Etihad A340-600 A6-EHJ featuring the Formula 1 livery.
Etihad A340-600 A6-EHJ featuring the Formula 1 livery.

Inflight review: Etihad Business Class: Airbus A340-600: Bangalore-Mumbai-Abu Dhabi

I had to make a short-notice business trip to Dubai in early November 2014. For the week I needed to travel, I found airfares on most carriers extremely high. This included the only non-stop airline between Bangalore and Dubai, Emirates. On shopping for better fares, I came across a good fare on the UAE’s other national carrier, Etihad which flies to Abu Dhabi and offers a luxury chauffeur-driven luxury car service to Dubai for its premium passengers. This flight also gave me an opportunity how Etihad is leveraging its partnership with Jet Airways for domestic connections.

The onward flight which I review is Bangalore to Mumbai on Jet Airways and Mumbai to Abu Dhabi on Etihad and then a luxury limo ride to my hotel in Dubai.

Kempegowda International Airport (BLR) to Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (BOM).
9W 7010. Depart 23:35 Arrive 01:15+1. All times local.
Boeing 737-700. VT-SJA. Seat 12J.
06-Nov-14.

This was the last flight out of Bangalore. Operated by an all-economy JetLite Boeing 737-700 aircraft. The check-in hall was quite empty when I arrived at 22:00. The stampede for the post midnight European and Hong Kong departures had not yet commenced.

Check in was smooth and then off to security, which was also empty, making my security check a super-fast two minutes. With an hour to my flight, I headed to the domestic Plaza Premium lounge to which I gained access courtesy of my HDFC Visa card.

Plaza Premium domestic lounge – Bangalore airport

Domestic Plaza Lounge - Bangalore Airport.
Domestic Plaza Lounge – Bangalore Airport.

The lounge is on the mezzanine in the departure hall and is designed in the same style as the Plaza lounge on the international side. Compared to their international lounge, Plaza’s domestic lounge has only a few basic food stations and appears a little understaffed, though this could be due to the hour. The lounge is modelled after the famous Cathay Pacific Wings lounge at Hong Kong airport overlooking the concourse and has a good view of the ramp, something many lounges miss out on.

The lounge overlooks the boarding gate and though boarding was scheduled for 22:50, I used the view to wait till the boarding line actually formed before leaving the lounge and heading down a floor. Boarding actually begun only at 23:10, 20 minutes behind schedule. But boarding was completed very quickly allowing for a push-back by 22:30.

The aircraft was a 10 year old Boeing 737-700, which was reasonably well maintained. Since this was a JetKonnect flight, food had to be purchased. The service was quick and efficient. The flight was routine and we reached our gate in Mumbai at 00:35, technical the next day.

Inter-terminal transfer at Mumbai Airport

To get to the new international terminal T2 from the domestic T1, the airport offers a shuttle bus which runs along the inner perimeter road of the airport. It is crucial you do not exit the arrivals hall.

To catch the shuttle, you need to speak to the information desk in the arrival hall, which is staffed by some very helpful staff. I waited 15 minutes before boarding for the shuttle began. To reach the shuttle, passengers must undergo another security screening by the CISF. The shuttle is a Volvo B7R bus, which was in the worst state I have ever seen a Volvo bus in. The bus was dirty and creaked and bounced all along the ride. The airport operators MIAL need to address this on priority.

Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (BOM) to Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH).
EY205. Depart 04:30 Arrive 06:25. All times local.
Airbus A340-600. A6-EHL. Seat 7A.
07-Nov-14.

Etihad Mumbai – check-in

The last island in the T2 check in hall (Island N) is reserved for premium passengers check-in for premium passengers. Due to a lack of signage, most premium passengers do not use these dedicated desks. Something that both the airline and airport need to address.

Etihad Premium Check-In in Mumbai Airport Terminal 2.
Etihad Premium Check-In in Mumbai Airport Terminal 2.

On check-in I was informed that the flight was an hour and a half late. Also my seat was changed to 7A from my reserved 9K even thought the aircraft model operating the flight (A340-600) had not changed. The agent had no clue why or how this happened.

