In mid June, I had the opportunity to book a flight on Etihad in business class from Dusseldorf, Germany to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The purpose of the flight was to get to Abu Dhabi in order to take a ride on one of the world’s most expensive flights that can be booked with miles.
Since award ticket availability for Etihad’s First Apartments can be hard to find, I booked a ticket as soon as I saw an opening. That left me with a gap. I had a flight that left from Abu Dhabi to Australia, but I had to figure out how to get to Abu Dhabi to make that flight.
American Express Transfer Bonus
American Express Membership Rewards periodically runs temporary transfer bonuses for their membership rewards program. The membership rewards program earns points through spending on American Express credit cards. You can use the membership rewards points to transfer to 17 different airline miles programs. From April 2016 through June 2016, American Express was running a promotion with Etihad that provided a 30% transfer bonus for American Express Membership Rewards points transferred to Etihad Airways during the promotion period.
For the Dusseldorf to Abu Dhabi flight, Etihad charged 60,330 Etihad miles for a business class ticket. However, with the American Express promotion, I only needed to transfer 47,000 membership rewards to Etihad, because with the promotion, American Express credited me with an extra 14,100 miles on top of the 47,000 membership rewards points I transferred (the minimal transfer amount was 1,000 membership rewards for 1,300 Etihad miles).
Etihad allows you to use their web site to search for award ticket availability without signing up for their mileage program. I was able to find award ticket availability in business class from Dusseldorf Germany so I booked the ticket. The final cost was 47,000 American Express membership rewards (transferred to Etihad’s mileage program) and $51.74 in taxes.
Etihad Airways – Business Class
Operated by: Etihad Airways
Dusseldorf Germany to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Departure: 11:30 am
Arrival: 8:20 pm (same day)
Duration: 6 hours 50 minutes
Aircraft: Airbus A330
Cash Cost: $2,894.38
How I paid: (47,000 American Express Membership Rewards transferred to Etihad Membership Rewards program; 60,330 Etihad miles plus $51.74 in taxes and fees.)
I arrived at Dusseldorf airport via Etihad’s chauffeur service, which is only available for business or first class customers. The business class check-in was very easy as there was only one person in front of me. Upon check-in, I was asked whether I had a Visa for Abu Dhabi. Thankfully, the check-in person researched the matter and discovered that a Visa for Abu Dhabi could be paid for upon arrival. I received a boarding pass and a ticket with a code for free 2 hour Wi-Fi access while flying.
Thankfully the security line was relatively small and I made it through in about 20 minutes. The airport lounges in Dusseldorf airport terminal C were sparse. Etihad has a small lounge in Terminal C which is connected to the Air Berlin lounge. Etihad’s Dusseldorf lounge was pretty underwhelming, especially compared with some of the outrageous Etihad lounges in Abu Dhabi.
The first thing I noticed upon walking on board Etihad’s A330 aircraft and into the Business Class section was how clean and well-designed it was. The flight attendants were well dressed and the food and beverage manager stopped at my seat to introduce himself and go over the menu.
The business class section has 22 total seats. In the center aisle, there are six rows of 2 by 2 seats and there are 5 single seats on the right and left side of the aisle next to the windows.
Each business class seat reclines to a full vertical position for sleeping. The seat was comfortable and made for restful sleeping when in the fully flat position. Each business class seat has a dedicated video monitor with an on demand library of movies, TV shows, current news, weather, and flight information. The seat pocket has a pair of noise cancelling headphones for the video monitor as well as for sleeping.
The 2 hour free Wi-Fi access card was easy to use. I was connected to the internet within 5 minutes after take-off. I was able to receive email, surf the web, and send text messages, which is pretty amazing being that high up in the air. I tested the speed on my cell phone and the connection came in at 1.74MB, which is not fast compared with land speeds, but pretty amazing for being that high up in the air.
Interestingly, Etihad’s service allowed for Wi-Fi calling, however it noted that if you are within US airspace, Wi-Fi calls are prohibited. After the two hours was up, additional time could be purchased at the following rates: 2 hours ($11.95), 4 hours ($17.95), and a flight pass ($21.95).
Etihad served its lunch menu on the flight. Some of the notable choices on the menu included:
- Arabic Mezze (a selection of Middle Eastern hot and cold appetizers)
- King Prawns (Daikon carrots, mooli and green cabbage with lemon crème fraiche)
- Caramelized Pea Soup (with sour cream)
- Roast Chicken Supreme (Ratte potato, broccolini, and thyme jus)
- Salmon Filet (Asparagus, sun blushed tomato, lemon oil and tomato emulsion)
- Authentic Gulf Lamb Machboos (Basmati rice cooked with Gulf spices)
- Mixed Quinoa Pilaf (Goats’ cheese, baby beetroot, parsley oil, and purple potato)
- Apple Tarte Fine (with vanilla ice cream)
- Lemon Posset (with raspberry coulis and fresh raspberries)
- Seasonal Fresh Fruit
- A selection of ice cream
Available Throughout Flight
- Piri Piri Chicken Sandwich (with apricot harissa mayonnaise)
- Spiced Sirloin Steak (Asian vegetables and garden leaf salad w/ sesame & soya dressing)
- A selection of international cheeses
- Seasonal fresh fruit
- A selection of ice cream
- Arabic Baklava
What I chose:
King Prawns – Daikon carrots, mooli and green cabbage with lemon crème fraiche
Salmon filet – Asparagus, sun blushed tomato, lemon oil, and tomato emulsion
Lemon Posset – Raspberry coulis and fresh raspberries
Seasonal Fresh Fruit
Duval Leroy Brut Reserve, France, Champagne (pre flight)
Sauvignon Blanc, Brancott Estate, New Zealand
Normally I wouldn’t eat seafood for a meal on an airline. But due to Etihad’s reputation for quality I made an exception (the other time I ate seafood on an airline was my trip on Singapore Airlines Suites Class). The King Prawns and the Salmon Filet were both excellent. Virtually identical to what you would receive in a high end restaurant.
The only thing I didn’t like was the Lemon Posset. It didn’t have anything to do with the quality of the food, it was just a very distinctive taste that I didn’t care for. The fresh fruit on the other hand was very good and more than made up for the Lemon Posset.
– Food and service were phenomenal.
– Business class seats were extremely comfortable.
– Very easy to sleep on seats that convert into a fully flat bed with blanket and additional pillow provided to each seat.
– Free two hour Wi-Fi access.
– Boarding for the flight was originally scheduled for 10:30, but occurred approx. 15 minutes behind schedule.
– Etihad flights are still relatively limited from within the US so you likely have to go out of your way in order to book a flight with them.
Etihad’s business class product is the best business class product I’ve experienced to date. From the food, the service, and the quality of the seats, it’s hard find any areas Etihad needs to improve. If you are planning to take a trip near any of the major regions where Etihad flies, do yourself a favor and go out of your way to book a trip with them. Based on the amazing experience in business class, I’m looking forward to my next scheduled flight on board Etihad’s First Apartment class on their flagship A380 aircraft from Abu Dhabi to Sydney.