Etihad Diamond First Class AUH-IAD

Let’s get down to business.  I had many options for my return flight from Europe, and a few people have asked why I chose the long way home via Dubai.  You know why?  Because of Etihad Diamond First Class.  It’s a well-known and well-reviewed product, but I had never been to the Middle East and kinda just wanted to treat myself after flying to Europe and Dubai in Coach.

So, how was it?  Did it live up to the hype or was it all glam and little substance?  Read on to find out.

My closet mirror

My closet mirror

My trip home began early in the morning.  Etihad offers a chauffeur service to its First and Business class guests (including those on reward flights) and they’ll pick you up from any of the emirates.  So, even though the flight left from Abu Dhabi and I was at the Park Hyatt Dubai, they still drove out to Dubai to get me.

They called me the day before to confirm my pickup time of 7am.  While early, it’d give me some time to enjoy the First Class lounge at AUH, about which I had heard great things.

The only problem: I overslept my alarm.  I got a call that woke me up at exactly 7am telling me my driver was here.  I hadn’t packed yet either.  Eek.  You know that sound effect cartoons used to play when the character was starting to run?  Pick any of these, and that’s what I sounded like.  I hurriedly threw everything into my bag and jogged the quarter mile back to the reception area of the hotel to check out.  The Etihad driver didn’t appear upset or anything, even though I put us behind schedule by about 20 minutes.

On the way to AUH

I was smoothly handed off to a bellhop who escorted my EXTREMELY HUGE carry-on with his massive wheeled cart to the First Class Check-in area, which was in a No Focus Zone.

Thank goodness for the cart

The check-in area was nice for being so out of focus.

Just in case you forget which airline you’re flying

Checked in, I made my way to the First Class Lounge, which was surprisingly before the shopping area.

A surprisingly easy to miss sign

The lounge came with much fanfare and is highly touted in the frequent flyer community.  It was indeed very nice.

Etihad First Class Lounge

I grabbed a seat in one of the huge oversized white leather chairs and ordered some breakfast.  And planespotted like whoa.

Huge chairs

Eggs and bacon. Legit.

Some great planespotting

Once breakfast came and went, I made my way to the spa for a wonderful 30-minute shoulder and back massage.

Massage room

My time at the lounge came to a close pretty quickly after that, for one extremely stupid and ridiculous reason: the TSA Pre-clearance area at Abu Dhabi.  There is no reason to have a pre-clearance facility at AUH, there are 5-6 flights a day to the USA, that’s it.  If you have Global Entry, you can breeze on through.  If you don’t, like me, you get to wait in a MASSIVE, HUGE, UNRELENTING, SLOW-MOVING line.  US citizen line?  HA.  Not a chance.  There’s one line.  You wait and wait and wait while every visitor to the USA is cleared, then finally it’s your turn…and it takes 6 seconds.

I actually asked for a supervisor and (politely) asked why there wasn’t a US citizens line, since it’d be so much quicker and help avoid the massive delays suffered by flights leaving AUH due to passengers being stuck in line.  He was understanding and very professional about the situation and thanked me for my comment.  He said the political situation wasn’t such in Abu Dhabi that a line specifically for US citizens would be received very well.  I understand there’s probably a lot going on behind the scenes that led to the facility (namely that Dubai’s airport doesn’t have one, most likely), but honestly it’d be quicker if they just got rid of it.  They wouldn’t let me buy any duty-free items either, which was a bummer as I can’t buy my liqueur of choice in the USA, only abroad.

I had some pictures of the facility (which I wasn’t supposed to take) but honestly they’d just make me mad so I didn’t post them.  If you go through AUH, trust me you’ll spend plenty of time there to get your fill.

Anyway, I finally made it through the stupidity and made my way to the gate to get my first look at the beautiful A340 taking me to Dulles, the most unattractively-named airport out there.

My A340!

Like many others, I love the tag-line of Etihad.  There is one huge thing that I cannot stand about one of Etihad’s political stances, but that is all I will say about that.  Those who know, know.

Anyway, after a brief wait (for passengers making their way through the TSA facility), I was invited to board and made the coveted left turn to my beautiful suite!

Suite 2A

Awaiting me were a menu, a welcome gift, and plenty of other stuff to keep me occupied.  But first, before other passengers arrived, how about getting some pictures of the beautiful cabin?

Suite 2A

First Class Cabin with the cheesy Diamond emblem on the wall

Diamond First Class Cabin

Diamond First Class Cabin

How about an HDR photo of the cabin’s unique ceiling?

Etihad Diamond First Class ceiling

Ok, enough HDR for now, because it was time to explore the suite.

Oh really?

My flight attendant came by with champagne and interrupted PictureFest 2014.  What a pleasant interruption!

Ah yes

Ah what a “total”ly great view (get it?)

Ok, now that I had some bubbles, let’s take a closer look around the suite.

Mini-bar

Impressive TV, playing a cat video

There were many different power outlets and USB ports available.

Power port and remote

Touchscreen seat controls

There was a coat closet in the “wall” of the suite, but it was almost too narrow for even one coat.  My hand for scale.

Scientific measurement

I was then interrupted by the bringing of gifts.

Amenity Kit

My attendant then insisted on taking a picture of me.

Looking good. ish?

Arabic coffee and dates were then brought by.

Coffee and a date

Oh, you want some HDR shots of the suite area too?  No?  WELL TOO BAD.

My suite

The design on the suite doors

Suite 2A

The golden blanket

At about this time, we actually had to get around to flying.  I took my seat and enjoyed some scenery as we proceeded to the runway and enjoyed the A340’s famous leisurely takeoff roll (I swear we had driven back to Dubai by the time we took off).

