A6-LRE, a 777-237LR, loading up at LAX for the long flight back to Abu Dhabi – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
“That was the bulliest experience I ever had. I envy you your professional conquest of space.”
Thing is, Teddy Roosevelt never flew Etihad. Guy missed out. If a small biplane could impress our only president to ever ride a moose, I think the sheer awesomeness of Etihad would likely have left him a gibbering fool!
AirlineReporter Senior Correspondent Jacob Pfleger flew Etihad’s first class product back in the days when it was still called “Diamond First Class.” It was amazing, but with the introduction of the Facets of Abu Dhabi scheme and removal of the word diamond, Etihad has taken it even further. Out of a sense of curiosity and jealousy, a need to travel to South Africa, and a desire to best Jacob, I found a good fare from Los Angeles to Johannesburg that would let me put Etihad to the test on their longest pair of flights. I flew from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi and back, the route that Etihad purchased their 777-200LR fleet from Air India specifically to launch.
The suite was too long to fit its entirety in my 14mm lens! – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
Now, when these planes came from Air India, they were in legendary Air India style. Missing parts, missing documents, pretty much close to the axe; the aircraft were not taken care of. Worse, Air India had decided to purchase the auxiliary fuel tanks from Boeing that were necessary for their dream routes to the U.S. West Coast that will only materialize this year (maybe). Etihad and Boeing worked for months to bring these aircraft up to scratch.
However, when you get on board, there is not a trace of the old horrors and neglect that these wonderful machines faced. The result is a first class cabin that is better than both Gulfstreams I have flown on.
The extremely wide seat extends into a bed well over six feet in length. Feeling exposed? Yeah, I would be too. Even though you can’t really see any other passengers when seated, that’s not the point – you have the ability to shut your doors and have ultimate privacy. When I fly, I’d rather not see anyone but the cabin crew. Commercial flights are not about socializing for me. Etihad understands.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777-200LR – Photo: Qatar Airways
After getting the opportunity to fly on the first Qatar Airways 787 and then also flying back to the US on-board a Qatar Airways 777-200LR I wanted to be able to write a story to compare and contrast the two aircraft.
Since my Qatar Dreamliner flight back in November 2012, the 787 has run into some issues, but at least the aircraft is still flying. Both of my flights were in Business Class and both were about the same length, giving me a great opportunity to compare. Let’s break this down bit by bit…
Delta Boeing 777-200LR in Atlanta. Notice the special signature on the nose. Photo by Brandon Farris.
I recently had the opportunity to fly from Atlanta (ATL) to Los Angeles (LAX) on Delta Air Lines flight 110, that was operated by a Boeing 777-232LR. Being the AvGeek that I am and having never flown on a 777 I just couldn’t turn this opportunity down.
I hopped on a red eye out of Seattle (SEA) that got into ATL at 05:30am giving me nearly 3 hours for my connection. I believe it literally took me maybe 20 minutes to get from where my SEA plane was parked in the B gates to gate F4 where I lay eyes on N708DN, a 2009 777-232LR that would be my ride back to the west coast. This aircraft is dedicated (with a special logo on the nose) to Delta’s former CEO David C. Garrett Jr who served for the airline from 1978-1987.
Being that I was at the airport so earl,y not many shops were open yet, so I mingled around the terminal where I saw a Boeing 767-432 arrive from Rio as DL60 and an Airbus A330-323 pushed back at 06:10am and depart as DL8860 to Saint Martin which was a surprise.
Delta configures their 777’s in a 3-3-3 layout. Photo by Brandon Farris.
Gate agents finally arrived around 07:00AM for our 08:10AM departure, at this point I was assigned 53E which is literally middle middle on this aircraft as it is a 3-3-3 configuration in the coach cabin.
It finally approached time to board, but were told that there was a slight delay with the cleaning crews onboard the aircraft and boarding would begin as soon as possible. Once boarding began I waited until the very end to get on since all I had was a backpack and wouldn’t require any overhead space.
