The Etihad Business Class Studio
I hadn’t planned it, but I ended up sitting here on my flight between Beirut and Abu Dhabi, for a very reasonable price. Extremely reasonable.
On the subject of reasonable prices, Beirut is a brilliant place, vastly underrated, though sadly not without frequent episodes of unrest, such as is happening right now, largely ignored by the west.
In more settled times, it’s should be on your list.
It reeks of corruption and foreign (Saudi) money and influence. At first you think it’s quite nice as you stroll around the marinas and posh shops, then you realise it’s all new and and it’s all empty.
There are also no people. You see more heavily armed security guards than civilians. See how busy the souk is at 11am? Two people.
If you want charm and character and soul you have to go to Hamra or Gemmayzeh, and in case you don’t notice all the people and noise and chaos and real life on these “streets of traditional character” there are even handy signs to point you in the right direction.
Sadly, he’s right, and recent events show that a large part of Beirut’s population has a problem with the way things are done. Despite that, in calmer times, it is a very friendly place with a spectacular landscape and superb ancient history. The food’s pretty good too. It really deserves a much bigger share of the tourist dollar.
I made it to the airport just in time for a 3 hour ride in the Etihad 787. A very brief visit to the Cedar Lounge first:
It’s not as stylish to look at as the old Qatar 1-2-1 seats, and it’s certainly not Qsuite, but it’s good. It’s private, it’s comfortable. There’s enough space. The service is good.
The entrance is quite narrow, and once in your seat you feel snug rather than opulent, but it succeeds where so many business class seats fail – privacy.
Direct aisle access, and privacy. If you travel solo, that’s what you want.
At least, that’s what I want.
Some people like to go to coffee shops where you sit on a bean bag with a stranger, or a restaurant where you join a bench full of randoms like a school canteen, and those sort of people would probably hate to be isolated like this. Weirdos.
No, it’s good. It’s not flashy, it’s just competent. There’s no real éclat like the Qatar Qsuite, but it does its job very well.
After take-off, play with the seat massage function for a couple of minutes, fiddle with the TV, drink your juice. Some reviews bang on about how many films there are on the IFE. If I told you there were 1267 films on the TV, would you care? Nope. I made up that number. It’s a TV, on a plane, with some movies on it. What more do you need to know?
Well, not by the second glass anyway.
Nice white china plates, good cutlery that doesn’t look it’s been in use for 600 years, and really nice touches like the metal bread basket, metal salt cellar and pepper… hum. pepper pot? Pepper pot and the fancy table mat, which lift the whole thing up and make it rather more classy than eating a takeaway off your knees in front of the telly at home.
Sorry, I’m not doing this right.
Elegant refinements that elevate the dining experience. Or something.
My economy ticket cost me £175. Fine.
But then Etihad sent an email with their upgrade auction thingy. How much do you want to pay to upgrade to business?
Ooh, exciting. Surely everyone will bid and you’ll have to go for the highest bid in order to stand a chance? Well, no, that’s not how it works. It might be surprising but actually most people don’t bid for upgrades.
Most people have a goal of spending as little as possible, or they’re travelling with others and even a cheap upgrade would be too expensive, or someone else booked and they don’t even know there’s an option to buy an upgrade, or they simply don’t see the point of paying any more than you have to, just for a bigger seat and a glass of wine.
Frequent flyers and “avgeeks” often fail to realise that “normal” people really don’t see any point of paying for business class.
So there’s less competition than you think. And then you use Expert Flyer to check the current occupancy level, see that the flight is nowhere near full, wait till the last minute and submit the lowest possible bid. £140.
The business class ticket is usually around £675, so I’d be saving more than half if the bid gets accepted.
The email arrives. “You’ve been upgraded.”
Get in. Still an extravagance, but for me, a reasonable one.
An extra £500 for business class on a sub-4 hour flight? Nah.
An extra £140 just to try it? Ah, go on then. You only live once!
And because you only live once, you owe it to yourself to also try the Etihad First Class Apartment: