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Etihad 271
Chennai (MAA) – Abu Dhabi (AUH)
Depart: 9:25 PM on January 26, 2016
Arrive: 12:15 AM on January 27, 2016
Duration: 4 hours, 20 minutes
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Seat: 1F (Business Class)

I arrived at Chennai International Airport at 6:30 PM about three hours before my flight to Abu Dhabi, and promptly had trouble getting in the building. You have to show a soldier your boarding pass or itinerary to be let into the airport. After a minute, I was able to pull up my itinerary on the American Airlines app to be let in.

The check in lines were long. I was third up in the Business Class line, and it took me over 20 minutes to be checked in because of some problem with a passenger in front of me. I might have been better off in the much longer economy line.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.24.27 AMThis is a flaw in the Etihad check in procedures. Instead of one agent assigned to the Business Class line, all (or at least several) agents should pull customers from the Business Class line before the economy line.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.24.33 AM
My view for 20 minutes while another Business Class passenger’s check in was sorted

Once I got in front of the agent, I was checked in within two minutes and handed boarding passes to Abu Dhabi, New York, and Los Angeles plus a lounge invitation for Chennai.

Travel Club Lounge, Chennai

In Chennai, Etihad Business Class passengers have access to the Travel Club along with pretty much anyone else flying Business Class on a Middle Eastern airline or who has Priority Pass or many credit cards. That means I could have gotten in for free no matter which airline I was flying with my Priority Pass membership that is included with my Citi Prestige® Card. (More details on the Citi Prestige’s lounge benefits here.)

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.27.30 AMAs a general rule, the more people that can access a lounge, the more meager its offerings will be, but this lounge’s offerings were middling-to-solid. You could definitely get a full meal and drinks, though the lounge was hardly elegant or luxurious.

The buffet consisted of sandwiches, chips…
Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.24.38 AM …toast, muffins…Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.24.43 AM …and a selection of hot Indian food.Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.24.49 AM I love Indian food, so I was ecstatic with the options, both vegetarian…Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.25.58 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.26.11 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.26.17 AM …and non-vegetarian.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.26.06 AM

For drinks, there was a standard selection of water, juices, and sodas.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.26.28 AMI can’t comment on the ordinary alcohol selection because I happened to be traveling on India’s Republic Day, which a sign at the lounge’s reception noted is a dry day.Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.27.37 AM

The Chicken Varutha Curry, Aloo Gobi, and Mix Veg Curry were delicious. I scarfed down a few plates in the dining section of the lounge.
Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.26.23 AM Then I moved to the section of the lounge without dining tables to catch up on emails and download some shows for my flights. The wifi was fine for the former, but download speeds were slow.

I lost track of time and ended up having to run to the plane. The lounge is in a very inconvenient location–near gate 11–on the opposite side of the airport from Etihad flights–gate 18.

The Flight

I was one of the last people to board, and the last Business Class passenger. I went to my assigned seat 4A in the last row.Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.27.06 AM

Already at the seat were a pillow, blanket, menu, socks, headphones, and eye shade.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.29.20 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.29.24 AM

I was offered a pre-departure beverage from a tray of water, orange juice, and champagne and selected a water.Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.27.14 AMFlight attendants also offered a selection of newspapers and magazines before the flight.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.28.58 AM

Right before take off, I asked if I could move to the first row because 1D and 1F were both empty. When the flight attendant confirmed that they would remain empty, he told me I could move.
Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.27.20 AMIn general Etihad Business Class on the A321 has a lot of leg room. While the seat is similar to domestic First Class on an American airline, you have about 11 extra inches of legroom. If anything, the bulkhead probably has a little less legroom, but it has plenty for my 6’4″ frame.
Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.27.25 AMThe last order of business before take off was to take dinner orders. I went with the chicken.
Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.28.20 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.28.31 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.28.43 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.28.48 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.28.53 AM
We pushed back three minutes early and were quickly in the air. Dinner service commenced rapidly. Twenty-three minutes after take off, I had this tray in front of me.
Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.29.32 AM The chicken dish was exemplary. I also really enjoyed the olive oil and balsamic vinagrette combination with the personal bread basket.Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.29.39 AMAfter dinner, I reclined the seat to watch a movie.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.29.14 AMEtihad has a wide selection of movies available on a touch screen that pops out of your armrest.
Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.29.44 AM The four hours in the air passed quickly between movies and reading.Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.30.30 AM Shortly before landing, flight attendants passed out individual cards with our connecting information, a nice touch.Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.30.38 AM

We landed a few minutes early and taxied to a remote stand. There was a bus exclusively for the 14 Business Class passengers, so we got to the terminal quickly where we had to clear security before I could head to the lounge.


For a mid-haul flight, Etihad Business Class offers a very nice product. While not a flat bed, you get a seat with generous recline and a ton of leg room. The entertainment offering is varied, and the food is very good.

I did think that the pillow worked better in theory than in practice. It is a nice, medium-sized pillow. I probably would have loved it on a lie flat bed. However, when reclined on a seat, it was a bit too thick for my taste, so I mostly didn’t use it.

The flight attendants were quick and friendly.

Etihad Business Class was a nice way to get to Abu Dhabi for the main event–Etihad First Class on an A380–but I wouldn’t pay much a premium to fly it on short flights.

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