Today’s review of Etihad’s ride from Cairo to Bangkok through their hub in Abu Dhabi is a perfect example of how I find Etihad’s product can be so inconsistent. When their service is good, it is excellent. When it is bad, it is average!
There are a vast array of airlines and flight options from Cairo to Bangkok. Cairo is a very cheap hub in the Middle East for originating flights. In fact, it was cheaper for me to fly from Dubai to Cairo and then fly onto Bangkok back through the UAE than the cost of a direct flight from Dubai to Bangkok. Significant fare difference! I was not in a hurry and the bonuses were:
- some time in the Middle East
- finally seeing the Pyramids and
- earning a heap of Frequent Flier miles at low cost.
I think the Etihad booking engine is terrific. Easy to start a booking and works really well in displaying options for bookings, and fare options. It was a pleasure to use. I had to change the date of my flight and the online change process was so simple.
Check In: 6/10
Cairo airport consists of four terminals. Etihad uses Terminal One which is also known as the old terminal. And it shows. At the airport, only passengers are allowed into the scruffy terminal. If you are being farewelled, then that happens outside the terminal doors. Security staff check your passport and travel documents and bags go through a Xray scanner before you enter the terminal. Normally highly attuned to scams and having been in Egypt without being scammed, I let my guard down. A gentleman who was chatting with the security guard indicated I should hand him my bag to place onto the scanner.
He waa wearing what could be described as an official uniform. I handed him my bag. Ten seconds later, the bag was going through the scanner, the guard was looking at the ceiling and the man had his hand out for money. Nope, he was not an official employee at all. I had almost no Egyptian pounds left, so I gave him the handful of coins in my pocket. I think, on reflection, some Thai baht and Aussie coins were mingled in with the Egyptian currency.
Inside the Etihad check-in area, it was bedlam in the economy line. The agent at then business counter was serving one passenger already so I had a very, very brief wait. Next to the check-in counter was another “Uniformed” man gazing hungrily at y bag. I rebuffed his offer to load the bag onto the scales as it was carry on. He gazed disappointedly at me. The actual check-in agent was not interested in any friendly banter and barely spoke to me at all. If he was your first impression of Etihad, then it was not a good impression.
Security was rapid and straightforward. Having heard horror stories about the queues at the airport, I had chosen to arrive three hours before. I think 3 am is a great time to go to Cairo airport!
I had two lounges to explore. One in Cairo and one in Abu Dhabi. The differences between them were stark.
In Cairo, Etihad uses the Airport authority First Class Lounge in terminal one. I interrupted the chatting staff who carefully checked my boarding pass and then waved me through.
The best word to describe the lounge would be “disappointment”. There were plenty of seats, however!
Food consisted of some okay -ish pastries, tea and coffee, bottled water and juices.
Lavatories were basic and of an okay cleanliness.
By contrast, the Premium lounge at Abu Dhabi was extraordinary. There are two lounges for business-class travellers at AbuDubai Airport: in terminal One and Terminal Three. If one is busy, you can head to the other, although it is a bit of a walk. I accessed the Terminal Three Lounge which had very few people in it (like almost none).
First up the food quality and selection was extraordinary!
My flight to Bangkok was delayed which meant I had plenty of time to enjoy myself.
So, after the food, it was off to a wet shave in the style and shave hairdressing salon. My barber gave me an amazing shave which had me feeling fresh and relaxed as my flight’s delay extended. There is a small fee for this service.
I ducked into the spa who checked with the operations staff and it was agreed by everyone that I definitely could enjoy a facial. Unfortunately, suddenly my flight was brought forward from the revised departure time. In the middle of the relaxation part of the facial, the spa staff bundled me out of the lounge in the direction of the gate!
Turns out when I got to the gate, I could have finished my facial such was our wait!
So Cairo Lounge: 4/10 and Abu Dhabi 11/10 =an average of 7/10
Boarding: 8/10 (Cairo 10/10 and Abu Dhabi 6/10)
It was a surprisingly smooth boarding at Cairo with such a warm welcome from the cabin staff I could have kissed them. It was like coming home! Once in my seat, a sparkling water was made available to me in what felt like seconds.
The Abu Dhabi boarding felt more chaotic and the welcome board was much more perfunctory. (Note the inconsistency). Staff did not bring me a welcome drink until I asked for one. Not sure how they missed me? It came with a nice refresher towel.
We left Cairo in the dark. Our Abu Dhabi takeover took us over the Grand Prix track (seen here through a scratched and dirty window).
On Board: 9/10
The first leg was serviced by an Airbus 320 and on the second, I was seated on a 777 (I had hoped for a 380).
There is very little you can really do with the layout of a 320. Etihad has 16 Recliner seats in its Pearl Business class with a 49″ pitch and 21″ width. 120 seats make up Etihad’s Coral Economy with a generous 32″ pitch and an 18.1″ width.
The two-class Boeing 777 I was on, seats guests in Pearl Business in flat bed seats with a 73″ pitch and 20″ width.
The 28 Pearl Business Class seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 layout.
The seats offer a privacy shell, a 18o degree reclining fully flat bed and direct aisle access from every seat. It felt very private and very comfortable.
384 Coral Economy seats arranged in a 3-4-3 pattern make up the rest of the plane. They have a 31.5″ pitch and a 17.5″ width.
The plane had one lavatory at the front of the plane, four in the middle and three in the rear.
I slept for most of the first leg but enjoyed the entertainment system on the B777 flight to Bangkok. My seat in Business Class had a 15″ screen, a USB socket, a power outlet and the audio jack. Every seat in Economy has a 10″ screen, USB port and access to power. The range available on the e-box entertainment library was pretty impressive.
Like many trips, my meals were out of kilter. I had breakfast on my first flight, lunch in the lounge and then what would be my dinner on the second flight as I arrived into Bangkok in the evening.
We landed a little late on both flights. EY 650 touched down into a very foggy Abu Dhabi airport and pulled up to an airport stand where we switched to buses.
Just before landing, connecting gate information was provided for Abu Dhabi.
In Bangkok, we got a gate. With no baggage and an express pass for immigration, I was through in minutes. Being in Busines Class, Etihad provides a chauffeur-driven car service but I found it hard to locate the Etihad chauffeur service in the arrivals hall. I asked a woman at the transport desk where Etihad might be and she waved vaguely to the mass of hire car services, hotels and tour companies standing with signs. I do not normally look lost at Bangkok airport but I must have at that point because as I scanned the crowd, a woman from one of the hotel companies asked in English, who I was looking for. When I told her, she called out and a man suddenly appeared. He was stunned that I had got through quickly and pulled out a little Etihad sign, clipboard and mobile phone. From there, it was very smooth sailing to the car and onward to my accommodation.
My Flight Rating: 82% (4.1 out of 5). The second flight was better than the first, overall.
About the Airline: I always forget how young the airline is. Etihad Airways was established as the second flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates in 2003 by Royal Decree. It’s first flight was November 2003. Now 123 planes connect 90 destinations.
My overall rating of Etihad: 82% I rate them 18th out of 59 airlines
Safety Rating: Airline ratings gives the carrier 7 of 7.
Frequent Flyer Program: Etihad Guest- I earned points with Virgin Australia
Positives: Abu Dhabi Lounge, Good meals, Good entertainment system
Negatives: Cairo Check in, Cairo Lounge
Would I fly them again? Yes. Though I prefer Emirates and Qatar to Etihad.