It seems that many people have been or will be flying on Etihad this year to their numerous destinations. I had never flown them until recently when I went to Abu Dhabi. To make future trips for others smooth, I decided to give some insight on my experience. These are some things to know before you fly through my own experiences and what I learned.
Picking Your Seats
I read that you can pick your seats within the 24 hour time period of your flight. I am not sure if anyone else has experienced this, but that wasn’t the case for me. Etihad’s web site would not allow me to do so, so I called their customer service. I was told that you can’t pick your seats within that 24 hour period. You either have to pick it in advance or wait till you get to the airport.
The gentleman was able to book my return seats, but I couldn’t get my outbound seat until I got to the airport. I looked at a seating map on their site, and the gentleman also told me that some seats that looked assigned already actually weren’t. They were just blocked off. So if you are looking for a certain seat ask when you check in at the airport. By doing this I ended up with one of the last window seats, which I wanted.
Upgrading Your Seats
Etihad sends an email out to bid for an upgrade. The email arrives within a week to a few days before your flight. The minimum bid you can put in to upgrade to business class is $1100 USD. You can also simply just ask at the airport. I had asked, but the agent told me he would if he could, but that they couldn’t upgrade because there was a celebrity on the plane. Just imagine my side eye on that one! Leaving Abu Dhabi, I tried again to upgrade, but they overbooked the flight. At that point I was just happy to have a seat.
This is pretty important, especially if you are planning to go away for a good amount of time. I know a lot of people only like to take carry-on bag as well. Unless you are wearing the lightest clothes ever or reusing your clothes, that may not be as easy. Not only does Etihad weigh your checked bag, but they weigh your carry-on. Your carry-on can’t weigh more than 7 kg (15 lbs.). If it does you will have to check it.
Checked or carry on they will also tag your bag. They are very strict about this. So if you have room in your personal items bag, you may want to put some things in there. I had a book-bag, they didn’t bother to weigh that. Checked luggage allowance is 30kg or 66 lbs.
Flights to Abu Dhabi
I overheard a group of people talking about how the flights first leg should have been on American Airlines with a layover in Paris. You may or may not have gotten an email about this, but the flight is now direct. I heard American Airlines took itself out of the picture. So if you didn’t get an email in regards to this now you know and can plan accordingly.
They begin boarding almost an hour before take off. The flight was pretty full. There were so many kids and babies on the plane you would have thought it was a daycare center. The flight attendants hand out games and coloring books for the kids. They also have bassinets that connect to the wall to lay your infant in. I believe this is only if you have an actual wall in front of your seat.
The plane was huge, and an older model. There wasn’t that much leg room, so if your tall I highly suggest sitting in bulk head seats. I am short and my leg room was minimal. Once someone reclines their seat, getting your bag from under your seat is an obstacle. The seats weren’t that comfortable either. They leave a blanket, pillow, and a pouch on your seat. I used the blanket as a cushion.
The pillow can be made into a neck pillow, so no need to bring one with you. Inside the pouch they give you ear plugs, headphones (no you can’t keep them), toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, and an eye mask. The eye mask is pretty cool. One side says, “Wake Me Up To Eat”, so the flight attendants won’t pass you by. The other side says,” Don’t Disturb Me.”
I went through 3 pairs of headphones, before I actually got some that worked. They recycle them, so some where down the line, they weren’t working. The first pair I couldn’t hear a thing. I rang for the flight attendant and after waiting about 30 mins., I was able to get another pair. The 2nd pair only worked in the left ear. As soon as I saw her again I asked for another pair which worked correctly!The inflight entertainment is nice. They have several movies, television shows, music, sports, and video games. The restrooms were a nice size. There are prayer areas on the plane, and you will see people utilizing this area.
The food was decent. The first meal was the best. The second meal not so much. They also have free alcohol, so feel free to get some rum, scotch, wine, etc. Flight attendants also come around randomly with cups of water. They pass up a lot of people and everyone waves their hands around trying to get their attention.
Arriving in Abu Dhabi
Once you arrive and deplane, if you are like me you will be all to excited to walk around. I saw a ton of smokers running for the smoking cube they have in the airport. I guess all those hours got to them. You walk over to passport control. They have different lines for crew, locals, and other nationalities. Some lines were going slower than others. It is also pretty warm waiting on the lines. I also saw they have eye scanners, but I didn’t experience that.
Once through passport control and your passport is stamped your bags have to go through a security machine before you exit the area. Baggage claim didn’t take too long. The bags came out pretty quickly. Most likely from all the time spent on the passport line. The airport has free wi-fi that works very well too!
Ethiad Express Bus
If you are planning to go to Dubai, you can take the free express bus there. The thing is you have to take it the same day as your flight. You can’t stay in Abu Dhabi a few days and think you’re going to hop on the bus. You should book the bus prior to your departure. Once you get your luggage you can head outside to catch the bus. Leave from the doors across from the Travel Exchange booth and cross the street. The bus stop is in the middle island.
