Boarding for our flight was called rather earlier than I had expected and immediately it became apparent why.
We were scheduled to leave from a bus gate for our departure on one of Etihad’s regional A320s to Malé.
In stark contrast to Etihad’s regional competitor Qatar, there was no separate priority bus for Business Class passengers, we were crammed in like weekday commuters on the Yamanote circle line, with temperatures outside north of 35 degrees. Thankfully, the aircon was working!
Still I cant deny it it, I do love bus gates when it’s sunny and humid outside. There’s an undeniable holiday feeling about the whole process when the weather cooperates.
We were warmly greeted at the top of the stairs by two smiling FAs, although we were left to find our seats ourselves. I guess this is standard practice when all pax are boarding at once via the stairs.
The business cabin went out with 6/8 seats taken but all other pax arrived well after us on a second bus. I guess they liked the Business Class lounge more than we did!
I wasn’t too bothered about somebody reclining into my space as I was planning to recline and sleep as much as possible anyway. The barrier between the economy and business cabins meant that I wouldn’t need to worry about my reclining bothering anybody else.
Breakfast was brought out very quickly, which I guess is to be expected when there are only 6 passengers to serve. Despite the fact that the meals were presented on trays, I think Etihad did quite well with the presentation. Salt and pepper pots, matching (full sized) cutlery and side plates. A proper breadbasket. All notable and quite a departure from what I’m used to in intra-European business class.
With a little over 3 hours to go before landing I donned the eye mask handed out on this short flight and passed out until we were half an hour from landing.
I awoke to find the cabin crew handing these Fast Track cards out. They were utterly unnecessary, as it transpires, but a nice gesture nonetheless.
With ten minutes to go until landing I started to see some pretty spectacular sights out of window. After months of drooling over the unbelievable looking resorts of the Maldives, I was finally seeing those blues for myself and they were just as beautiful in reality. Usually I develop a sense of ennui at the end of a flight, always wishing it would go on for a little longer. Not here. I’ve never been so excited to land. The Conrad was now only a single seaplane ride away!
Whilst Etihad’s ground services and lounge are a notch behind Qatar, the overall Premium passenger experience on their short haul network is very good.
The food and beverage are as good as you could hope for (with the exception of that heinous hash brown) and the presentation and service were extremely polished. The seats felt really hard to me but I still managed to get a decent sleep. If you’re tired you won’t struggle. If you want to see what this product is like later in the day, when lounging throughout the flight, you’ll have to stay tuned for the return journey…