Some thoughts about travelling in business class

9/19/2015 04:41:00 pm

When we fly on staff travel, I'm happy to get on the plane. Of course, I bitch a lot when we don't get seats in business class, but ultimately any seat will do. In some ways economy is better, because then I get to complain about it for days afterward, and I love complaining, so it's win-win all around.

The problem with staff travel though, especially for international travel, is that I find it incredibly stressful and usually spend the last week of any holiday obsessively checking to see how many seats are available, calculating our odds of getting on, and building contingency re-routes in my head in case this flight or that one is full. I panic about weather too. There's nothing quite like a typhoon forecast to make me absolutely sure that we're about to get stranded somewhere and I will, as a result of stranding, get fired.

Bearing the above in mind, we decided to buy real tickets home from Europe. Technically it was our honeymoon, so we decided to go for business class.

When you have paid full price for the ticket, expectations are also full, and both of us were pretty underwhelmed by Etihad. A lot of this is going to come across as entitled whining, but here's the thing: the point of flying business is that you pay a tonne of money for a level of service and comfort. I expect to get what I pay for, therefore I would never make these kinds of complaints if I were flying on a low cost carrier, or in economy. In addition, Etihad is pitching itself as the premium middle-eastern carrier, so you would expect that the hype would live up to reality, for the most part.

So, a few thoughts on our Etihad experience, and some comparisons...
  • The cabin crew were thin on the ground, good at avoiding eye contact, and kind of mean. On Emirates, the crew assigned to your section come and introduce themselves by name, ask if you need help with the seat, take your food order, get you a drink, and generally dote on you. I'm still kind of in love with one called Bonnie, from a flight between Christchurch and Sydney 3 years ago... that's how good they are. 
  • We were delayed on the ground for 2 hours due to an air traffic control issue, and although the pilot's increasingly pissed off PA's blaming the Sultanate of Oman were pretty funny, it wasn't until we'd been sitting there for an hour already that the crew came around with a second drink. There were lots of small things like this with the cabin crew, for example forgetting to bring things (drinks, towels), and as I say, it was pretty hard to catch someone's eye. The small things make a difference, you know? On Emirates, Sydney - Dubai, we got hot towels at least 5 times, maybe it was 6, and they smelled soooo good. I love hot towels so much. On Etihad, Abu Dhabi-Sydney,  I got one, Rob got none, and that was it. 
  • The food was good, buuuut my seat also had an issue when the table got stuck fully inside the seat console, meaning that I had no table for the entire flight. The crew tried to get the table unstuck, but they gave up pretty quickly because they thought it was disturbing the lady in the seat behind me. She was wearing more gold jewellery than I was and her hair was much bigger, therefore it was clear to the flight attendants that her comfort was more important. I felt like I didn't matter and because I am paranoid and anxious, it was upsetting. Also, I had to eat hunched over my lap. Sad face. I have seen the same thing happen on an Emirates flight, and they bent over backwards to make the guy happy, including offering to move him to a fully functional seat. I don't think there were any other seats available on our flight, but they could have actually told me that.... To make it up to me, I got a 'special' dessert from first class. It was the same as the dessert in business class, except it came in a cocktail glass instead of a plate. And it didn't remedy the fact that I had no table from which to eat said dessert. 
  • I got snapped at when I asked if I could have breakfast, because two hours earlier when asked initially, I hadn't thought I would want anything to eat. I changed my mind and the verbatim response I got from the scary British flight attendant was, " [eye roll/hmmpf] it will be AT LEAST 45 minutes." I also got reminded that I could go to the bar and get some fruit, but you know... I didn't want to go to the bar. 
  • The contents of Etihad amenities kit is so, so poor (although the bag is nice). A lip balm and a moisturiser in a ziplock bag? Boo. 
  • The bathroom was really gross by about the 2 hour mark, with a liquid of indeterminate and suspect origin coating the floor. It did get cleaned, but it wasn't re-stocked with products and was generally a bit sad. Again, compared to Emirates this was surprising, because the bathrooms are cleaned throughout the flight, and are full of toiletries of many types. I could seriously waste half an hour on an Emirates flight just chilling in the toilet spraying myself with Bvlgari perfume and moisturising. Treat yo self. 
  • We had arranged the car service to pick us up in Lake Como and in Sydney.  My mother was travelling with us, but on an economy ticket. There was no issue with out pick up on Como, but on arrival in Sydney, the driver refused to wait for my mother because she was an economy passenger. I was so annoyed, because it is not clear in either the Etihad or Virgin terms that this is an issue (we were booked on a Virgin codeshare). After 24 hours of travelling, and having had a pretty ordinary flight, this was just the icing on the cake (especially because, like me, Jenny also loves to complain...)
At any rate, I made a complaint and after looking into my frequent flyer status (lowest possible) and number of flights ever flown with Etihad (none previously) they obviously decided they had no fucks to give, and I got a shitty response that didn't even address my actual comments.

Eh, whatever, the amenities kit on Emirates is much better anyway and I was totally weirded out by the travel prayer broadcast over the PA prior to takeoff. I'd love to know where Etihad's claim that it has the best cabin crew, or the best airline or something (I can't remember, even though I heard it in the PA about 4 times) comes from, since they've withdrawn from Skytrax, because they disagreed with the rating system (presumably because they didn't like being rated below Qatar and Emirates).
I just realised that the Etihad products are Korres... previously I had thought they were Kora, and Miranda Kerr annoys me a lot, so I may have been unreasonably biased. Emirates is still better though. 

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