Airline review: Etihad Airways economy, Abu Dhabi to Casablanca

THE PLANE

Airbus A330, one of 25 in the Etihad fleet.

THE ROUTE

Abu Dhabi to Casablanca.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Etihad Guest, which is free to join and lets you earn points by flying with partner airlines such as Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand.

CLASS

Economy, window seat 18K.

DURATION

Eight hours, 50 minutes. 

THE FREQUENCY

Etihad has one direct flight a day from Abu Dhabi to Casablanca.

THE SEAT

The seat configuration is 2-4-2 and the seats are basic, but comfortable and functional with multiple charging points (USB, phone and multi-plug), a coat hook and a cup holder that's separate from the tray table. 

BAGGAGE

Economy passengers are allowed two checked bags weighing up to 23 kilograms each and one carry-on bag not exceeding seven kilograms. 

COMFORT

For this night flight (we're in the air from 2.35am Abu Dhabi time to 7.40am Casablanca time), I'm issued with a teal-coloured blanket, a pillow that can be split in two to wrap around your neck (great idea) and a "Sleep Tight" kit: a little drawstring grey marle bag containing socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste, an eye mask and earplugs. The cabin lights are dimmed for almost the entire flight, enabling me to get some shut-eye.

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ENTERTAINMENT

Etihad's E-Box entertainment system is impressive. I counted 213 movies, and apparently there's more than 750 hours of video and audio. As well as movies from all over the world, including the Hollywood staples, there are more than 275 TV shows, "box sets" (for binge-viewing) and seven live TV channels. But Etihad loses points for not turning on the entertainment system until after take-off; it's also switched off about 20 minutes before landing, which is annoying when you miss the end of a movie you thought you had time to watch. You can make mobile phone calls and get wireless internet access from your seat; "Wi-Fly" packages start at $US5 for 30 minutes. There's also an in-flight magazine in English and Arabic (does anyone read these on long-haul flights?).

FOOD

Snacks are served immediately after take-off ("to maximise your sleep" says the menu, a thoughtful touch) and a hot breakfast before landing. My pre-ordered vegetarian snack comprises a cheese and tomato roll on focaccia bread, a sweet biscuit, a packet of crisp fresh apple pieces and a bottle of water. The vegetarian meal before landing is a delicious fresh omelette with crispy potato discs and roasted tomato served with orange juice, strawberry yoghurt, bread and fresh fruit. For everyone else, the options are a cheese omelette with chicken sausage, scrambled eggs with lamb sausage and vanilla bread with berry compote. We get to use metal cutlery, like grown-ups.

SERVICE

Etihad's multicultural flight team, in classic chocolate brown uniforms with purple accents and orange service aprons, are a credit to their training: friendly, professional and efficient. And between them they speak nine languages.

ONE MORE THING

A little patience goes a long way when announcements come first in Arabic then, sometimes after a lengthy pause, in English. 

THE VERDICT

Middle-of-the-night flights are never fun, particularly when you've already been in transit for 14 hours (I'd just flown Sydney to Abu Dhabi), but this one is made better than average by the entertainment options, the meals and the professional flight attendants.

Our score out of five: ★★★★½

Tested by Louise Southerden, who flew courtesy of Intrepid Travel.

See also: Airline review: This business class gets a perfect score

See also: Airline review: Cathay cabin crew handles awkward moment perfectly

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