Travel days. They are definitely my least favorite part of vacationing. Whether driving or flying, there’s just so much sitting and waiting a person can take. My last trip was to India, which involved 27 hours of traveling including 20 hours of flying, 5 hours of layovers, and 2 hours of driving. Until we can just snap our fingers and magically transport ourselves to faraway places, I guess we’ll just have to come up with ways to make our travel days more enjoyable, or at least less miserable.
Enter Etihad Airways, the official airline of the United Arab Emirates. I flew Etihad from New York to the UAE to India, and back again, and I can say without a doubt they really succeeded in making my travel days more enjoyable. Believe it or not, this airline actually turned my flight into more of an experience than a hassle. I know it’s difficult to comprehend, but keep reading to find out why they’re my new favorite airline.
1. Free Bags
You can check two bags for free, which greatly opens up the overhead storage compartments for those who carry on their luggage or just don’t want a bag between their feet. This really improves the comfort of flying when you can use all of the room under the seat in front of you to stretch your legs out – especially on an overnight flight.
The food aboard Etihad is actually good, and includes three choices of full, hot meals for long flights. Before take-off the flight attendants pass out menus that display the meal choices, snacks, as well as a hefty beverage selection. The food service carts come around every couple of hours with a meal or snack, so you definitely won’t go hungry.
Along with the normal beverage selection of coffee, soda, and water you can also get alcohol! Etihad offers wine, beer and spirits completely gratis. Caveat: Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you should load up. The combination of flying and alcohol can severely dehydrate your body, so set a limit and drink plenty of water.
Etihad offers in-flight entertainment by means of personal screens in every head rest. They are preloaded with new as well as classic movies, television shows, books, and games in a variety of genres. There was enough on the entertainment portal to keep me busy for days. If that’s not enough, they offer charging stations for your phones/tablets so you can play your own games or movies for the entire flight without fear of a dead battery.
Etihad is known for their safety. In fact, they are ranked 8th in JACDEC’s (Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Center’s) airline safety ranking for 2016. Also, Airlineratings.com places Etihad in the top 20 of their world’s safest airlines rankings. Both companies are independent, and their rankings are based on data from hundreds of airlines.
6. Extra Room
To recline or not to recline? That’s a hotly debated topic in my household and with many other travelers. If you recline, then you’ll be glad to hear Etihad economy seats recline a full 6 inches, which is much further than a typical domestic flight in the States. However, no matter what your stance on reclining is, we can all agree that more leg room is better, and Etihad offers seats with a pitch (space between seat rows) of 32-34 inches versus the typical 30-31 inches.
Flying with Etihad feels like a luxury experience with the excellent customer service and the unique amenities. Their flight attendants are dressed impeccably, complete with hats and gloves, which reminds me of the posh flying era of the 1950’s. And, the music playing while embarking and disembarking is light and whimsical. Flying with them just feels fun.
8. Quiet Cabins
For an overnight flight the quiet cabins are a blessing. I was able to sleep without noise cancelling headphones or even earplugs. They have specially designed seats that are extremely comfortable and even include a headrest that prevents your head from bobbing all over the place. It provided me with the best ever night of sleep on an airplane.
Many of Etihad’s flights have layovers in the United Arab Emirates, so take advantage of this and sneak in a couple of days in Dubai. It’s the new hot place to vacation and you definitely won’t regret it.
Etihad Airways is subsidized by the UAE government, so consumers get a better price on flights when compared to other airlines flying the same routes. They’re not considered a budget airline, but you get much more for your money when flying with them.
Each guest receives an amenity bag
Keep in mind all of the above features apply to the cheapest economy tickets. If you’re willing and able to pay for the business or first class seats, the experience will be well beyond anything I’ve described here. Because these business and first class seats are presumably the main money-makers on Etihad, the economy section on all of my flights was not full, while the more expensive seats probably were. (I don’t know for sure because I’m way too poor to even set foot up there, but there were an awful lot of people piling into the top floor of the double decker planes.)
Because the flights weren’t full, my wife and I were able to book 2 seats in the middle section and have access to all 4 seats since no one was sitting beside us. I was able to lie flat and get really comfortable – maybe a little too comfortable!
In all, I would definitely fly Etihad again and not hesitate to recommend them. Happy flying!
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