From winter to heat on the Dreamliner
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From winter to heat on the Dreamliner

Greetings to all flight lovers! In this review, I will tell dear readers about the flight and my emotions during the flight from Johannesburg (South Africa) to Abu Dhabi (UAE), which took place about six months ago. The airline that gave emotions is Etihad. This was my seventh flight with this airline in the post-Covid period (after that there was another one, but not so colorful and memorable), and I will say right away - it turned out to be the best.

International Airport O.R. Tambo is the largest on the continent. Before the pandemic, it consistently occupied the first place in passenger traffic in Africa, with a large gap from the next second Cairo International Airport. There are no statistics for the past year yet, but they are known for 2022, according to the results of which Tambo lost first place to Cairo airport and is still short of 25% of its pre-Covid indicators. Nevertheless, even now the number of destinations from Tambo Airport is very, very impressive.

Compared to other airlines, Etihad does not particularly favor this airport, operating only 5 flights per week. The same cannot be said about, for example, Emirates, which operates 3 daily flights (one of which is on an A380) to Dubai, or British Airways (2 daily flights, one of them on an A380), which, together with Virgin Atlantic, makes 3 daily flights to Heathrow . American Delta and United fly daily from the USA for two. In Johannesburg you can even see the Australian Qantas, which connects it with Sydney (they plan to use this flight in six months). What can we say about the large cities of Europe and Southeast Asia. Russia is missing from this list, but such a flight, taking into account the mutual visa-free regime of our countries, would certainly gain popularity over time, despite the potential approximately 12-hour duration. But, to be honest, if you dream of a direct flight connecting Russia and South Africa, then from the South African side it would be preferable not to Johannesburg, where, by and large, there is nothing much to do, but to Cape Town, as a more attractive place for tourists, even if This would lengthen the flight by an hour and a half. But I got carried away, back to the review.

My flight EY601. Scheduled departure time is 09-35, actual time is 10-04. Scheduled arrival at 19-35, actual at 19-21. Travel time was 7 hours 17 minutes. The aircraft serving this flight: Boeing 787-900, tail number A6-BLG.

The good news is that this flight is almost entirely a day flight. And I was very surprised by its duration - only 7 hours (claimed - 8 hours). After all, the plane, in fact, crosses almost the entire Africa along the continent from south to north, and before buying a ticket it seemed to me that such a flight would take ten hours. And so, it turns out, the flight is the same as, say, from Moscow to Blagoveshchensk.

Before the flight
I registered in advance on the airlines website, which opened 30 hours before departure. I got an aisle seat at random, which I categorically disagreed with. But there were no available (free) window seats. There were paid ones, but the price went beyond reasonable limits and amounted to several thousand rubles. Everything was decided simply. I tried to refresh the registration page, after which one place appeared by the window, 41A, which I took without further hesitation. Boarding issued electronically:

Tambo Airport consists of several terminals (if Im not mistaken, six), but all of them are located in a single terminal complex. Additionally, there is a small bus terminal, standing alone, which serves as a starting point for free shuttles to numerous nearby hotels. Travel time is on average 10 minutes. Even if you dont have a reservation at these hotels, you can still take the shuttle to any of them and, for example, wait for those meeting you there. These hotels have beautiful lobbies with cozy corners for relaxation, bars, restaurants and cafes, swimming pools and hookah lounges, smoking and meeting rooms, etc., etc.
All this, however, is designed for a fat wallet. But still, the presence of these hotels is a very convenient and practical thing, taking into account the high crime rate in the city. All hotels are guarded and surrounded by thick stone fences with electric wires running over them. Before departure, I spent almost a day in such a hotel (Premier Hotel OR Tambo), and during the time I was there, I felt like I was in prison. Not because of the condition of the hotel, everything was fine with it, but because of the strict ban on leaving the territory. This is what the main entrance looks like:

The perimeter is completely surrounded, as I said above, by a strong fence, with an electric current running along the top:

