Aircraft Etihad Airways Airbus A330-300
Route Abu Dhabi AUH to Frankfurt FRA
Class Diamond business class, seat 13K
Seat pitch and width 88-inch seat pitch. Fully flat bed. Distance between armrests at the narrowest point is 20 inches.
Seat configuration a staggered 1-2-1 arrangement, with window seats alternating with aisle seats and twin, adjacent suites in the centre alternating with two aisle seats.
Luggage allowance The luggage allowance on any Etihad business class flight is 30kg total with 15kg maximum allocated to golf clubs. Any other sporting equipment, like a snowboard for instance, comes under the normal luggage allowance. So, let’s face facts, chances are you’ll be paying extra.
Lounge access Abu Dhabi, the home of Etihad, offers a stunning business class lounge. It’s also accessible to gold and silver loyalty card members, so depending on your point of view, that’s either a bonus or annoying as it can get a little crowded. A health spa, buffet, showers, sleep room and free Wi-Fi access is included.
Etihad is also making a big deal of the new, dedicated lounge at Frankfurt, so it’s not shared with any other airline like the joke-of-a-lounge at Chicago O’Hare. Although naturally not as big as the lounge in Abu Dhabi, Frankfurt still sports all the same features and the staff are very helpful and friendly. One word of warning though, there are no useful shops, like say a pharmacy for instance, beyond security at Frankfurt terminal 2. So you will need to get everything before you go through…or you have a long, long walk back.
Scheduled flight time 6 hours 20 minutes
Punctuality pretty much on time
Condition of craft Etihad has redesigned all its three different cabins, with priority going to certain cabin class overhauls on certain routes. So, a flight to Chicago O’Hare or London Heathrow will not feature the new business class yet, but flights to Geneva or Frankfurt will. The reasoning behind the routes first chosen to receive the business class upgrade still remains a mystery to us. This particular aircraft on the AUH to FRA route featured all three new classes and it all looked clean, tidy and very modern.
In-flight entertainment The changes to the new, redesigned business class suites are evident not only in the aesthetic overhaul, but a few refinements have also been included in the IFE. The basic operating system appears to be a slightly modified version of Etihad’s E-box MKII – which can also be found in both first class and economy – but the new 15-inch widescreen display has been moved forward, over the leg rest space, some 10 to 12 inches. This makes it so much easier to see the display and actually use the touchscreen features, rather than having to rely on the traditional hand-held remote control – which incidentally has also benefited from a design tweak.
The selection of movies included some all-time comedy classics like Spies Like Us, which was a surprise and a delight to find, and a healthy offering of recent releases – but not as many really new releases as one might expect.
Sadly, one big area where Etihad could really improve is not switching the IFE on and off when they deem appropriate. With Emirates, the IFE is available from the moment your backside touches the seat to the moment the plane reaches the terminal. And this makes such a difference when you’re stuck on the tarmac for half an hour waiting to take off for example, or delayed in a stack over Heathrow for 45 minutes.
Not only can you obviously continue to watch a movie, TV episode or play a game, but surely it goes a very long way to keeping the passengers occupied and not gradually getting more agitated, worrying about making connections, appointments or incurring additional charges with the car and driver that’s waiting to collect you.
At present, Etihad only makes the IFE available some 10 to 15 minutes after take off and switches it off when the aircraft begins its decent from cruising altitude, which is well before it may be instructed to circle if there’s any kind of delay on the ground below.
Apparently, the fact that Etihad do this is because of some aviation authority guideline, that allegedly stipulates IFE should be switched off during before and during take-off and landing…following the same principles of mobile phones and other electronic devices. A source at the Abu Dhabi-based airline told Travel Snitch that they had repeatedly made official requests that they be allowed to have it operational before take off and Emirates Airlines in fact just ignores this official guideline.
So, we contacted the Civil Aviation Authority to try and make sense of all this.
“Although there is no regulation affecting the use of IFE, general guidance requires all EU operators to switch off systems during take-off and landing. This is primarily down to the potential distraction that IFE systems could have on important safety announcements rather than any interference with navigation systems. It is felt that passengers might not pay attention to instructions from flight and cabin crew in the event of a safety incident,” a spokesperson told Travel Snitch.
“As I understand it, Air New Zealand also continue running their IFE during take-off and landing. Both ANZ and Emirates have apparently carried out extensive risk assessments to satisfy their regulators and allow the continuous use of IFE. However, at the moment, it is extremely unlikely a European carrier would be allowed to do the same.
“So it looks like it is indeed a matter for the UAE civil aviation authority.”
We then contacted both Etihad Airways and Emirates Airlines for their comments regarding this issue.
Emirates said; “Emirates is proud to offer passengers inflight entertainment from the time of boarding to touchdown on the ground. IFE systems undergo strict inspections from civil aviation authorities around the world, ensuring no interruption with the safe operation of aircraft. As safety is the top priority on any Emirates flights, compliance with IFE regulations is key. Thus, passengers will experience a brief audio and visual disruption of IFE during safety announcements throughout a flight. It has been the experience of Emirates that due to the highly interactive nature of the IFE system, which engages our passengers throughout the flight, attention and adhering to safety announcements is increased.”
Etihad had this to say: “The GCAA stipulates that airlines must ensure all equipment is properly secured for take-off and landing, this currently includes headsets. We understand passengers want to use the IFE system as quickly as possible and for as long as possible, so Etihad has approached the GCAA to see if headsets could be exempt from this regulation.”
So…erm, there you have it.
There a few new features on this IFE system including a new PIP (picture in picture) option that allows you to say, scan through what else is on offer while retaining the movie in a small box in the top right hand corner of the screen.
The display itself is also a considerable improvement; compared to the old one, this looks like it’s high definition. It probably isn’t technically HD, but the image is noticeably clearer and sharper.
Unfortunately, I had to ask if the power could be switched on after I noticed my laptop wasn’t actually charging, despite being plugged in. For future reference, the trick here is to see if the little green light is on over the power point.
Comfort The general shape of the business class suite is much the same, but frankly that’s where the similarity ends. Etihad has really shown what it’s capable of with the new design. Firstly, and arguably most importantly, that dreadful, hideous and revolting light blue colour scheme has gone. Thank God. Instead, the new suites sport the tan colour scheme, now synonymous with Etihad, which can also be found in the first class and economy class cabins.
Secondly, there are little trays or pockets located in extremely convenient places to store things like a small bottle of water – very important to keep hydrated, your passport and boarding pass along with an iPod and so on. This is testament to the fact that some considerable ergonomic thinking has gone into this redesign. However, two separate personal lights – even though each comes with two settings – might have been a little excessive.
The seat is fully adjustable with preset “upright”, “relax” and “bed” modes and it extends to a fully flat 180° position. However, it offers 180cm in total length, not a millimetre more, so anyone over 6ft is going to have to scrunch up.
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