Getting to Terminal 4
My flight to Abu Dhabi leaves at 09:00. At 07:00 in the morning, I exit the Hilton at T4 and take the bridge that connects the hotel with the terminal. It’s about five minutes on foot. Probably a bit less.
Etihad checks-in in Zone C. There are three counters for First and Business Class passengers. Althogh the A 350 does not actually have a First Class cabin with Etihad.
There is a dedicated Fast Track for security right next to the Zone C check-in area. I nearly miss it at first, because I hadn’t realised that the Fast Track sign doesn’t have anything to do with the IHG advert below it.
The Fast Track is empty and quick.
The Etihad Heathrow Terminal 4 Lounge
From security I head for the Etihad lounge which is located opposite gate 10, from where my flight will be boarding this morning.
Don’t follow the signs, they only guide you to a pair of escalators to take you down one floor to the reception of the lounge. There is also a set of stairs on the right, and it’s really not much of a schlepp to get either up or down.
Inside the lounge, waiting staff are available to serve you food and drinks. As I only just had breakfast, I merely ask for a cappuccino & a glass of sparkling water.
Eventually though, I get bored and decide to have a look around the terminal. There isn’t much to see in the lounge. In contrast, there are so many aircraft to watch that we don’t get in Switzerland, which to me is far more interesting.
Qatar Airways has a departure to Doha at 08:00, and then another at 08:35. The latter service is operated by the A 380.
There are two separate lanes for Business Class passengers to board. Behind the gate counters the two lanes merge with that of Economy Class passengers. At the end of the corridor there are two airbirdges, and there is an Etihad gate attendant guiding passengers to the L1 or L2 door as the case may be.
The Cabin & Seat
On the A 350-1000 Etihad has installed a new seat in a herringbone configuration. I’m not sure if it’s identical to the new seat BA has on the A 350, but it’s pretty close, and that includes the sliding door for some extra privacy. Having said that, during the flight I notice that hardly any of the passengers made use of their sliding doors. But perhaps that’s because it’s a day flight.
The IFE monitor is quite large and is a touch screen.
There’s also an inbuilt charger for mobile devices.
There’s quite a lot of storage space.
There are no overhead bins for the seats in the middle of the cabin, which gives you a good sense of just how wide the A 350 cabin is.
At my seat when I arrive is a vanity kit, a wellness kit, the menu, a pillow and a blanket. The vanity kit contains socks and eye shades, a toothbrush and Colgate toothpaste, as well as hand cream and a sampler of Aqua di Parma perfume.
The Crew & Service
The crew on this flight are amazing. Right from the start it becomes clear that this is going to be one of those very enjoyable trips where everything just goes right. The crew interact easily with passengers. They’re also very attentive. No sooner have I stowed away my things, I am brought a warm towel and a glass of lemon juice and mint.
The crew ask me to have a look at the menu. They tell me they’ll come to take orders for lunch after take-off. The service is à la carte.
We take off in an Easterly direction, which takes us right over the city of London as we climb out of Heathrow.
And I am totally impressed by what a beast the A 350 is. The aircraft is stable, very quiet and climbs effortlessly.
The Meal – Lunch
I ask the crew to serve my lunch at around 12:30 CET. We start with a bowl of mixed nuts and a glass of Bellini, which is just lovely.
First course: leek and pea soup with herb ricotta. The first course is served with two slices of garlic bread, a small breadbasket with both butter and olive oil. To drink I have sparkling water. The soup is flavourful and has a beautiful, velvety texture.
Main course: spinach ravioli with goat cheese. This is again a very good dish. The goat cheese is not at all overpowering, as it sometimes can be, and gives the ravioli a nice twist.
Cheese: After the ravioli come the cheese and crackers with jelly. Unfortunately, no information is given about what cheese it is. The jelly goes very well with it.
Dessert: Sticky Banoffee pudding with strawberry. At this stage I think I really should have stopped. But when the cabin crew asks me what I’d like and adds that both the pudding and the apple crumble are delectable, there is only so much a man can withstand. God, this is good!
After that epic meal, the crew bring me a cup of coffee with a thin Godiva chocoloate. And then I need a little nap.
We arrive in Abu Dhabi at 19:30, after a flight time of six hours and twenty minutes. The new terminal has still not opened, but rumour has it that this will be the year it does. I think it would probably be good if it did, because the current terminal is pretty full.
Just before the landing, the crew pass through the cabin with Fast Track access cards for passengers ending their journey in Abu Dhabi. The card gives you access to the premium queue at immigration, which is a huge advantage and saves you time in the regular queue, wich is quite busy.
Wow! On this flight the starts truly lined up. The crew were excellent, the food was delicious with a good variety of choices, and the hardware on the A 350 is just brilliant. As far as I’m concerned, the herringbone is still my favourite seating configuration in a Business Class cabin. Today’s experience on Etihad blew my other recent trips in Business Class out of the water. Hopefully lightning will strike twice – I’m already looking forward to the return flight…