For a recent trip back home to India for a wedding, I was flying Etihad. Etihad has been the airline I have flown since I began college in 2016 and I have since been able to earn gold status with their Etihad Guest program. For an overview of the program, how to earn status, and the benefits at each tier level, check out our overview of Etihad Guest here.
Check-in and Security
Etihad operates out of Terminal 4 at JFK, with two daily flights. Both flights are on the A380, the first is at 2:00 PM and the second is at 10:00 PM. For this departure, I was on the 2:00 PM flight out, which arrives at 11:45 AM local time in Abu Dhabi. However, note that the 10:00 PM flight on Tuesdays is operated by a 777-300ER. This means that the hard product in all three classes is different and there is no Residence.
I got to the airport around 12:00 PM and went to the business class check-in line, which I am able to use while traveling economy because of my Etihad Guest Gold membership. I was in line for a few minutes and was helped quickly after arriving at the desk. It was a pretty quick process and I was on my way. I asked about an upgrade and was told that the price would be $2,200 – no thank you.
After check-in, I made my way to the mess that is Terminal 4 security check. After waiting in a long and winding line for 15-20 minutes, I was through security. This is an extremely busy time at JFK Terminal 4 and the line is usually very long. If you are trying to maximize time in a lounge, I would recommend getting there earlier than you usually do. I actually got to the airport later than I was hoping and felt the impact of that first hand.
I was greeted at the lounge by an agent who checked my boarding pass and welcomed me to the lounge. The lounge was fairly busy, but I had no trouble finding a seat that I wanted.
The lounge has pretty decent food offerings, but they are not extensive. They have a section for both hot and cold dishes and the menu that is offered in the dining area is just about the same as what is being offered in the hot buffet area. The only difference that I saw was the addition of samosas and soup. Interestingly enough, I saw a guest request the samosas to his seat, which was not in the dining area, and the staff told him he would have to be in the dining area. With a little bit of convincing, they agreed to serve him at his seat.
As you’ll see in the pictures below, this is what was offered in the lounge:
- Lamb Kofta
- Grilled Tomatoes, Peppers, and Onions
- Roasted Chicken Thigh
- Brussel sprouts, Winter squash, and Parsnips
- Vegetable Dal
- Basmati Rice
- Assorted cheeses
- With crackers, fig spread, and dates
- Assorted Fruits
- Lemon Tart
- Chocolate Mousse
- Two Different Types of Salad
They also had pita bread, bread rolls, and butter on offer.
The lounge has a self-serve drinks section and in another area, there is a manned bar. The self-serve drink section has Nicolas Feuillatte champagne on offer, with a few different wines. Below that there are a few coolers with soft drinks, beers (Corona, Heineken, etc), and normal and sparkling water. They also have a coffee machine and a selection of teas if you want a bit of a caffeine boost before the flight.
As a vegetarian, I did not have that many options so I decided to make myself a small sandwich using the cheese, bread rolls, and peppers and onions. I was not looking for a full meal because I planned on picking some food up before the flight. I would like to see Etihad offer maybe one more vegetarian option here, especially because as a feeder into India, Etihad gets a lot of vegetarian travelers. I also decided to try the hummus with pita bread and the hummus was excellent.
While I’ve only visited Etihad’s JFK lounge since late 2017 (after they started cost-cutting), I’ve always found the lounge to be fine. Even though I got to the lounge pretty late, I didn’t have a problem finding a seat. There is fair amount of seating, but the lounge can and does often get crowded, so if you are looking for a particular seat I suggest arriving earlier rather than later. There were seats in front of the windows which gave great views of the tarmac, especially of planes taking off – which was exciting for the avgeek in me. There were a row of seats behind these as well. There were couches further back that were ideal for groups and next to the buffet area there was seating for dining. There were also plenty of seats open at the bar.
In terms of amenities, the lounge does offer showers and a business center, but that is about it. As opposed to Etihad’s London lounge which once had a Six Senses Spa, JFK’s lounge never did, and given the cost-cutting, I am sure there aren’t plans to add one anytime soon. However, you can now pay to use the Residence Lounge at JFK for $40 on a first come, first serve basis. I am not sure about the specifics, but for a family/group of 4-5, that could be an excellent purchase.
Overall, I thought this lounge was okay. It certainly is not like Etihad’s lounges in Abu Dhabi and from what I have read, is a skeleton of what it used to be. I will say that as someone who has spent an equal amount of time outside this lounge waiting for the same flight, the lounge is a much more comfortable place to spend a few hours than Terminal 4. However, Terminal 4 does have quite a few dining options, including Shake Shack, Panda Express, McDonalds, and much more. If you do not find what you want in the lounge, you will probably find something in the terminal. For a detailed map of the terminal and everything it has to offer, click here.
I left the lounge around 1:15 for my 2:00 PM flight. On my way out the attendant at the front desk was nice enough to inform me that boarding had not started yet. However, with my Etihad gold status, I was able to board the flight with business and first class passengers. Since Etihad flies the A380 to New York, the entire lower deck is economy and overhead bin space fills up quickly on this flight. Being able to board early is one of the most valuable benefits to me as a gold member because it allows me the security of knowing that I will have space for my bag. Additionally, I like to change my clothes once I am on a flight, especially on one as long as this. After boarding, I am able to change and settle into my seat before many passengers have even boarded. This allows my flight to start much more comfortably than it may otherwise.
