During my childhood I was always saying I was flying. That I wanted to fly. I took a sheet and wore it on my back like a superhero cape while looking at the sky thinking that one day I would fly. I spent my summer afternoons lying on my back counting the white tracks in the sky made by planes and believing that one day I would go on that plane to some magical place. It took 16 years to take my first plane ride.
I will never forget that overwhelming feeling of sitting on the plane and feeling the engine start and all that force that pushed us towards the sky. Freedom, dreams, they all fit inside me at that moment. Since that day I realized that I needed to fly, far away, to new places. Such a big world to discover. It is been over 15 years and I still love flying. Air travel became my routine, for work and for pleasure, but every time I sit on a plane, and it has been hundreds of times, I remember the first time.
Nowadays we can find unbelievable services on planes as good as 5 star hotels. From the economy class to the suites in the sky, we can choose the one that best fits our pocket, our eccentricities or our desires. One of the last incredible experiences on a plane was a trip I took from Barcelona to Abu Dhabi on ETIHAD AIRWAYS.
I traveled with my team to photograph one of the covers of DSECTION BEYOND VOL 1 with 4 contemporary female artists from Abu Dhabi. We chose to travel in business class on a direct flight that lasted about 6 hours. This experience started with a long delay at the airport but it certainly paid off later. It was worth the wait. That child who looked at the sky and dreamed of flying would today experience one of the best services in the world regarding comfort inside an airplane. On the plane, on the outside part, it says: From Abu Dhabi to the world! This is the premise given to us on boarding. Etihad’s business class in neutral earth colors conveys immediate comfort and a sense of calm, as does the music at the time of boarding. Spacious, private and extremely clean seats. And despite the masks, the smiles are there, and the eyes convey the message of welcome on board. Even before taking off, we were offered a drink, we could choose between a glass of champagne or a cocktail, a juice or a water. After 30 minutes of flight and already seated in our comfortable and private seat, with a blanket on our legs the team kindly writes down our preferences for dinner. The food was delicious, from the starters to the main course and even the dessert. I still find it amazing how at 30,000 feet that food is so well prepared and so delicious. Happy stomach, happy me. Movie time. It didn’t take long to fall asleep on the flat bed. I felt so comfortable that I forgot I was on a plane. The flat bed was spacious enough, even taller people will feel comfortable in any sleeping position. The cabin lights were dimmed to create an even more comfortable environment. But I woke up after an hour with a craving for something sweet. And as if by magic a selection of chocolates with a double espresso were on my tray table. The ETIHAD team was always attentive, down to the smallest details, ensuring that each passenger had the best possible flight experience. Bloody Mary? No prob- lem, on the plane it’s even more delicious. The flight was extremely pleasant and they were careful to give each passenger a sanitary kit where we had a mask, gel and disinfectant wipes. The details in this business class were all thought out, from the neutral colors with small golden details that give these seats sobriety and luxury at the same time as the materials used provide maximum comfort. Also worth mentioning is the very complete and intuitive in-flight entertainment system. There are movies for all tastes as well as live TV. Before landing, we were served a light meal, which was also delicious and very well cooked. The table tray was always very well prepared in a ritual of good service with immaculately white tablecloths. It’s the small details, never forget. It was without a doubt a unique experience of comfort, good food, smooth flight and a highly professional and dedicated crew. Hello Abu Dhabi.
Recently ETIHAD launched its newest and most exclusive product. The long-awaited A350. No doubt it will be something that no one will be indifferent to. And to better explain this new product we spoke with the Vice President of Sales Fatma Al Mehairi.
Our approach to our guests is to go above and beyond their expectations. We want to make their journey as seamless as possible, starting from the minute they book their trip with us to the moment they reach their destination.Etihad Vice President of Sales Fatma Al Mehairi
PAULO MEIXEDO: ( co-founder DSECTION)
Etihad has just launched its latest product with the A350-1000 that promises to elevate passenger comfort and experience. How does Etihad, an airline founded in 2003 and currently among the best airlines in the world, find ways to stay on top and keep up to date with an increasingly demanding consumer?
FATMA AL MEHAIRI ( Vice President Sales Etihad))
We are very proud of our newest aircraft, the Airbus A350-1000. The A350 is a revolutionary aircraft and we’re the first airline in the region to operate this state-of-the-art aircraft, and it also features our newest Business class and Economy class cabin interior.
PM: We constantly evaluate the market and listen to the feedback from our customers. We respond and adapt in an innovative way, whether it’s through new technology or digital changes, or through continual innovations and improvements to the guest experience. This approach helps us to exceed our guests’ expectations.
FM: On the A350 for example, we know that our premium passengers enjoy privacy and that’s why we have added a sliding door to our Business class seats which gives our guests a feeling of being in complete comfort in their own private suite. In Economy, our seats are comfortable and convenient and feature a 13-inch screen as we know how important the in-flight entertainment is for our guests. Our teams behind-the-scenes continue to work hard in innovating our guest experience to respond to the changing consumer preferences, in a sustainable way.
PM: One of the first things you see when boarding an ETIHAD plane is the phrase: “from Abu Dhabi to the world”. The word Etihad itself means “union” in Arabic. How does this “slogan” represent the experience of flying with the ETIHAD?
FM: The word union means bringing people together and uniting people, whether that is on board or on the ground. ‘From Abu Dhabi to the world’ is also about connecting people to and through our home country. We are committed to connecting people from different cultures and places and Abu Dhabi is perfectly well placed in the Middle East to connect people from East to West and vice versa. Abu Dhabi is a warm and welcoming destination famed for generous Arabian hospitality. The sun is shining all year round and the city is surrounded by beautiful beaches, 200 natural islands and breath-taking desert landscapes.
PM: It is important to mention that the company has one of the friendliest and most efficient crew on board but we live in an era of constant technological evolution. Many of the activities carried out by humans are now carried out by computer and automated systems. How is ETIHAD keeping up with this daily evolution and how does this evolution facilitate and allow greater comfort and convenience to the passenger?
FM: We’re incredibly proud of our Cabin Crew and offering a personal, thoughtful and caring experience will always be an important part of our guest experience. An Emirati style of generous hospitality is part of our DNA. That said, technology does play an important role, and we are also focused on facilitating processes through technology. For example, through the pandemic, we introduced the Verified to Fly service to check documentation prior to the flight making the check-in process quicker and easier. We’ve also benefited by introducing state-of-the-art technology to our fleet to further enhance the guest experience, for example, the in-flight entertainment introduced on our newest A350-1000 fleet.
PM: Fortunately, sustainability is already part of ETIHAD’s plans these days. In the future, the company promises zero net carbon emissions by 2050. How and which programs is ETIHAD working on in this process and what are the visible short-term results?
FM: Sustainability has long been our top priority, and even throughout the past two years of challenges, we have made great leaps forward. We’re on a mission to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and halve 2019 emissions by 2035. We realize sustainability is a global responsibility and that’s why, this year, we want to involve our guests and corporate clients through Conscious Choices and Corporate Conscious Choices which are our sustainability focused loyalty programs. It’s going to take all of us working together to make aviation more sustainable and we’re happy to be working with our guests and corporate clients on this.
PM: The theme of this issue is BEYOND so I to ask you this question: Why traveling with Etihad is going “beyond” expectations?
FM: Our approach to our guests is to go above and beyond their expectations. We want to make their journey as seamless as possible, starting from the minute they book their trip with us to the moment they reach their destination.