Mumbai T2 – premium class dedicated security check

After check in I proceeded to the First and Business class security check which was a very pleasant experience. The CISF guards manning these stations were very pleasant and surprisingly chatty. Security check is not usually a very friendly experience, but MIAL and the CISF seem to have made it as painless as possible for it’s premium passengers. Then it was off through immigration and customs to declare my camera equipment.

After passing through the very extensive duty free area, one could easily think you had walked into a high end shopping mall. The central area had coffee shops, stores and a elaborate food court on one end. After a quick walk around, I proceeded to the temporary lounge located one level below.

Mumbai T2 business class lounge

Lounge at Mumbai Airport - Terminal 2.
Lounge at Mumbai Airport – Terminal 2.

The temporary lounge is actually a inactive corridor which is being used as a lounge. That being said, it was a pretty good lounge which a decent selection of food and very attentive staff. The major gripe I had with this lounge was the complete lack of power sockets which meant eating into my battery reserves, though it’s understandable since this is after all a corridor. By now, since the permanent lounge has opened this issue should have been addressed.

Lounge at Mumbai Airport - Terminal 2.
Lounge at Mumbai Airport – Terminal 2.
Lounge at Mumbai Airport - Terminal 2.
Lounge at Mumbai Airport – Terminal 2.

I started to move to the gate at the updated boarding time, and it was a long walk from the lounge to the gate we were assigned.

Etihad Airways Airbus A340-600 A6-EHL.
Etihad Airways Airbus A340-600 A6-EHL.

Etihad Pearl business class – Airbus A340-600 – seat and cabin

Boarding was swift and I quickly found my seat. Etihad uses a staggered 1-2-1 seat arrangement with direct aisle access for each seat. Shortly after taking my seat, I was offered a lime drink and a hot towel while we waited for the boarding to finish.

The seat itself was good, but narrow. Larger passengers would find it a bit cramped. The seat reclines into a full flat bed, which I found to be just long enough for my height. Passengers over six feet tall would definitely find this seat cramped.

Seat 7A is what I would call a true window seat, the seat is beside the window and the side table is in between the seat and the aisle. Alternate rows have the side table in between the seat and the window. While the aircraft is sitting at the gate, the IFE system only shows a stream of Etihad airways ads. Etihad should allow starting a movie on the ground an gain the additional 15~20 minutes viewing time, considering the three hour flight time.

The staggered seating in Etihad's Business class.
The staggered seating in Etihad’s Business class. This picture was taken just before we landed at Abu Dhabi.
Etihad Business class seat.
Etihad Business class seat.
The legroom and screen in Etihad Business class.
The legroom and screen in Etihad Business class.
The seat has a wide array of adjustments and features including a massage system.
The seat has a wide array of adjustments and features including a massage system.

Just before push-back, the crew came and took my meal order and distributed the amenity kits. The kits are very basic and similar to those found in the economy class kit of many of Etihad’s competitors.

A6-EHL_Etihad_Airbus_A340-600_Drink_DSC_0206_WM

Just after take-off, both the IFE and my seat stopped working. Many reset attempts could not revive them, forcing me to move to seat 5C. I found the food to be quite standard, the eggs was slightly flavourless though the meat portion is reasonable.

Breakfast_Etihad_DSC_0219_WM

In-flight entertainment

Completely exhausted, I unpacked my blanket which was thick, soft and had a luxurious feeling velvety cover. I quickly rolled over and fell asleep. I woke up about half an hour before the flight landed and was soon served a cup of coffee and biscuits. Since we were close to our destination, I watched a few TV shows on the IFE. The E-Box system as it is called is not the most user friendly, I found it to be a little cumbersome. But the E-Box also has some nice touches – for example it warns the user if they start a movie that is longer than the remaining flight time.

Final descent and landing was normal and we were at the gate about 10 minutes after landing. Only one door (2L) is used for de-boarding, the crew holds economy class passengers until the first and business class passengers have disembarked.

While landing, I saw A6-EHJ - The Formula 1 livery A340-600 taxing on the parallel taxiway.
While landing, I saw A6-EHJ – The Formula 1 livery A340-600 taxing on the parallel taxiway.
The iconic tower of Abu Dhabi airport.
The iconic tower of Abu Dhabi airport.