Personally, I am a big fan of Etihad’s seat on their A380 (which can also be found on their 787 Dreamliners). Etihad calls it their “Economy Smart Seat” and I am sure this has something to do with the headrest, which you can see is made to help you sleep a little more comfortably, perhaps without the chance of falling asleep on your neighbor’s shoulder. You can see in the picture below that these seats are starting to show their age with a little bit of wear and tear. I also find the seat fairly spacious, Etihad does not mention the seat pitch on their website, but Google Flights has it at 31 inches. I find there to be an adequate amount of legroom, but if there is something under your seat, it can get a little tight. However, note that I am on the shorter side so legroom in economy generally is not as much of a problem for me. The tray table is pretty sturdy and can easily hold the weight of a laptop. I usually watch something while I eat and I have found that it is able to hold the weight of a tray and the laptop with no problems. However, it becomes hard to work on a laptop if the person in front of you reclines their seat. Unless you have a smaller laptop, you might have to angle the laptop to be able to work properly. I got lucky on this flight and we had a pretty light load out of New York. I was in seat 50D as I prefer aisle seats and the two seats next to me were empty. This gave both me and the person on the other end of the 4 seats, an extra seat each. Overall, I think that this is a seat that is competitive on this route. I prefer this economy seat to the one Emirates offers on their JFK – DXB route and far prefer to it Air India’s economy seat they fly from JFK to DEL and EWR to BOM on their 777s.
Waiting at my seat were a blanket and pillow, along with headphones in the seat back pocket.
You can see the wear on the seat after a few years of being in use.
Etihad offers an 11-inch touchscreen on each seatback on this flight, that I have found to be intuitive, responsive, and pretty high quality. The remote is right under the TV and it doubles as a second mini screen. I have found this to be useful when wanting to view the cameras as you can be viewing two different cameras at the same time, which you can see below. You are also able to “send” whatever you are viewing on the remote to the TV, which I have found to be useful in situations and is a nice little feature.
Content-wise, I have never found it hard to find something to watch on Etihad’s entertainment system, which they call “E-Box”. While it isn’t as extensive as Emirates’ ICE system, it has quite a bit of content and has something for everyone. I enjoyed watching Rush Hour, it was a nice throwback movie to watch while eating.
One aspect of Etihad’s entertainment system which I don’t enjoy is the ads that they play before each video. You do have the ability to skip them, but it is usually a few minutes of ads which gets annoying.
Etihad does offer Wi-Fi on this flight and the pricing is as follows:
- $4.95 for 30MB
- $11.95 for 90MB
- $19.95 for 180MB
I know Etihad used to offer Wi-Fi on a timed basis, with no data caps. Although the cheapest option used to be $11.95 for two hours, this does reflect an overall increase in price as it is a lot easier to use up 30MB in less than two hours. Personally, I usually like to use flights as an opportunity to disconnect so I do not purchase Wi-Fi. If you have an American Express Platinum card you can use your Boingo Preferred Plan with Etihad’s wifi for the entire flight. Since I was traveling during the school year, I was able to get a lot of work done using the wi-fi. The speeds were not terrible, but there were portions of the flight where it did not work at all. Additionally, at times it would disconnect by itself and I would not be able to get the log-in page back up without a few tries.
Etihad’s food offerings have always been pretty standard and never been anything super special. Etihad does offer a range of special meals; you can find a full list here.
I have gone with the Vegetarian Oriental Meal a few times while flying Etihad and Emirates and I have found that it is usually a hit or miss, but I almost always go with the Asian Vegetarian Meal (AVML)which I find Etihad (as well as the other Middle Eastern carriers) does quite well. I will add though that AVML counts as a special meal request and as a result, can hinder chances at an upgrade if you are someone with status hoping to score an upgrade. On this flight, Etihad almost always has an Asian Vegetarian option as their vegetarian choice so not submitting a special meal request could be helpful.
This flight sees a few different meal services. Pretty soon after takeoff, they begin the lunch service. As a vegetarian, I went with the paneer makhani, with rice and dal. There was a side salad, dessert, and a roll of bread with butter. I am a pretty big fan of paneer makhani and even though the food wasn’t restaurant quality, it was decent.
A few hours after the lunch service is a snack service which is just a sandwich. The sandwich is two big pieces of bread with some sort of red pepper hummus spread, a piece of lettuce, a slice of cheese, and a tomato. I have had it before and it is not good so I declined when offered one. They usually have a few extras of these in the galley. Additionally, they usually have caramel popcorn and some other snacks (sometimes chocolate and Biscoff biscuits) in the galley as well. I helped myself to a Biscoff biscuit and a bag of popcorn.
The final food service comes shortly before landing and is a breakfast/lunch service. There was not an option for this between vegetarian and non-vegetarian. They served biryani with another side salad and bread roll. I found it interesting that the desert offered was the same as the one with lunch, as it is usually different. I did not eat this meal, but it seemed decent.
One of my biggest concerns as of late, when flying Etihad, is the service. I personally have not had many problems, but have read a lot about the significant decline in service in premium cabins and in economy class. On some flights, you’ll see that platinum and gold members are given a separate welcome by a senior member (or members) of the cabin crew. This is something that I always appreciate and I find that when this happens, the crew itself is generally better, not just to me and other elites, but everyone on board. I was welcomed on this flight and I found the service to be great, especially by the cabin purser who made sure I was okay multiple times. I think this is true of many airlines, but with Etihad, the crew is very make or break. I have read online that the 787 Dreamliner crews are usually the best, followed by the A380.
Overall, I was pretty impressed by the flight. I have flown this route a number of times now and I had nothing to complain about regarding this flight. I think Etihad is a good option when flying from the US to the Middle East or onwards as it has consistently competitive prices and on this route, a competitive product as well. I have seen a few people in my family jump from Etihad to Emirates, but I see no reason to. However, the benefits of having status, of course, improve the experience. For my trip report on my flight from Mumbai to Abu Dhabi, click here and for my review of Etihad’s Business Studio click here.