Etihad Airways Diamond First Class – With Video

by Continental Club on December 30, 2013

EtihadIf you thought that ritzy, glitzy Dubai was  the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, then you’d be wrong. And if you thought that the national airline of the UAE was based there too then you’d score ‘nil points’ on that quiz question as well.

In fact, it’s Abu Dhabi that holds the capital city honour, and Etihad Airways that flies the flag as the UAE’s national airline.

Etihad A340

Established by royal decree in 2003, Etihad has become the world’s fastest growing airline serving destinations in 54 countries – including London Heathrow and Manchester in the UK.

It’s a three-class airline, and markets a specific name for each cabin class: Coral Economy; Pearl Business Class and Diamond First Class.

For our first ever flight with the airline, we aimed high – and our journey to Abu Dhabi was booked in Diamond First on the overnight EY4 from Munich’s Franz-Josef Strauss Airport.

Pearl Business and Diamond First passengers are offered complimentary limousine transfers, and our driver arrived 15 minutes early at our Munich hotel. The journey, in a new Mercedes people-carrier, was swift and we were delivered to Terminal 1 at the far end of the building, closest to Etihad’s check-in. There was no queue at the First Class desk and an invitation to the third-party Atlantic Lounge was offered. There’s also a ‘Fast Track’ security channel, although the entrance is on the other side of the passport check to the Etihad desks, and was in fact moving more slowly than ‘normal-track’.

The Atlantic Lounge is a fairly rudimentary facility with complimentary bar and salty snacks; regular users of Servisair lounges at UK regional airports would feel quite at home – but ‘First Class’ it is not.

There are no announcements in the lounge, but the screens showed boarding 40 minutes prior to departure, so we headed to the gate and again found no queue in the First & Business class lane. The lane directed us into the left hand side of a twin jetty, so that we boarded directly into the Diamond First Class cabin.

We were welcomed at the door and shown to our seats; our hand luggage was taken from us and stowed under the footstools of our suites, and jackets hung in the personal wardrobe – there is no overhead stowage in the airy cabin. Full-size champagne glasses were brought, and filled at the seat with Billecart-Salmon Cuvee Nicolas Francois Billecart 2000.

Munich & Etihad 045

Our steward on the right hand side aisle introduced himself as the on-board ‘chef’ and also explained the functions and design of the suite, while his colleague kept the champagne topped-up. Just prior to departure, he returned with cups and a pot of Arabic coffee.

Service throughout the flight was excellent; professional but natural and friendly from the two crew members specifically allocated to us, under the direction of the Cabin Manager whose business card was presented in each suite alongside the food and beverage menus.

It was no surprise to hear, by chance, this Cabin Manager thanking her crew for their service in the forward galley just prior to landing in Abu Dhabi – and when we met them again at baggage reclaim they were just as charming and chatty even though, technically, their duties were by now over. As a first impression of Etihad service, it was a really very good one.

In flight, though, our main challenge was having enough room to sample even a fraction of the menu, and indeed breakfast proved ultimately to be a complete impossibility. Dinner was very good indeed, although menu selections were borne more of curiosity than absolute preference – since the opportunity to sample french fries in the air is not that appears every day. Nor had I ever seen a rib eye steak at altitude. Truth be told, they were choices that probably didn’t showcase the best on board; the fries were well-cooked oven chips and the steak was de-boned and ‘medium’ translated to the airline standard ‘very well-done’. It tasted good though, and the presentation (sadly not shown to best-effect in the video owing to the night-time ‘mood’ lighting) was uniformly excellent.

The Diamond First Class cabin on this Airbus A340 has twelve suites, arranged in three rows of four suites, 1-2-1 across the aircraft and all with direct aisle access.

Window seats are singles, with the centre seats paired.

Etihad Diamond First Class

As there’s no overhead stowage in Diamond First, hand luggage is placed under the ‘buddy’ seat/footstool, or into a slim wardrobe built into the suite wall.

Noise-cancelling headsets are supplied, in their own banded case.

