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.”
Etihad Airways 538
Beirut (BEY) – Abu Dhabi (AUH)
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.
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)
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.
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 Wi-Fi, 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.
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.