Review: Etihad 787-9 & A320 Economy Class Beirut To Abu Dhabi To Muscat

Filed Under: Etihad

Introduction: Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Economy Class Showdown
Review: Zurich Airport Observation Deck
Review: Emirates A380 And 777-300ER Economy Class Zurich To Dubai To Delhi
The Delhi Airport Ground Experience
Review: Air India 747-400 First Class Delhi To Chennai
Review: Jet Airways 737-800 Economy Class Chennai To Mumbai
Review: Qatar Airways 777-300ER Economy Class Mumbai To Doha To Beirut
Transiting Beirut Airport On Separate Tickets
Review: Etihad Airways 787-9 And A320 Economy Class Beirut To Abu Dhabi To Muscat
Review: Premier Inn Abu Dhabi International Airport
Emirates Vs. Etihad Vs. Qatar – Who Has The Best Economy Class?

My flight from Beirut to Abu Dhabi was scheduled to depart at 2:30 pm.

It’s common for flights to depart behind schedule, or unofficially leave a few minutes early. Not on Etihad. When I got to the gate an hour before departure, the flight was already boarding. Not only that, but the departure time on the screen was 2:05 pm. I asked why it had changed. The response was something along the lines of “we arrived early, so why not leave early.”

The gate area in Beirut.

Etihad Airways 538
Beirut (BEY) – Abu Dhabi (AUH)
Depart: 2:30PM
Arrive: 7:20PM
Duration: 3hr50mins
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 40A (Economy Class)

When I first boarded, I was impressed by the cabin. The overall ambiance was nice. Of the three Middle Eastern airlines I’d flown, this was the least distinctly branded.

As I headed to my seat, a European flight attendant approached me and asked me not to take photos of the cabin, telling a long anecdote about photography being forbidden in Abu Dhabi. She was kind enough, though I found it interesting that the other airlines didn’t enforce the same policy.

Anyway, the seatback was sleek with an individual power port at every seat.

The legroom? Average, at 31”.

The seat was comfortable enough, though the headrest was a little too funky. While sturdy, the sides weren’t adjustable, meaning you could only rest your head on one side.

You might have noticed there are two recline buttons on this seat. One of them actually adjusts the lumbar support, which is cool.

Etihad also offers a unique neck pillow in economy. It was surprisingly plush but was covered in black hairs…

The headset was mildly noise-canceling, which didn’t really make up for the bad sound quality.

The seat pocket in front of me had three pockets, just like on Emirates and Qatar. The tray table was similar too.

Unfortunately, Etihad does not have individual air vents on their 787s, a big miss for an airline whose hub regularly reaches 100F.

Just before push-back, an Air France 777-300ER pulled into the adjacent gate. It’s awesome (and rare for a European carrier) that they use it on such a short flight! The choice between a Lufthansa A321 or this 777 to Europe is really tough. 😉

We finally pushed back at 2:30 pm (I guess the departure time change wasn’t official?).

Beirut Airport had some interesting traffic.

During taxi, the crew made sure everyone had turned off their electronic devices. Phones weren’t even allowed in airplane mode.

We had quite a long takeoff roll before lifting off and flying out over the coast. The views were stunning!

Once airborne, the crew immediately activated the mood-lighting.

While the crews on Emirates and Qatar were mostly Indian or Southeast Asian, Etihad’s crew on this flight was European or African. Do Etihad’s crews have different backgrounds than those at Emirates and Qatar, or was this purely a coincidence?

Moving on, Etihad offers in-flight Wi-Fi. The speed was around the same as on Emirates, but for some reason, the data ran out three times as fast doing the exact same task.

After flying south for quite a while, we made a sharp turn left over Egypt, just south of Israel.

Around that time the meals were served. Unfortunately, Etihad, as opposed to their competitors, did not offer menus. They also only had two juice options: apple and orange. Surprisingly, the pasta arrabbiata was among the best airplane pasta I’ve had. It was perfectly cooked, and the side dish was nice. Not the most advanced meal, but nonetheless my favorite of my ME3 flights.