There are lots of buses that come by to go to different terminals. The way I recognized the bus coming from afar is the side mirrors look like bunny ears on the bus. The bus holds up to 33 people. Have your booking information out because they will check it before you can board. Also keep your boarding pass accessible because they will check that once you are on your way to Dubai.
Some of the buses put the bags under the bus. The one I got on didn’t. There was a white van which took everyones luggage and then left before we did. A bit weird, but no need to be alarmed your stuff will make it back to you in one peace. Once on the bus they also give you a bottle of water.
The ride is about an hour and a half two hours. For some reason the bus stopped at 2 gas stations for about 20 minutes or so.
The ride was longer because of this. A passenger speculated that the bus might be overheating. The bus was a bit humid as well. It wasn’t hot outside it was nice out. Once you arrive in Dubai the bus drops everyone off at the Etihad Travel Mall. Grab your bags and walk across the street to the taxis to head to your accommodations. Because I wanted to spend time in Abu Dhabi before leaving I couldn’t take the bus back. In order to take it back you have to get on the same day as your flight.
Heading Back to the USA (Abu Dhabi Airport)
I strongly suggest getting to the airport at least 3 hours in advance. They always say that at airports for international flights, but this is beyond true! If you are heading to another destination not in the U.S. there is a long check in line. The line to check in for the U.S. was almost non existent.
Afterwards you stand on a line where they weigh your carry-on bag and tag them once again. You then hand someone your passport and boarding pass which they scan. From there you get on another line to go through security. The line was very long, but moved at a decent pace.
Once you get through all of that you will see all the Duty Free shops and up an escalator is Food Village. They have all kind of food you can eat. I saw a lot of people with plates of eggs, sausage, and mushrooms. I don’t recommend spending too much time in these areas. Abu Dhabi airport isn’t like other airports where you can get food and sit at the gate and wait. I saw people hauling ass and I will tell you why…
As you head to the gates you can walk or get on the moving walkaway. Once you get near the flights that go to the United States you will see a glass wall. All of the gates are behind that. How do you get to it? Ha! You have to go down a long hall and get on another line. From there someone checks your boarding pass and passport again.
I noticed during the first security line that I had the dreaded SSSS on my boarding pass. If you don’t know, that means you have to go through extra security. It is chosen at random when printing out boarding passes. I found out a bunch of us had gotten them.
Well while my mom got sent through the regular security screening I had to go another way. They sent a bunch of us into a room with couches and told us to wait till we were called. It only took a couple of minutes before we were all called up. I had to go into a room they closed the door and patted me down and then just checked my stuff. I actually finished with security faster than my mom.
Just like usual, no beverages. So if you bought something to drink at the store in the airport they will make you throw it away. Also make sure that not only can all your electronics power on, but are powered on. You have to be able to turn it on otherwise they will take it from you.
After you do that, you must get on another line. Yea, this is why the messing around in the stores and Duty Free for too long isn’t a good idea. Abu Dhabi has U.S Customs and Border Protection right there! You stand on a line and then scan your passport at a kiosk. Then you have to take a picture. Mine came out not cute because I blinked, but who cares. I did hear some folks re-taking their pictures which sounded ridiculous to me. You have to hand it over anyway.
Once you stand on another line, and hand it over you may or may not be pulled over. I overheard one officer asking a gentleman if he has been in trouble before. Once you get through that you are officially on “U.S Soil.” Once the plane lands back in the states it will land at a domestic terminal so you won’t have to deal with customs in America. After that you can sit at the gate. With all of that, I believe we only sat at the gate 15 minutes before they began to board.
Flight to New York
I have to say the flight back was better than the flight going. The seats seemed wider. The plane was newer. Although I had an annoying child kicking my seat I was much more comfortable on the flight. The food was also much better. That first meal was good, that second meal again was not as good. On this flight they gave out all kinds of snacks. Caramel popcorn and sliced apples being a couple. Although the flight was longer it was much more enjoyable.
The bathroom looked disgusting, but once one of the flight attendants saw it she took it upon herself to clean it. I applaud her for that because if you saw what I saw….yuck! Both flights had the ability to charge you’re electronics. I took advantage of the USB outlet. I tried to use the wi-fi, but that didn’t work out too well. Apparently from what I was told and read in order to use your mobile device, you have to take it off airplane mode. So whatever international charges you incur is an oh well. I tried it anyway and the wi-fi didn’t work for me. If you have a computer and trying to use wi-fi your better off.
Overall it was a good experience. I would probably fly them again. Hopefully next time I can upgrade, rather than getting excuses on why I can’t. My favorite part of the flight was on the way to Abu Dhabi. I could look out the window, and see so many stars. Hopefully my experience and information helps those flying Etihad in the future.
Have you flown on Etihad or planning to? How was your experience?
See more of our UAE trip!