Each suite also benefits from a small minibar containing two bottles of water and snacks.

Each passenger receives a wash bag and pyjamas for  the flight ahead.

The centre pairs of suites can be opened-up by lowering the divider between them, almost creating a room-like space.

Immediately after take-off, another drinks round is undertaken, accompanied by an amuse bouche.

And then, very promptly, the tables are set in preparation for dinner.

First to be presented is a bread basket.

It’s soon complimented by a selection of Arabic dips and spreads.

The camera unfortunately missed the Arabic Mezze platter starter (though the video shows it), served before the arrival of the main course rib-eye steak and fries.

To round things off (quite unnecessarily) it was suggested that we might like to try some Yule Log with our ordered ice cream. A small ‘taster’ was requested; half a trunk was served!

Some passengers clearly preferred to forego the dinner service and, instead, ensconce themselves in their suites.

Mobile ‘phone and WiFi connectivity was available throughout the flight, using an OnAir and T-Mobile system which was easy to log on to from the selection of devices that we were carrying. Voice calls are blocked, however.

There’s also a wide selection of on-demand audio and video available through Etihad’s ‘E-Box’ in flight entertainment system.

But one of the greatest luxuries to the wide-body aircraft traveller may very well be the personal air vent built into each suite.

On a relatively short flight like this, with a significant time difference, one meal is often all that can be managed, and so it was that breakfast was foresaken for an extra few ZZZs in the bed which had been made up with sheets, quilt and duvet after dinner.

Instead, a quick cup of tea was requested and enjoyed as we descended towards the Gulf of Arabia.

Overall, Etihad Diamond First Class exceeded expectations with a comfortable seat and spacious bed, and a suite that was well-designed with ample storage and excellent privacy. The on board service was superb throughout, even if the ground arrangements weren’t spectacular. Apart from the lounge in Munich, Immigration at Abu Dhabi was tediously slow, even in the Fast Track invitation-only channel. That was followed by what was a fairly circuitous walk to the Chauffeur desk, where boarding cards were photocopied and the output given back to us with a scrawl applied, to be handed to any of the drivers standing outside.

Those relatively minor points aside, Etihad Diamond First Class impressed us certainly holds its own as one of the better First Class products currently flying.

For more information on Etihad services, destinations and to check fares and book, visit etihad.com.

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2 comments

I had a completely different experience.
I flew first class from JFK to Abu Dhabi on july 29, 2014.
The boarding process was the most chaotic and disorganized I have ever encountered. After boarding the 30 odd wheel chaired passengers, the crew started just beckoning whoever was standing there to board. There was no overhead announcement as to which group or class was boarding.
When I finally saw that no announcement was made I asked the staff member that why was an announcement not made. She looked at me like why would that be an issue, and mumbled a response that they will make the announcement soon ???
I called the station manger and asked for an explanation , and the response I got was that it wa a crowded flight and they were sorry for the glitch ?
Seriously, that from a self professed top class airline.
Furthermore one of my bags did not reach my final destination Islamabad. My bags were checked as priority at DFW.
After three days of calling them multiple times they finally located my bags which was left in Abu Dhabi. I was promised that they will arrive on the next flight. Two flights later still no bags.

by amir malik on August 4, 2014 at 5:48 AM. Reply #

That doesn’t sound great at all Amir! As you’ll have read in the article, the ground handling wasn’t particularly special on my flight – but there again the article is much more about what’s to be expected in the air. And, having read reviews before and since, it’s clear that the Etihad First Class product impresses more than just me. For example:

I think too that, as regular fliers, we’d all have to admit that outstation ground services (especially when they’re third-party supplied) can be somewhat hit-and-miss for any and all airlines. Did you spot who was handling Etihad at JFK? I’ll be honest that I don’t know who the airline uses there, nor indeed whether there were any specific issues on the day that you travelled.

Hopefully you’ll receive your bags very soon.

by Continental Club on August 7, 2014 at 2:35 PM. Reply #

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