Walking down the jetway the excitement began to settle in that I was about to step foot on my first ever 777 flight even if it was domestic, it is still a 777. By the time I boarded near the end, it didn’t take very long to get to my seat near the very back of the aircraft.
The time was now 0819 and our push-back began, only 9 minutes late so not too shabby. This was the part that I was most looking forward to; that howling growl start of those amazing General Electric GE-90’s as they spool up and come to life. I heard the first one start and it was like music to my hears. I know that I had the biggest and dorkiest smile/look on my face like a 5 year old. Yes I am in love with that howl!
Delta’s Economy in-flight entertainment. Photo by Brandon Farris.
Following the push-back, we begin our taxi out. The pilot came on the intercom and alerted us that we are number five for departure, 19 minutes after departing the gate the aircraft begins to turn on the runway. I was ready to feel the full 220,000lbs of thrust but since we were so light with only going to LAX the pilots really didn’t seem to throw the throttle that high. It didn’t seem very long for us to climb to our cruise altitude of FL400 as we headed west. I must admit that this was one of the quietest cabins I have flown on at cruise.
Now, I had the opportunity to check out the seats. They seemed very wide which I absolutely loved but at the same time each row is extremely narrow to where my knees were almost in the seat in front of me (I am 6’0″). I couldn’t imagine if someone had been sitting in front of me and reclining the seat. It would have crippled my space, in a long haul flight I definitely would consider upgrading to the front cabin if possible, but luckily this was a shorter flight.
The lack of leg space however was made up for with the ability to plug my phone in to charge and a seatback TV which had a very wide array of movies to choose from including ones that had just come out on DVD last week like Life of Pi, to classics like The Goonies.
I choose Lincoln, but since I was so tired, I fell asleep about 20 minutes into it and I actually took a nap for about 3 hours. When I woke up, the cabin crew was coming through with a final beverage service. As a part of the service, they offered three choices for snacks: pretzels, peanuts or the infamous biscoff cookies. This was a welcome change as I am just used to the standard AM or PM snack depending on when my flight was.
Flying on the 777. Photo by Brandon Farris.
At this point we were now about 40 minutes out from LA so I decided to get up and stretch a little and see if I could find a window to peak out somewhere and at least get a couple of pictures and was lucky to find that the cabin doors all have windows and was able to snap away for a couple of minutes. I also took this opportunity to visit the lav to find it was surprisingly very spacious.
But now it was time for me to return to my seat as we began our descent into LAX and was a fairly smooth approach. We landed on 25L and the pilots brought us in very gently before I was able to hear the roar of that GE-90 as the thrust reversers were kicked in. Following a short taxi we parked at the gate at 0957, three minutes early even after the late push.
Deplaning was brief, only being about 15 minutes from the back of the plane. I had the opportunity to talk to the pilots and was invited to make a brief visit to the flight deck before finally leaving the aircraft.
Flight deck of the 777. Photo by Brandon Farris.
Overall for this being my first time ever flying on Delta and the Boeing 777 I was extremely impressed on both fronts. The gate agents were extremely friendly which can be rare to find, especially at 0600 and 0700 in the morning. The inflight crew was great and was willing to answer any questions I had. It was nice to see such happy and helpful employees working for Delta after I have heard mixed reviews. Now to try and test out the 777 on a longer flight.
NOTE: Brandon covered the cost of this flight on his own and it was not paid for by Delta.
||This story written by…Brandon Farris, Correspondent. Brandon is an avid aviation geek based in Seattle. He got started in Photography and Reporting back in 2010. He loves to travel where ever he has to to cover the story and try to get the best darn shot possible.
@BrandonsBlog | RightStuffPhotography | Flickr
I couldn't get any good shots of my 777-200LR in Seattle or Dubai, so I am using this photo of another Emirates Boeing 777-300ER that I took from my aircraft.
EMIRATES AIRLINE REVIEW BASICS:
Airline: Emirates Airline
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200LR
Departed: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
Arrived: Dubai International Airport (DXB)
tops: Non-stop flight Class: Business Class
Seat: 8D to DXB (center, aisle, bulkhead) and 11A to SEA (window)
Length: About 14 hours
Cheers: Great combination of service and product.
