From the day Etihad was launched in 2003 it was on a mission to become one of the great global carriers and it has succeeded. Its rapid growth has been the fastest in aviation history and with more than 100 aircraft orders in the pipeline there is more expansion to come. Etihad is the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates and operates from the country’s capital Abu Dhabi. It was undoubtedly inspired by the runaway success of Dubai’s Emirates which in so many ways it is similar to. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan the Emir of Abu Dhabi heads the airline but day to day control is vested in Australian James Hogan. Etihad’s growth has been spectacular with the multi award winning airline a real threat to staid legacy carriers who are moving downmarket. In 2011 Etihad formed a mutually beneficial partnership with Virgin Australia causing Qantas to have to beg Emirates for a similar deal. Etihad also has an extensive freight subsidiary called Eithad Crystal Cargo. Etihad, is an Arabic word that means United.
Etihad provides excellent on-board service for all passengers in all classes. The airline recruits multi lingual cosmopolitan under 30 year olds from around the world and being selected to work for Etihad is quite an achievement. Staff are thrilled to be working for such a prestigious airline and show it by their diligence, smiles and service excellence. Female crew wear an exotic Arabian inspired uniform with a chic ‘I dream of Jeanie’ hat. Male crew are dressed in a smart designer suit. Service is more formal than familiar.
Etihad’s network is rapidly expanding and as new aircraft roll off the assembly line, new routes are opening. The airline’s network does far more than link Abu Dhabi to the world, it provides often the best links from one continent to another. They cover the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe extensively and their network growth in Australia is making their flag carrier, Qantas, nervous. Etihad provide far better links to Europe for example than they can match. Etihad is expanding in the American continuents with their first service to New York now joined with routes flying to Sao Paulo, Chicago, Washington and Toronto.
Many first time passengers are attracted to the airline by their competitive airfares and simply stunned at how wonderful their flight was. While the airline is seldom the cheapest, due to the pleasantness of an Etihad flight, it presents excellent value for money. Premium classes are often cheaper than rivals, while the service is typically far better. The airline promotes Abu Dhabi stopovers and also the airline operates its own complementary Luxury Coach service for passengers travelling to Dubai.
While Legacy airlines cut catering or shrink meal sizes, Etihad are heading in quite the opposite direction. Etihad provides its passengers some of the best dining in the sky, especially for its premium passengers. Diamond First and Pearl Business Zone (Class) passengers enjoy an exquisite selection of the finish gourmet cuisine while Coral Economy passengers receive attractively presented generous servings. Cutlery throughout the airline is unique and quirky. Menu’s match the routes and wines complement each meal perfectly.
Etihad passengers are spoilt for choices with their ‘E-box’ video on demand entertainment channel. Premium passengers view E-box from some of the movable largest screens in aviation today with noise cancelling headphones, while budget travellers have large seat back units. All long distance planes have these units as well as some of their shorter distance smaller aircraft. Movies and audio channels are in a variety of languages; enough to entertain the world. E-box is a tremendous way to catch up on some recent releases you might have missed.
The Etihad experience begins long before you take your seat. Premium passengers can be picked up by an Etihad limousine while economy passengers benefit from polite and seamless check-in anywhere in the world. Check-in staff are helpful, efficient and nicely attired and Etihad check-in counters are some of the neatest and most sophisticated in aviation. The airline literally rolls out the Red Carpet for its passengers! Baggage transfers in Abu Dhabi are reliable and luggage missing flights is practically unheard of.
Etihad certainly ‘wow’ their premium passengers who they are determined to satisfy. The airlines First Class is called Diamond Zone while its Business Class is called Pearl Zone. Larger aircraft have a sophisticated salon on board the plane at the front where passengers can recline in a circular sofa and chat with others while their seats are spacious and beautifully appointed. The airlines Lounges have an unmistakable touch of European elegance about them. Dining rival many five star restaurants. It is no surprise the airline was awarded ‘World’s Best First Class’ by Skytrax in 2010.
Etihad provide a superior Economy product than most competitors, especially legacy European, Asian and Australian airlines. The airport experience is pleasant, aircraft interiors are warm and inviting, staff are pleasant and helpful and the meal and entertainment product is excellent. The airline is also punctual, has excellent connections and transfers luggage more reliably than most. An Etihad Economy experience is a good way to start a holiday.
Etihad does not belong to any of the global airline alliances, but their Etihad Guest Miles loyalty scheme is independently partnered to dozens of other airlines and travel industry service providers so is very useful wherever you are in the world. The airline is seriously attempting to convert others, so their scheme is more generous than most, yet in keeping with all programmes considerable travel needs to occur before benefits are seen.
Etihad has an enviable reputation and is one of the most sought after airlines to work for. All staff wear their uniform with pride and will go the extra mile for both customers and the company. The company has a youthful and energetic outlook and there is no sign of a ‘them and us’ attitude between management and front line staff. Indeed, management appreciate their staff reward them above average pay and conditions. Because the airline is based in the United Arab Emirates, it operates without unions or restrictive employment practices, which would be illegal in the US or Europe. The airline recognises and rewards talent within its ranks.
Etihad’s fleet is brand spanking new and it employs many of the best pilots in the sky today. On top of that Etihad’s engineering facilities in Abu Dhabi are world class and are under no pressure to cut costs by cutting corners. Hence the airline has operated without any significant incident. It did suffer the embarrassment of a $250 million Airbus A340 being to written off before delivery in 2007 when it rolled into a fence. The almost comic episode had nothing to do with Etihad, yet was painted in their colours.
It’s easy to see why Etihad is the world’s fasting growing airline with its excellent service at a reasonable price.
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