Flying Business Class with Etihad
While I’ve flown business class domestically and on return trips from Latin America, February 2020 marked my first time using Etihad as well as my first business class flight overseas. It was for a four-day trip to Abu Dhabi, where I spent my time exploring malls, markets, museums, and the Rub’ al Khali or “empty quarter” desert.
I had this post scheduled for late March 0f 2020, and then COVID happened. International travel for tourism shut down and 23 months passed before I took another overseas trip.
Preparation for an overseas flight: February 2020 vs. 2022
Almost two years to the date of my first Abu Dhabi trip, I found myself again arriving at JFK for another four-day trip to the UAE. While I was happy to be traveling overseas again, I can’t say that the days leading up to the journey were as carefree as my last overseas trip (March 2020 to Malaysia and Indonesia).
Before COVID, my biggest international travel concerns were forgetting my passport and not getting stuck in traffic on the way to Newark or JFK Airports. Those were the only two obstacles to being able to board a plane. In 2022, I had the simple task of proving vaccination and the nail-biting pre-flight COVID test. The fact that you can get a last-minute rapid PCR test at JFK puts the negative COVID test just one step below having your passport.
As I had an evening flight, I scheduled an 8 AM RT-PCR test with Alliance Health. They have one testing center in Park Slope and another in Midtown. They charge for any test with results in less than 24 hours regardless of whether or not you have health insurance. I paid $150 for 6-8 hour results via email.
The Etihad First & Business Class Lounges
In February 2020, Etihad had a first and business class lounge at JFK Airport‘s Terminal 4. As of February 2022, they were sharing the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, also in Terminal 4. As of this writing, food at JFK is no longer self-serve buffet style. But you can order unlimited food and drinks from the menu. At AUD, it’s still buffet style, but it’s not self-serve.
The Etihad lounges in Abu Dhabi were open as of this writing. You can check here for a complete list of Etihad lounges.
Dining Options in Business Class
In Etihad’s business class cabin, dinner is served at least an hour after takeoff, while they serve breakfast roughly two hours before landing. Passengers place both orders after takeoff, and the flight attendants will ask if you want them to wake you up for breakfast. Between meals, you’ll have unlimited access to snacks and drinks. Click here for more on Etihad’s food and drink options.
Is it worth the additional expense to fly business class with Etihad?
This depends on your time and budget. Personally, I’m willing to pay up to triple for a bed IF the flight takes off at bedtime. And the Etihad flights from JFK to AUD do. No matter how many sleep aids you use, there’s no getting around the fact that there’s no such thing as a good night’s sleep in coach. The best case is that you’ll have an entire row to yourself and be able to lean against the window. The worst case is that you’ll have to move whenever someone else in your row needs to get up.
But the Etihad flights from AUD to JFK depart in the morning. So, unless you’ve pulled an all-nighter, how much will you really sleep between 8 AM and 9 PM? As someone who has done the morning route from the Middle East to New York several times, I can tell you that I get an hour or two at most. For me, that’s worth maybe an extra $100. In fact, I used an additional 10,000 American Airlines miles last month to fly business class from Bogota to JFK. But in my opinion, if you’re going to be spending the majority of the flight awake, it’s better to use your cash or miles for Wi-Fi and fly coach.
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