Following my experience flying Etihad first class it was time for me to give their economy product a go. Etihad Airways (airline code: EY) had by far the cheapest available ticket from Brisbane to Singapore by about $250, and given my prior experiences with them in their premium cabin it was the perfect choice for me.
As I was traveling in economy, I decided to arrive at the airport three hours prior to departure to be able to get a better seat then the one I selected at the time of booking. The counters were practically deserted, and I was served without delay. I was able to secure a bulkhead seat (15A) at the front of the economy cabin. With the added bonus of having the aisle seat blocked next to me, this was shaping up to be a very good flight, even in economy.
Boarding commenced 40 minutes prior to departure, and the priority boarding rules were strictly enforced.
A6-EYI was the A330-200 assigned to my flight (EY473). Etihad operates the flight to Brisbane as an extension of its Abu Dhabi-Singapore route. Surprisingly, there was a large amount of connecting traffic ex-Brisbane onto the EY flight, in particular from Air New Zealand. I would estimate no less than 30% of the flight load would’ve been connecting passengers.
First impressions of the economy cabin was how fresh and stylish it looked. Etihad has recently been upgrading their economy product across the fleet, with the A330-200’s being the first to be upgraded. In my opinion, Etihad really has one of the best looking economy cabins out there, and the use of light browns coupled with the dark wood paneling and coffee creams makes for a very relaxed, yet elegant, impression of the cabin. It also makes it easy on the eyes, which is always welcome when traveling economy.
Arriving at my bulkhead seat, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of legroom. Once settled, I discovered that unfortunately with the upgrading of the economy cabins, Etihad has selected the cradle-style seats. These are the seats which have the base slide forward rather than the classic recline. I am really not a fan of these seats, as they tend to significantly reduce the already limited seat pitch. Thankfully I was in the bulkhead, but even so when I did recline the seat pitch reduction was quite evident. I’d hate to think what it would be like in a standard seat.
Approximately 30 minutes after departure the service commenced, with a drink run followed by lunch about 1.5 hours into the flight. There were three options for lunch (including one vegetarian). I elected to go with the Moroccan chicken.
The tray arrived ,along with a salmon salad and passionfruit dessert as well as the customary rubbery bread roll and metal cutlery. Whilst the overall quality of the catering was good, my biggest gripe would be the portion sizes, which were far too small for a main meal. Needless to say, I was glad I had a pizza in the terminal before departure.
Following lunch, it was time to explore the IFE, which Etihad has also been upgrading throughout their fleet. Whilst it is still the same E-Box platform, the responsiveness and variety of programming is far improved over the old version. The system also now includes the addition of live TV programs (CNN/BBC/EuroNews, etc.) streamed via satellite.
Not only has Etihad upgraded the IFE to include live TV, but it has also introduced on-board wifi capability. The service is available throughout the cruise stages of the flight and hosted by T-mobile. As I was not sure what to expect I selected the lower-priced two-hour option via my iPhone.
I was a bit worried to start off with, as the stability did not seem great; it took three attempts to connect and process my payment. Once I was up and running, though, the speed and reliability were good. It was more than sufficient for accessing emails, as well as Facebook (including image uploads) and other applications.
At two hours prior to landing it was time for the second service. The service was branded as “cafe service” and consisted of drinks along with a choice of either a chocolate or raspberry muffin. The muffin was very large which was welcome, given the small portions at lunch. All in all the cafe service was more than sufficient as a second service on this flight; there really is no justification for serving a second hot meal on an eight-hour daytime flight.
Arrival into Singapore was a nice 20 minutes ahead of schedule, even after 20 minutes of holding.
In terms of service from the crew, I was positively impressed. I was a bit hesitant given that I had only ever experienced Etihad crew in the premium cabins, but even so they were equally good and responsive. Even the customer service manager introduced himself personally and made sure I was taken extra special care of.
I would have no hesitation in flying Etihad economy again, as long as the flight did not exceed 10 hours and was primarily scheduled during the daytime.