AUH control tower

Ferrari World and the Grand Prix track

HDR of the climb?  You bet.

Beautiful deep blue sky

It was about lunchtime, so shortly after we took off the flight attendants made preparations for the meal service.  The chef came by and introduced himself and informed me that I could have whatever I wanted at any time.  I decided to go ahead and eat so I could try and get some sleep.  Keep in mind the whole time I was instagramming the crap out of the experience for everyone.  The in-flight wifi was $24 for the entire flight and was very fast.  I even decided to hog bandwidth and livestream a CrossFit event on my iPad.

CrossFit AND First Class? Yep.

After a while I decided I was being a jerk and a bandwidth hog, plus the food was ready, so I put aside the iPad as they made the table ready for my meal.

Amuse bouche

I loved the table setting, it was very classy and elegant.  Both of those things are typically wasted on people like me, but it was still nice.

Table setting

I ordered the hummus, since I’m a bit of a hummus enthusiast, and it was excellent.

They called it “Etihummus” and/or I made that up

Some more hummus-related accessories

The service was precise if not a little infrequent.  The flight attendants were well-trained in display and presentation, everything had its place and they did an artful job of making it look great.

Hummus display

I then had the steak.  And for no reason I tried to make it HDR (no idea why, definitely overdone).  The steak was delicious and fairly close to a medium/medium-well cooking, which is tough to do on an airplane.

Etisteak

I then settled in for a peaceful fliTHEN THE TURBULENCE HAPPENED.  I don’t like turbulence and am actually a really nervous flyer.  We had about an hour of consistent turbulence, not only up-and-down but also side-to-side (these I’m sure are the scientific names for turbulence).  It eventually settled down, but it left me feeling uneasy for most of the rest of the flight.

After a while I decided to try and get some sleep, although my efforts would eventually prove fruitless.  Since no one was in the suite next to me, the bed was made there.

Bed!

Before laying down I went to the fairly large bathroom to change into my jammies.

Bathroom

Oh how warm the cabin was!  I can’t sleep if it’s warm (or even if it’s cold actually, I don’t get very much sleep and am doing a sleep study this week).  That was part of the reason I couldn’t get to sleep, the other reason probably was the turbulence.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying though, when the lights were turned out the ceiling even had fiber optic lighting to simulate stars!  It would’ve been better I think if they would’ve had fiber optic ceiling fans that simulated actual ceiling fans so I could sleep, but oh well.

Starry “night”

I gave up on sleeping and returned to my seat.  I had heard great things about the steak sandwich and had to try one for myself.

Steak Sandwich

After a long time we began to make our approach into the DC area (I didn’t get a picture of the moving map because it wasn’t working on our flight).  Just beforehand, we were given some nuts and water.

Etinuts and water

 

Aaaaand it’s done
We landed and the flight was over.  It was a long flight that felt long, unlike my previous journeys on other carriers.  Did it live up to the hype?  In certain ways, yes.  The hard product was incredibly nice and elegant.  The service wasn’t quite to the standard of Singapore Airlines in Suites Class or Cathay Pacific’s First Class but it was very good.  They could’ve been a bit more proactive, but I guess I could’ve been more proactive as well and rang the call button when I needed something.

Best flight ever?  Not really.  Would I ever pay for it?  Don’t have a choice on that one, I couldn’t afford it.  Would I have been happy with the service if I had paid for it?  I have absolutely no idea since I could never afford it.  I will say though that 90,000 AAdvantage miles was a heck of a lot cheaper for me to acquire than the $8800 this ticket cost, so I got that going for me (which is nice).

And thus concludes my Eurabia trip report.  Thanks for your patience and thanks for joining me!

 

Best,
Andy

12 Comments

  1. Great report. You wore a tee shirt?

    Reply
    • Yep! I always dress casual for flying.

      Reply
  2. Great report Andy! The UAE carriers are at the top of my list but I agree with you regarding some of their political or religious stances. Maybe some day. . .

    Reply
  3. Nice trip report! I appreciate the humor.

    Reply
  4. You sound just like another entitled American. Now we wonder why people hate Americans?

    Reply
    • Sorry you read it that way Scott. I’m incredibly grateful for the chance to use miles for something like that flight, other than that I try to call it like I see it.

      Reply
    • This is a website/blog to review various first and business class hard and soft products. Whether it was paid for with miles or with cash, the product is being reviewed for quality to the traveler. Andy is providing an honest assessment on whether or not he felt the product was worth the cost. He’s no more “entitled” than any other person flying the product and stating whether or not it met expectations.

      His tone is absolutely in keeping with the numerous other bloggers who review airlines. Either you don’t read these reviews often, which renders your opinion void, or you’ve a case of Tall Poppy Syndrome and maybe shouldn’t read *any* of these reviews as you’re clearly ill equipped to comprehend them without making yourself look ignorant and xenophobic.

      Reply
  5. how are you able to redeem AAdvantage miles on an Etihad flight? thank you, morgan

    Reply
    • Hi Morgan, Etihad is a redemption partner with American, so you can redeem miles per the current award charts. There’s no way of doing it online, so you need to call in for it.

      You can search for Etihad award space on their website and then call American to make the booking.

      Reply
      • thank you andy!
        another question: did you purchase a coach fare and then upgrade with miles, or did you book your first class seat with miles?

        Reply
        • I booked it entirely with miles, 90,000 miles from AUH-IAD.

          Reply

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