Jeers: If you have wide shoulders, avoid the center seat — even in business class.
Overall: Emirates makes a 14 hour flight easy.
With the wood paneling, the Business Class really has a warm atmosphere. Notice the real flowers on the bulkhead.
THE FULL EMIRATES BUSINESS CLASS REVIEW:
On March 1st, Emirates started flying from Seattle to Dubai non-stop. I was invited to try out Emirates Business Class product on one of their recent flights (the airline covered the costs of the flight). This review will be a mixture of both my flight to and from Dubai — although I slept most of the way home.
The benefits of sitting in a premium cabin starts well before you get to the gate, but only once you arrive to the airport. With Emirates, the benefits of flying in Business Class starts at home. If you fly in either Business or First class you have access to a free chauffeured car within 60 miles of your arriving or departing airport. Unfortunately I did not do my homework before leaving and did not find out about that service until I was in Dubai (thanks Ben for the ride to the airport by the way).
However, I was able to make use of the service when coming home and it is always great having someone greeting you with your name on a sign that escorts you right to your front door in a Town Car. Having a Business Class ticket normally gives you access to a lounge at the airport and flying Emirates out of Seattle is no different. Passengers who have either first or business class tickets are able to use the new Club International lounge before their flight.
Emirate's Business Class seats offer quite a bit of room and one ginormous remote.
Since I stayed in the lounge for a while, my flight was almost fully loaded by the time I arrived at the gate and I was able to just walk on the plane. I messed up and forgot to check myself in online (I know, what kind of airline reporter am I?), so I ended up in a middle seat: 8E. Emirates has their 777-200LR configured in a 2-3-2 layout in business.
Even though the seats are larger, I was not looking forward to being in the center for 14 hours, but at least I wasn’t in economy. When I found my seat and sat down, I became a little worried — my shoulders touched both sides of the hard plastic walls — not good. Luckily for me the lovely (and smaller) Harriet Baskas, who was in my media travel group, had the aisle seat next to me and offered to swap. I gladly took her up on her offer and never had any problems with the seat width with the open aisle.
I think I would have managed just fine in the center seat, but if you have wider shoulders, I would surely advice checking in earlier to claim a non-center seat.
If you like technology and gadgets, you will love Emirates ice entertainment system. Each seat in first and business gets this large, removable remote.
Emirates entertainment system, called ice, was amazing, but a bit overwhelming. First off, you have three options on how to control the system: touching the screen, using the removable touch screen remote or use the smaller wired remote. When sitting in a bulkhead seat, even at 6’1″, I was unable to touch the screen. When I flew back to Seattle I was not at the bulkhead and was able to touch, but it wasn’t easy and I would imagine near impossible if you measuring in at less than 5’10”.
I am normally not very slow when it comes to technology or in-flight entertainment systems, but it seemed like I could only do some things with one remote and I had to do other things with the smaller one. I am sure I just wasn’t able to figure it out, but if I had trouble, I am sure most other people did too. It is worth trying to get past the control issues, because once you do, there are many options — 1200 to be exact.
Emirates, by far, has the largest selection of movies and entertainment I have experienced. After flying a total of 27 hours to Dubai and back, I still had not explored everything it had to offer. For a frequent flier on the airline, this would be a huge perk. No matter what class you are flying in, you get access to the same ice entertainment system (just not the fancy large remote if you are in economy).
Emirates configures their Boeing 777s with a 2-3-2 layout in Business Class. Notice how the windows have buttons to move the shades.
One on my favorite things, on systems that offer it, are the outside cameras you can access on your screen. The Emirates 777 has one facing forward and once facing straight down. Being in the center section during take off, it was handy watching the aircraft take off via the cameras. We took off to the north and just kept going — almost in a straight line over the north pole and back down to Dubai. Because of this, it never got dark outside.