Abu Dhabi airport – a poor experience

The entire premium experience of flying Etihad comes crashing to the ground as soon as you exit the aero-bridge. Abu Dhabi airport’s terminal 1 is one of the most crowed and badly designed terminals I have visited. The terminal signage is poor and the airport staff, not Etihad staff, are rude and unhelpful. Immigration, baggage claim and customs were quick thanks to a dedicated fast track lane for premium passengers.

Etihad arrival lounge at Abu Dhabi

Etihad has a small but well set-up arrival lounge at Abu Dhabi airport. Apart from good food, the lounge has shower facilities, a complimentary steam pressing of your clothes, and even a barber to give you a nice clean wet shave.

Etihad’s chauffeur drive service

Etihad offers its premium class passengers a complimentary drop or pick-up anywhere in the United Arab Emirates via a luxury chauffeur driven car. The lounge exits directly to the chauffeur drive desk, from where I was taken to a gleaming white Lexus LS for my 150km 70 minute trip to my hotel in Dubai.

Stay tuned for a review on an incident filled return trip on the Airbus A330 featuring the newer Etihad cabin product.

Disclosure. All flights were paid for. Etihad Airways or its affiliates did not review, or revise this article prior to publication. Our views remain independent and our own.

Pictures are copyright of Vedant Agarwal and are used with permission, all rights reserved. Please do not reproduce in any form.

About Vedant Agarwal

A frequent flyer for both work and pleasure - Vedant has held elite status on many of the major alliances and airlines. Also an avid aviation photographer, his pictures have been published in and on the covers of many international publications.

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13 comments

  1. I have to say Mumbai Airport is now top quality! I used to avoid flying in to Sahar ; choosing Chennai or the old Bangalore HAL airport to transfer to domestic, but now, CSIA is comparable to the best in the world. Let’s hope they can maintain it.

    Regarding your experience at Abu Dhabi, was it simply your tiredness, or maybe very high expectations? Hard to believe they are so bad.

    • Unfortunately, this terminal was just that bad. I landed at Terminal T1 which was constructed back in 1982. Luckily I was adequately rested from my nap on the flight and I did not have very high expectations for the airport (I have travelled through the old Doha airport as well which was also not a great terminal, but it was decent).

      The terminal is very crowded but the main thing is that the staff at this terminal was exceptionally unhelpful. There is a new terminal set to open in 2017, hopefully that will fix the problem.

  2. Excellent Review!!! But the business class seats looks bit out dated and the food too. Its better if Etihad replaces their old A340-600 with A330 since EK & QR are sending their best to BOM and DEL even to BLR. Next month I am flying home to Italy with EY’s Business class from BLR-AUH-ROM-GOA(Alitalia) with all A330-300s. I try to avoid Gulf carriers becoz of transit chaos at their airports and always fly with EU carriers. But this time I want to experience the new products of Gulf carriers. Fingers crossed. I hope EY send their newly fitted aircraft to BLR. Looking forward for more reviews. Happy flying!!!

  3. M. Azizul Islam

    Enjoyed reading it Vedant. Well done.

  4. I thought most airlines have given up on A340, with exception of companies like Lufthansa and couple of others. Where did Etihad lease/get their A340s from?

    • They had A340 since the start . They still are important component of Etihad fleet. A340 are operated by many carriers like Qatar, Emirates etc

  5. It is quite clear that EK & DXB stand out(even the old T1 & LCC T2). Immigration is always a breeze( except during bad weather days – rush) , transits in a snap. EY is “younger”, QR is still “young, but can learn a lot from EK in a short time.

  6. I do not understand why the writer has not written anything about his Bangalore/Bombay flight which was a Jet Airways flight. Or is it because there is nothing to write about this leg of his journey.

    • There was not really anything significant to mention about this flight – it was a good, quick and efficient flight as mentioned in the article.

  7. When do we get to read the “incident filled return trip on the Airbus A330” ??

  8. @Vedant,
    You said you couldn’t get the seat you wanted even though you had previously reserved! I live in Abu dhabi and Bangalore is my hometown this used to happen every time I used to fly with them. Actually this is a problem with the airline itself after you reserve your seat you need to do an online check in in order to confirm the seat if you don’t check in online chances are that it won’t be your seat anymore!