It is assumed that if some scoundrel begins to climb over the fence, with the intention of disturbing the quiet rest of the guests or with the aim of committing indecent acts, the electrical voltage will stop him from doing this once and for all. But local scoundrels are unlikely to force the fence, since they are well aware of it due to the fact that the whole of Joburg is woven with such fences. This is a common occurrence there, an element of the exterior, so to speak.
Wasting from boredom and hunger in the hotel, I had to visit local restaurants, where I was ripped off pretty well. For example, for two pieces of shawarma with potatoes, they brought a receipt with a three-digit figure:

After spending the night in this hotel, I headed to the airport, intending to have breakfast there . And he did the right thing - for a rich and satisfying English breakfast (fried sausages, toast and tomatoes, beans, scrambled eggs, bacon and coffee) he paid half as much as the hotel shawarma. I arrived at the airport two and a half hours before departure. I took advantage of the free shuttle.
A very nice public space has been formed from the bus terminal to the main one, which is adjacent to another hotel called the Intercontinental hotel:

It was winter in the local latitudes, so all the small vegetation withered; in summer the colors are brighter here.

Johannesburg Tambo Airport
I go into the first entrance I come across, into terminal B:

From the street you can enter without any obstacles, no luggage checks and frame scans:

I'm trying to figure out where to go. Let me remind you that I had already checked in and needed to go straight to the boarding gate. I have flown from Tambo several times before and the logistics of this airport remain incomprehensible to me, it is always like the first time. I look around for signs:

Without signs, I found the exit to the security check area, but doubted the correctness of my choice, as I saw an impressive queue of passengers, mostly of Indian origin. Before the inspection, the volume of hand luggage of each passenger was carefully measured, which is why the queue, seeing that the matter was serious, seethed and swarmed in attempts to pack their belongings into their backpacks and bags. The volume of my backpack clearly exceeded the required dimensions, so in order not to waste extra time, I turned to the employee and showed my electronic boarding pass. He replied that this was not the place for me, but that I needed to go further to another terminal and named its letter (now I dont remember which one).
After walking for some time and walking along the terminal, I saw another boarding gate, already familiar to me. At this place we already had to go through control during a previous flight from Tambo:

Next - passport control:

What appeals to me about Tambo is this by your passport control. There you pass it with a bang and in a matter of seconds, without unnecessary words or questions. The actions of local border guards and border guards show negligence and indifference: you give them your passport, they take it, put a stamp, and dont even look at you, i.e. They dont even check the photo in the passport with the owner, and after the stamp they throw the passport back into the window. The same thing happens at the entrance. Well, unless they pay attention to the fact that the passport is from a visa-free country for South Africa. All these: the purpose of your visit?, do you have a return ticket?, tense, serious and thoughtful glances in which one can read thoughts about whether to let you in or not - all this is not about South Africa.
Well, finally, the ordeal of finding a way out gates and checks passed. I go out to the waiting area:

I just recently flew from Tambo to Kigali, but found myself in a completely different place. After all, that flight was also international, but was carried out from a different terminal.
It was more fun in this terminal. Lots of shops and cafes:

There is a store of local, African and South African goods:

The duty free is large with a huge selection of everything, from perfumery to alcohol:

Where would we be without our Stolichnaya:

But judging by the layer of noble dust on the bottles, in local latitudes it is not very popular.
Even Stroh is here. I once brought this from Vienna, it turned out to be the most unpleasant thing, I never finished it. I also took 60, it was unbearable to drink this, but there is also 80:

I had breakfast in one of the cafes. I was very pleased with the breakfast, as I already mentioned above. The cafe was located near the window overlooking the airfield. Outside the window there were many aircraft, including the one on which the flight was to take place:

For the first time I saw the Belgian livery:

On the other side at the gates stood South African, Kenya Airways, a couple of FlySafairs with different liveries; in the distant parking lots, several small planes of the local airline Airlink were visible, standing in a row. The last in the line of the Airlink company was the board of Mozambique Airlines, which was recognizable by its design in the form of a white open bird on a red background of the tail:

Boarding has begun for my flight:

The line was very long, from which I concluded that the plane would be full. I'm boarding:

The path to the plane ran in zigzags, first along the ramp, and then unnoticed into the boarding bridge:

I enter the cabin, finding myself immediately in economy class, the front part of which has not yet been filled with passengers:

