Aircraft Etihad Airways Airbus A340-500.
Route Abu Dhabi to London.
Class Coral Economy, seat 25E.
Seat pitch and width 32 inches between rows of seats; 17.8 inches between armrests.
Seat configuration two-four-two.
Luggage allowance Total weight of checked-in bags must not exceed 20kg per person. One item of hand luggage with total dimensions no bigger than 115cm and not weighing more than 7kg. Normal rules for carry-on personal items apply. Silver status loyalty card members are allowed 33kg and Gold status members 38kg. The only sporting equipment that is allowed free of charge is a set of golf clubs up to 15kg. Any other sporting equipment, like a snowboard for instance, will be added to your total weight. Sadly, this information is not particularly easy to find on the Etihad website.
Lounge access Abu Dhabi, the home of Etihad, offers a first class lounge. Unlike the neighbouring business class lounge it is not accessible to Etihad Guest silver and gold card members, so that some exclusivity is maintained. A health spa, buffet, showers, sleep room and free Wi-Fi access is included.
The recently refurbished dedicated lounge at Etihad’s new home at Heathrow in Terminal 4, is also very impressive. However, there is no distinction between the business and first class lounge – it is one in the same. So those passengers who want a little more privacy might be disappointed. Again, it features a health spa, buffet, showers, sleep room and free Wi-Fi access.
Scheduled flight time 6 hours, 40 minutes.
Punctuality A little late, but only 10 minutes or so.
Condition of craft This particular plane was less than four months old and featured the brand new economy design. Only a few aircraft at present feature the overhauled Coral class, but gradually the whole fleet will be refurbished.
UPDATE This review was originally written over nine months ago and during that time very few aircraft have in fact been upgraded to feature the new Coral Economy class.
In-flight entertainment With the exception of seats located next to an emergency exit, which have fold-out displays, each seat back has a 10.4-inch, widescreen display running Etihad’s recently over-hauled, on-demand IFE system. An impressive choice of movies, TV programs and radio shows are on offer, however, despite claims that all the movies, TV programs and radio shows are updated on a monthly basis, if you travel with this airline enough, you’ll notice that only a small percentage is actually changed, so many of the same TV episodes and movies will remain on the schedule for long periods.
Comfort Above average. The new Coral economy design maximises the space on offer in the seat back. The fold-out tray table is considerably less bulky and folds into two halves, thus taking up less space. But perhaps the biggest improvement is the new home of the IFE control, now under the tray in the seat back. Before, it was awkwardly located in the armrest and consequently the cabin crew alert was knocked every single time you shifted in your seat. Pillows and blankets already placed on each seat.
Service Mostly polite and efficient. The fact that the entire duration of the journey was not punctuated every 10 seconds by the PING of an accidentally knocked alert as it used to be, ultimately meant that the efforts of the cabin crew were infinitely more economical and passengers persistently going PING weren’t just systematically ignored. However, quite often it’s necessary to ask for the little economy class flight kit, with the essential ear plugs and eye shades, and frequently there aren’t actually any on the plane. Whether a stewardess comes back and in fact tells you this, is pot luck.
Food and beverages Good quality, average-sized servings. two meals served. There is a choice from three options with each meal, with at least one being suitable for vegetarians. Typical choices include tuna on bean and potato salad to start, followed by grilled chicken, lamb biryani or vegetable ravioli, with a morel cherry torte and tea or coffee to finish. However, the set “muffin” served for breakfast is a little strange; it looks and tastes more like a whale omelet than anything bread related.
Flight frequency Three times daily, in both directions.
Cost of ticket Depending on when you fly, tickets start at about £500 return from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow.
• Long-haul Economy Class survival guide
• Abu Dhabi Grand Millennium: part 1
• Muscat: Middle East unspoiled
• Bahrain: pearl in the shell
• Abu Dhabi: desert rose or just dust and rocks?