At one point during the flight, we flew over the Red Sea from Egypt to Jordan, at which point we saw three cities — Aqaba, Taba, and Eilat — from three different countries at once.

Etihad’s entertainment system was more limited than its competitors, but I preferred the layout. While they also had ads, all of them were Abu Dhabi-specific.

35 minutes prior to arrival the flight attendant came by collecting headphones, making sure seats and tray tables were upright and locked. They also turned off the entertainment system completely for some reason.

Our approach into Abu Dhabi was beautiful.

After arrival, I took a few pictures to show the recline. It was about equal to the other Middle Eastern airlines, though the limited legroom made it feel tighter.

I bid farewell to the crew and headed toward immigration for my first hotel night in three days of travel.

The next morning, I arrived at the airport 90 minutes before my flight.

The first thing on my agenda for the day was finding breakfast. I settled for some reasonably priced ramen from the food court, which was unlike anything I’ve seen at an airport.

It reminded me more of a mall food court, with limited seating, all restaurants crammed into one place, and meals served on trays.

My breakfast.

After eating, I rushed to my gate, but before I boarded I had to go to the bathroom. The only problem: the toilets by my gate were closed. So were the toilets five minutes away. I really needed to go so I ended up walking fifteen minutes to reach an open restroom during one of Etihad’s busiest times of the day. Not only that – the airport was way overcrowded, to the point where there were human traffic jams.

Luckily, I made it to the gate just in time.

I didn’t mind the bus boarding since it gave us a good tour of the airport. I love Etihad’s new livery!

Etihad Airways 538
Abu Dhabi (AUH) – Muscat (MCT)
Depart: 8:50AM
Arrive: 10:05AM
Duration: 1hr15mins
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Seat: 18F (Economy Class)

We boarded the full flight through the forward door. Their A320 cabin is less modern than the 787, but the seats were actually more comfortable.

A look at the recline.

There were pillows for the 45-minute flight, which was nice.

The headrest was adjustable but slightly too small to be useful.

The legroom was also decent, at 31”.

Just as on my previous flights, Etihad’s A320 seat pockets had three separate pockets, which helped keep me organized. There was also a cup holder and, of course, an entertainment system.

Unfortunately, the entertainment wasn’t turned on.

The A320 had individual air nozzles – yay!

While still on the ground, the flight attendants served us water and “refreshing towels”.

Soon enough we pushed back and had a short taxi out to the active runway.

We entered behind an A380 and were off in less than 30 seconds.

Within a few minutes, the flight attendants came by serving a small snack. When they introduced it, I thought they said “banana, cake, and water.” Turns out it was banana cake and water. 😉

The seat had an impressive amount of recline for a regional aircraft, as you can see.

Sadly there was no wifi, but they did offer phone service…

Before I knew it we’d begun our descent to Muscat. Views were absolutely breathtaking.

We landed right on time and taxied around the entire airport, past the new terminal, to our gate.

I bid farewell to the crew and headed for immigration to enjoy my day in Muscat.

Bottom Line

Overall, the word to describe my flights in Etihad economy is meh. The service, seat, and amenities were all below Emirates and Qatar. While both flights were decent, their terrible hub airport makes Etihad an airline to avoid for me. Their marketing team has done a great job convincing us that they’re the way to go, but as an economy passenger, I’d be happier on Lufthansa or Finnair.

  1. “While the crews on Emirates and Qatar were mostly Indian or Southeast Asian, Etihad’s crew on this flight was European or African. Do Etihad’s crews have different backgrounds than those at Emirates and Qatar, or was this purely a coincidence?”

    I am not sure it’s a coincidence since this is my experience with the ME3 as well. There seems to be heavy preference for white European females with Etihad, but I haven’t flown them enough to make the generalization.

