We left the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia at 11.30am yesterday, two and a half hours later, our Virgin Australia Plane touched down in Melbourne. The first leg of journey was over, and after a rough landing, we had barely made a dent in the epic long haul journey from Australia to Ireland. Anyone who’s ever flown Australia to anywhere will tell you, it’s a bloody long way. It’s one of the reasons why we wanted to take the kids to Europe. There’s no such thing as a quick flight from Australia. Unlike the jet-setting Europeans, it can take twelve hours in the air (especially from Adelaide) to even leave our own country. This journey involved 3 planes, 25 hours in the air, and 36 hours total transit time. We chose to fly with a Virgin / Etihad Airlines alliance after hearing great things about their customer service, including value for money, and an “Air-nanny” for children. So how do we rate Etihad? Are the reviews correct?
Our two longest legs were 14.5 and 8 hours in the air respectively, so we had more than enough time to get a feel for their service. Our flights were among the cheaper of the big airlines, but not so cheap that we’d have ridiculous waits in out of the way airports. For what we paid (AU$4000 for the four of us one way) we do believe that Etihad offered value for money. The planes were well kept, had adequate entertainment systems, and good meal options. One toilet had not been cleaned adequately before take-off from Abu Dhabi and was a bit smelly, but other than that one anomaly, I could not fault Etihad’s cleanliness or presentation. Staff, both on and off the plane, were friendly, helpful always on hand for our needs. As a side note, I can highly recommend the vegetarian/vegan pre-ordered menu. Compared to the regular meals, I noticed that they were a little lighter in the tummy than some of the Simon and the kid’s meat options, which after 25 hours of sitting can make you feel like an Oompa Loompa. I enjoyed yummy salads, fruit and vege dishes that would be equally enjoyable to a meat eater who doesn’t want that weighed down feeling.
Our kids are not babies, Lucy at 12 travelled on an adult fair, and Oscar is 7. In our experience, the “Air-nanny” was just one friendly member of the crew, whose job it was to hand out colouring books to the kids, and make them feel welcome with a few jokes and a friendly smile – but didn’t all crew members do that before? Whilst it did not directly affect us, we did witness one event on our overnight 14.5 hour flight that pretty much showed up the “Air-nanny” service as near to useless. An Irish mum was on her way back to Dublin, flying solo with two children, maybe 12 months and 30 months old. In the middle of the night, the 30 month old vomited all over herself, the chair and the floor. The nanny’s contribution to the situation was… get this… to spray air-freshener. No kidding. Solo Mumma had the 12 month old in a carrier on her chest, (who of course woke up and began crying) whilst she used her own precious stash of baby wipes to clean up the mess. All the while, another female traveller helped to clean up and change the distressed vomit covered toddler. In fact “Air-nanny” was so helpful that she insisted on filling out a questionnaire to rule out Ebola whilst Solo Mumma was rocking and settling both children back to sleep. In short, great marketing idea, but not a deal clinching service.
Abu Dhabi Airport
If you’re crossing the planet like we did, and flying Etihad, then a stop in Abu Dhabi Airport is part of the journey. This airport is HUGE, and there is lots of work happening right now to make it even bigger. Before the trip, I had read lots of bad reviews about Abu Dhabi Airport. Most reviewers complained about crowds, slow security lines, and a lack of chairs in the waiting areas. Honestly, we didn’t really encounter any of these problems, but perhaps we were just lucky. Our connecting planes were in the same terminal, but even that involved a lot of walking and a bus ride from the gate to the plane. Our connection was 2 hours, and we made it easily, but if you don’t want to rush, I wouldn’t recommend less. Gates and directions are clearly marked in both English and Arabic and friendly English speaking airport staff approached us to offer directions.
The Final Verdict
Overall we found flying with Etihad to be a very good experience. We were very impressed with the service and professionalism of staff, with the exception of the “Air-nanny” which seemed a bit of a gimmick. Abu Dhabi Airport was a smooth transfer, and we would recommend and use both Etihad and the airport again. Sure, after 36 hours in transit we felt like the walking dead upon arrival in Dublin, Ireland, but I don’t think that situation could have been improved if we had of flown in economy with any other airline. We have flown before with Etihad’s more expensive competitors, and do not believe there is enough difference to justify the additional cost.
This review of our experience flying long haul, Australia to Ireland with Etihad Airlines is entirely Our Global Adventure’s opinions and is NOT a sponsored post.
Next up… First Impressions of Ireland.