Passengers also have the option to make a phone call at $5 per minute or send text messages for $1 per message. Every time I tried to access the service, it said it was unavailable, which was okay by me. I was planning on trying it out for the story, but was not motivated to ask one of the flight attendants, since I did not mind saving my money. Although Emirates does have Wi-Fi up and running on all their Airbus A380s, they do not have it on the rest of their main fleet (777, A330, A340) — yet.
When the lights go down, the stars come up. Emirates offers a special StarLight feature providing a great sleeping atmosphere.
The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner is touted as being unique for its ambient lighting and electronic sunshades. The Emirates product in business and in first is almost as close as you can get to the 787 interior.
First, they have the ambient lighting; going from a soft white/yellow to pinks to purple for the different light cycles. Then you have the windows up front that do not have manual shades, but two buttons that make the shades go up and down. The flight attendants have the ability to to put up or down all the shades, similar to the 787.
What Emirate’s 777 has that no 787 has (yet) are the stars that come out on the ceiling. Called StarLight, this amazing feature is unique to Emirates and really sets the mood. It is hard to describe, laying flat on a bed at 35,000 feet, opening your eyes and seeing stars.
It is too bad that Emirates doesn’t have any 787’s on order; it would be amazing what they could (and probably would) do with that cabin.
Steak, potatoes I cannot pronounce and red wine at 30,000 feet? Yea, I can handle that.
After settling in, it was time for meal service. My dinner started with a traditional mezze platter with hummus, smoky moutabal, muhammara, vine leaves and a spinach fatayer. Yea, I don’t know what half of that means either, but I can tell you that it was great. Then I was served roasted tomato and thyme soup and salad, followed by the main course of beef fillet with shallots and dauphionouse style potatoes. I decided to skip the dessert option and have a bit more red wine — nice call.
Economy class still provides large screens, amenities and food. Eh, I will stick to Business Class.
I feel very lucky that I get these opportunities to fly in the front of the plane on long flights, but there is no doubt that I have put my time in economy. During the ride over to Dubai, I made an effort to make a lap around the plane and check out economy. During my tour, most people were sleeping and there were so many feet, arms, shoulders, etc out in the aisle — it was a challenge to get through without bumping into people.
With the 3-4-3 layout in economy, it is a bit tight, but doable with the large screens and same ice entertainment system. That being said, I was happy to return to the business class cabin.
Business Class is nice, but First Class is better. Each seat is like its own cubicle, with closing doors.
When I complete flight reviews, I try to stay anonymous as long as I can. Typically a flight attendant will start asking questions (not suspiciously, but out of curiosity) when I am taking photos of my remote, food, etc. One of the benefits of being known as media is getting access to the aircraft that others might not.
On the flight back to Seattle, I was given the opportunity to spend some time up in First Class. Luckily for me, there were no passengers in the front cabin, which gave me time to check it out and talk to the flight crew. There are four crew members assigned to first class, including the pursuer. They normally work in shifts of two, but when there are no passengers in first, they are able to enjoy a relaxing flight and also will help the rest of the cabin crew, if needed.
Where business felt so much better than economy, similarly first class felt so much better than business. There are only eight first class suites, where each has a large seat, own mini-bar, large tv screen, similar controls to business class and doors that can be closed to give ultimate privacy.
Taking off from Dubai I could see the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in the background.
One indicator on how good a product is on an airline is how well I am able to sleep. The fact that I slept five hours to Dubai and about 10 hours back to Seattle is a positive sign for sure. Another indicator is how happy I am that I was able to sleep so much. In this case, I was upset that I slept so much and wasn’t able to enjoy my experience a bit better. Emirates has lived up to its reputation for providing a fabulous flying experience.
Next is to try and test out their newer business product on the Airbus A380 — stay tuned.
See all 52 photos from my Emirates Airline flight
MORE STORIES ON MY DUBAI TRIP:
* Photo Tour of Emirates Airline Crew Training in Dubai
* Airline Lounge Review: Club International at Sea-Tac Airport