  2. I don’t think that you were behind an Etihad A380 in Abu Dhabi, or at least, that’s not a picture of one.

  3. From my previous exp, Etihad no longer provided noise cancelling headset in at class. They delivered in-ear ear plug style headset on my November trip from AUH to DEL

  4. I commend you for taking these flights to provide us with these reviews but honestly I don’t think they’re a fair comparison whatsoever. You’re flying all different aircraft of all different purposes and ages, and you didn’t take a single actual long-haul flight on EY or fly their 777 which is most common. A fairer comparison would have been all three 777s maybe or something but this definitely does not match up entirely.

  5. Just for reference, the other side Just for reference, the side of the headrests on 787s and A380s that does not stick out can be pushed out, though it does not extend as far out as the fixed side.

  6. I just can’t get past how beautiful the 787 wing is. Flown it plenty times but still look at it like a high school sweetheart.

  7. “Not on Etihad. When I got to the gate an hour before departure, the flight was already boarding. Not only that, but the departure time on the screen was 2:05 pm. I asked why it had changed. The response was something along the lines of “we arrived early, so why not leave early.””

    Ok, I’m sorry, but this? Sounds like utter BS.

  8. It seems that on Etihads newest planes (e.g. A380, 787) the seats are less comfortable than on older planes such as the A320. I recently flew Etihad in business on their A380 and A320 and the seats on the A380 were like an ironing board, whereas on the A320 they cradled the human figure and I slept longer on the recliner seat during the day than on the lie-flat bed on a red-eye.

  9. Very refreshing review and hope that we can have more coverage of the economy cabins….it starts to get a bit tedious reading the same herringbone seating and Brut Champagne stuff all the time.

    Point 1 – James Hogan (recently “retired” chief at Etihad) was formerly the boss at Gulf Air in Manama. Bahrain’s old Emir had a penchant for blond European women and Gulf Air cabin crew were almost exclusively of that mode (all foreigners living in Bahrain were allowed access to his private beach complex). Perhaps Mr Hogan was indoctrinated and carried forward that recruitment policy to Abu Dhabi?

    Point 2 – I work and travel extensively throughout the Middle East and can confidently say that the economy Qatar product is currently the best available.

    Point 3 – What? Finnair ? I frequently need to fly with them to Asia and although their hub airport in Helsinki is incredibe, the airline service in economy is truely “Cattle Class” deplorable. Food is often like slurry (“al dente” is perhaps not understood in Finland) and their flight crew will never forgive you if you disturb their reading newspapers or relaxing in the back galley. Meanwhile, filthy toilets are left uncleaned with staff not even prepared to close the door after inconsiderate passengers have left them open. Requesting a top up of their precious Nordic blueberry juice is even met with cold frowns that would freeze you to death. No, no no!

  10. “It’s common for flights to depart behind schedule, or unofficially leave a few minutes early. Not on Etihad.”

    I had this happen to me last week out of India (HYD) with Etihad. We pushed back 15 minutes early and were in the air a few minutes before the scheduled departure time. First time for every thing: early departure, great cabin crew, good food, smooth flight, very early arrival in AUH!

    Nice review, Daniel!

  11. Thanks for the nice review, Daniel! I enjoy this series a lot. It’s pretty unique content in the aviation blogging world.

    Also great to see the catty old queens who hiss at everyone slightly acquainted to Lucky seem to have missed this post. I guess it actually paid off to call them out.

  12. Daniel,

    Thank you very much for this good thorough review including plentiful and excellent pictures.

    I’m retired and ever ready to travel…except not so much any more. What was once a pleasure — even sometimes enchanting — is now seldom acceptable with less than business class. More and more I find that “economy” is misery. Airlines have made it a self-service grind of overcrowding where passengers are likely to be tripped up at any time for not following often unclear DIY procedures.

    Despite assiduous FF mile gathering I am always on the lookout for survivable economy opportunities. Scrut the brut de brut, I want comfortable seats, less constricted breathing space and just plain humane treatment — hard and soft product in their terms, human decency in mine.

    Your excellent review provided me with a lot of information and impressions to work with.

  13. Daniel. A rare treat to get an economy class review. You are dead-on about the human crowds at these middle eastern hubs. I had the same “bathroom” issue flying from DBX, on Emirates, about five years ago.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *