announced it was time to board our flight. We followed the employee directly to the plane, bypassing general boarding downstairs, and I found my seat.
Flying Etihad Airways
Each row in business class has just four seats: one on the left, one on the right, and two in the middle section. As a result, there is more than enough room in the overhead compartment and plenty of room in the aisles. Each seat has ample legroom and converts into a lay-flat bed. Amenities include a pillow, blanket, over-the-ear headphones, and a kit with a toothbrush, toothpaste, eye mask, and hand lotion.
As soon as I sat down, a flight attended brought me a glass of champagne, which I sipped while perusing the menu. You can order items throughout the flight, but soon after takeoff, the crew serves a four-course meal. Don’t miss it! My prawn biryani was tasty (as was the beef sandwich I had on the flight home), and the meal was so filling I couldn’t manage more than a few small bites of cherry streusel with Anglaise sauce for dessert.
Even though the direct flight leaves JFK around midnight, I recommend fighting the urge to sleep for more than a few hours after dinner because you’ll arrive in Abu Dhabi wide awake in the early evening. One of my traveling companions did this and was unable to sleep the first night. The next day, he struggled to stay awake.
Perks on Etihad Airways
Etihad Airways offers several perks available to all passengers. One of my favorites is the inflight entertainment because there were so many movies, TV shows, and music albums to choose from. Don’t like the selection you made? You can stop it and start another from the beginning. While you’d think this would be standard on every international flight, it’s not.
Traveling with kids? Etihad Airways has a free nanny service regardless of which class you’re sitting in on the flight. If you don’t have kids and don’t want to sit next to them (or anyone, for that matter) in the economy class, you can upgrade your seat to a “neighbor free” one.
First and business class passengers who want a change of scenery can take advantage of the upper-level lounge. It’s not overly impressive, just a semi-circle of three seats facing another semi-circle of seats, but when you just need to get up and go somewhere, it does the trick.
Stopover Program with Etihad Airways
My favorite perk—even though I didn’t get to take advantage of it—is the free stopover program from now until July 2020. Passengers connecting in Abu Dhabi to other destinations get a free, two-night stay at a hotel of their choosing and time to explore the city before continuing their journey.
Want to save some money during your stay, whenever it might be? Hold on to your boarding pass. Your Etihad Airways boarding pass can get you discounts at major attractions like Ferrari World, resort spas, restaurants, golf courses and more.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.