Slept a little better this morning, but due to being exhausted the night before I still got up pretty early (although with a solid seven hours of sleep this time) and still had a solid two hours before I had to head back to the airport. The nearest Starbucks I’d been able to find that was open by 7am was about 2km away, and although it was already 27C at this hour, it was a dry heat so I decided to start walking. After all, there would be coffee at the end of the rainbow!
On the way, I passed the suspiciously-named “Top Touch Men” salon. Awkward!
It was fortunately slightly overcast as I walked past the office towers of Abu Dhabi…it’s unheard of for me to walk 2km in these temps and barely break a sweat. I love low humidity!
Starbucks was surprisingly hopping at 7am, and I got a tasty grilled halloumi sandwich and my usual iced coffee. Apparently, however, I picked up Mohammad’s iced coffee (PBUH) instead…. I’m guessing when they can’t spell your name they just pick the most common name they can think of?
Back to the hotel, quick shower, felt good about myself for getting a nearly 5k walk in, and grabbed a Careem to the airport. It was only about 60% of the price from the night before, and it appears that’s because there’s a rather large airport departure surcharge.
Went straight through immigration and security which had absolutely zero line, so I had about 20 minutes in the lounge before heading to my gate to board the flight:
Golden rule of travel: no matter where you are, if it’s real champagne and it’s offered to you with no charge, you don’t say no:
The Abu Dhabi airport was guilty of major cultural appropriation with this Christmas display near my gate. I do love the architecture of this satellite terminal with the gaudy gold and green centrepiece:
Over to the gate area, which was very lightly filled, and they were just about to start boarding. Perfect timing!
Etihad flight 604
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (AUH) to Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB)
Depart 10:00, Arrive:16:40, flight time: 8:40
Airbus A330-200, Registration A6-EYR, Manufactured 2009, Seat 9K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 133,360
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,653,422
After boarding and finding my seat I know it wouldn’t be as nice as on the Dreamliner, but overall it seemed to be pretty close. Take close note on the bottom of the seat…and the indentations…
Seats in the middle section…they were still pretty spacious, although I wasn’t a big fan of how close and exposed they were to the aisle. I could just see people banging into you when sleeping.
Despite being a daytime flight, there was a nice duvet, amenity kit, and menu….overall I was still super impressed with Etihad!
Then, I sat down and had my pre-departure champagne. I would say the seat was like sitting on a brick, but it was much worse. There were clearly a couple of large metal bars in the cushion, and no matter how much I tried, it was still like sitting on a pile of rocks. Uneven, firm, and uncomfortable. I tried another seat, but same problem. In 2,000,000+ miles, these were literally the most uncomfortable seats I’ve ever sat in…even sitting on a pillow, you could still feel it. I don’t know what it was, but they were just awful.
The crew? Well, English wasn’t their strongest suit, and customer service definitely wasn’t. There was no real show of concern or care, and no solutions at all offered. I pretty much had no choice, so put down two pillows AND a blanket, and it was close to tolerable.
That said, at least there was champagne!
Menu was extremely similar to the day before (which was weird, because usually they plan for connections better than that) but that’s ok, there were still plenty of options I wanted to try! I saw the steak sandwich on the menu, and asked them to reserve one for a pre-arrival snack (since in my experience Etihad tends to run out of them) and ordered the smoked duck starter…which was very tasty.
Skipped the beef tenderloin as a main, and went with the Chicken Madbi, given my previous track record of amazing Chicken Biryani on Etihad. It did not disappoint, and was super flavourful and well-spiced. The meal was actually so tasty I almost forgot about how uncomfortable and numb my rear end was becoming…
Cheese plate was just so-so with only two kinds of cheese, but at least there was some chutney!
I flipped channels on the inflight entertainment, and noticed we were right over Somalia. I wasn’t aware that international airlines were ok with using somali airspace now! Usually they stay well off the coast, but apparently they’ve now decided it’s safe again.
Love the engine and wingtip shot over the Somali dessert:
I couldn’t resist finishing it off again with some ice cream and Amarula since it had been so delicious the day before:
Cruising along the Somali coast…
I tried a short nap, and the seat was actually much more comfortable fully reclined, so I spent about four hours laying down and watching my iPad by holding it above my head. Not the most convenient, but at least I wasn’t going numb any longer.
About 90 minutes before landing, I asked for my steak sandwich and a glass of wine, and it was a delicious pre-landing snack.
Ordered the almond and pistachio pudding with butterscotch sauce for a sweet, and with a glass of desert wine it was the perfect ending to a great flight. The crew did what they could to make up for the seat, and I have to say every other aspect of the flight was absolutely wonderful. That said, I promise I will never again fly an A330 with Etihad!
Landed a few minutes early in Johannesburg, absolutely no wait at all at immigration (maybe due to the fact we got a bus gate – I’m not sure) and was soon on the Gautrain to my usual hotel. They were fantastic, and sold out, and gave me a nice upgrade, so overall it was definitely a good day. Went for a short walk, and Christmas was in full swing in Johannesburg!
Also, Heineken, we can agree…assuming you’re not in North Korea…otherwise, we need to talk about how you’re counting countries!
Was fading pretty quickly, but decided to go out for some snacks and beers with a friend, and found this beer with the most amazing name ever:
That said, it was off to bed, and time to get some sleep so I could enjoy my first FULL day of vacation without any planes or flights!