Those highlights included a free hotel program for long layovers and a unique US immigration pre-clearance facility. The pièce de résistance was a morning visit to the incredible first class lounge, with a gourmet breakfast, great views of the ramp, and even a cigar bar.
Read on for a walkthrough of Etihad’s Abu Dhabi hub, and for tips on how to take advantage if you pass through the airport yourself.
The highlight of the show, the Etihad A380 – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
Ever since I booked my trip to attend the Dubai Airshow, I had been quietly hoping that Etihad would bring their flagship A380 to the static display. This was, however, a long shot, as Etihad only has four A380s in service; to take one out of service for an airshow is a big ask. Emirates had confirmed sometime out that they would have an A380 on static display, as did Qatar Airways, but these two models did not excite me nearly as much as the Etihad A380.
Boarding the Etihad A380 for the media tour – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
I could barely contain my excitement, when on the first day of the airshow, Etihad confirmed their A380 would make an appearance the following day! As the aircraft was only scheduled to remain at Al Maktoum Airport for a few hours before returning to Abu Dhabi, it was my first priority to go see this aircraft.
We met with the PR staff at the Etihad chalet and they were more than willing to give us a tour of the aircraft, even driving to the display from the chalet in custom-branded golf carts — talk about a VIP experience.
Cheers: New business cabin layout, very private feel, direct aisle access for each seat, in-flight internet access (for a fee) Jeers: Slightly narrow seat width for my liking Overall: Etihad continues to be one of the market leaders in their premium cabin product
Etihad Airbus A340-600 taking off – Photo: Jacob Pfleger
Recently, Etihad Airways had a very attractive sale on business class fares between its European gateways and Australia, including codeshares with Czech Airlines from Prague. This was simply too good an offer to pass up, being the AvGeek I am.
Gear retraction on Etihad A340 – Photo: Jacob Pfleger
As I booked via the Etihad website, I was able to partake in the online upgrade auction system. This program is a fairly recent initiative introduced by Etihad Airways, along with other carriers. The program sends out an email approximately a week before the flight, inviting business class passengers to bid on unsold seats in the first class cabin, as well as business class seats for those in economy. Bids for a first class upgrade ranged from $600-$1500 (USD) for the Abu Dhabi-Sydney flight. I bid $1000, as I was celebrating my birthday and thought it would make a nice present. Bidders are advised of the outcome 48 hours prior to the flight. The system is still in the trial stage; I only got an email T-24 hours, advising that my bid had been accepted.
Upon arriving at the combined first and business class terminal at Abu Dhabi, I was greeted by a porter who took care of my luggage and escorted me to the first class check-in area. Unlike conventional check-in desks, the first class area is set up like a classy hotel, where you take a seat at a desk with an agent who processes your booking. The whole process took no more than five minutes and I was on my way to the first class lounge.
An Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 tail at Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH). Image from AUH.
This post was written by Steve Fulton, Technical Fellow at GE Aviation for AirlineReporter.com. Steve has been nuts about airplanes for as long as he can remember, working in high school in the antique airplane restoration business and trading work time for flying time in a PT-17 Stearman and Piper J-3 Cub. As a Technical Fellow, Steve spends his time meeting with GE customers to interpret their needs and translate that into innovative products and services, and he is continually seeking new ways to improve the air transportation industry.
It isn’t your imagination: more people are flying than ever before. The FAA predicts that air travel in the U.S. alone will double in the next 20 years, and will reach one billion passengers by 2021. Unfortunately, the finite amount of airspace to handle all of this air traffic is not being used as efficiently as current technology and methods would allow.
In an effort to improve this situation, I have spent the past 20 years working to accelerate the global adoption of a new air travel system that is characterized by predictability. This system, which I have likened to an interstate highway system in the sky, will help make air travel more efficient, providing numerous time, cost and environmental benefits. In fact, the impact of deploying this system at 46 regional airports across the United States could conservatively save an estimated 12.9 million gallons of gas and reduce 274.6 million pounds of CO2 emissions, not to mention slice off two years of time spent in the air.
In addition to allowing flights to depart precisely on time by better managing the flow of air traffic in and out of airports, highways in the sky will also allow aircraft to fly more accurate trajectories by shifting from ground-based navigational aids to a satellite-based system. Because pilots are no longer reliant on ground-based aids, it is now easier to maneuver aircraft in constrained mountainous regions, improving access to remote locations and increasing global connectivity.
Each country, airline and route has its own unique infrastructure, and therefore requires a specialized approach when working to solve the global airspace congestion issue. The work being done at Abu Dhabi International Airport, for examplewhere Airbus is collaborating with Etihad Airways to roll out optimized trajectories that shorten the approach paths to the runwayis different from the work in the mountainous airspace between Cusco and Lima. It is important to find a solution that is tailored to the distinctive needs of one challenge, while assuring its interoperability with other air traffic management systems on a regional and worldwide scale.
Making more efficient approaches can save time, money and the environment. Image from GE.
A significant effort along these lines is SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research), a collaborative initiative to reform the European airspace and unite all of the varying systems of its countries under a singular air traffic management program. Last month I attended CANSO’s World ATM Congress, where the consistent theme was enhancing the performance of airspace and doing so by all stakeholders working together. CANSO is committed to collaborating with its partners and stakeholders and is working to make sure all of the talk and proposals of the event are converted into actions and deliverables. A good example of this is CANSO’s commitment to work with IATA and its member airlines on the implementation of ICAO’s System Block Upgrades on the aircraft, further rollout of Performance-based Navigation and the implementation of ADS-B worldwide. These are important elements necessary for deployment of highways in the sky across the globe.
Ultimately, it is a puzzle with many unique and intricate pieces, and many players working to fit them together. Thanks to David’s invitation to allow me to speak to the passionate, informed community that he has worked to cultivate, in my coming posts I hope to discuss some of the regional efforts to implement a revolutionary technology that is improving the way we travel. I hope to provide informative and interesting insight into how the aviation industry is working together to accommodate the rising demand in air travel, and ensuring sustainable growth.