At the toilets, when moving to the back of the cabin, there is a slight hitch associated with putting bags in the hand luggage box:

I go to my row, 41, I throw my backpack in the still empty box:

There were no other passengers on it yet (in seats B and C):

By the way, in the rear, row 42, seat A does not have a window, which is clearly visible in the photo above. When checking in, I knew this nuance, and if it turned out to be the only one available in row A, I would have preferred an aisle seat to it.
The seat back has this half-headrest:

The view through the window was excellent, in the sense that the wing practically did not interfere with the view:

The cabin was gradually filled with passengers, but no one sat down next to me:

While no one was there, I captured what the airline individually provides to the passenger. Firstly, this is a pillow and a blanket sealed in cellophane, which you dont know where to put during a day flight:

In general, it seems to me that issuing these sleeping accessories for each seat, especially during a day flight, is an unjustified decision by airlines. This perhaps emphasizes the prestige of the brand, but in practice most passengers simply struggle with them, moving them from place to place so as not to interfere with their seating, or simply throwing them on the floor (or they slide off on their own) and forget about them for the rest of the flight. Such things are more convenient upon request. But this is my opinion, maybe someone thinks differently. And by the way. In connection with this point, I have a question for Etihad airline. If you provide passengers with these accessories, make sure that they undergo basic sanitary treatment. It is very strange that pillows, as a more intimate piece of bedding, unlike blankets, were not packed, and the pillowcases in them turned out to be irreplaceable. For example, there was a large greasy stain on my pillow, which can be seen in the photo. I remember that during a flight with another top company - Singapore Airlines - despite the sealed sleeping accessory, someone's long hair was visible through the plastic packaging. Therefore, for me personally, sleeping sets cause more trouble during the flight than practical benefit . Along with the bedding, there were headphones on the passenger seat, sealed in a bag with the airline logo:

A safety instruction and a paper bag were taken from the seat back pocket:

On the back of the chair there is a built-in multimedia system, and most importantly, it works perfectly. Why did I focus on this, because literally two days earlier I had already flown on a similar plane, also a Boeing 787, but with a different airline, and there the screen did not react in any way to touches or buttons. Displayed information about the flight, which switched between displaying various information, including the distance to Mecca and a pointer to it, which then loomed on the screen throughout the flight:

The time before prayers. The main menu screen announced Etihad's new destinations, launching in the fall of 2023. These are mainly European capitals, but our St. Petersburg also appeared. Judging by the information at that time, Etihad begins flying there from the end of October. Currently, flights have already been launched at a frequency of 3 times a week, and the first of them - on October 29, 2023 - was carried out on the main character of today's review, A6-BLG:

Almost landing ended and one of the last passengers to board were my row neighbors - a Muslim family with a small child. Mom (in a niqab) sat down near the aisle, a rather large dad sat in the middle and took over the child:

The flight promised to be alarming, but surprisingly, the child turned out to be calm (as calm as one can be at that age during a 7-hour flight) and did not cause much trouble to either the parents or the passengers.
The passenger seating was completed, the plane was pulled away from the terminal:

Then it began to taxi under its own power. A few gates later stood Air France (couldnt tell if it was an A330 or a B777):

In the distance, on the other side of the runway, a lonely British Airways A380 was visible:

We taxied parallel to the runway, during which time two small planes of the local airline Airlink landed in a row:

When we turned towards the runway, it became clear that the British A380 did not stand but moved, crossing the runway:

Then it turned in our direction:

But only to be on the next track turn to the terminal:

Our plane was followed along the taxiway by two others, one small with an incomprehensible livery, and after it an A320 South African:

A Zambian airline Proflight plane that had just landed left the runway onto an adjacent taxiway:

Turning to the beginning of the runway:

At the start:

The take-off video can be viewed below:

In the video from the 39th to the 45th second, my hotel is visible on the horizon, where I waited for a day for departure. We took off over the suburbs of Johannesburg and Pretoria, spread out to the horizon:

There were no clouds when climbing, which allowed us to view the ground without interference. Almost reached the flight level:

While still on the ground, I received an SMS from the airline about the possibility of using the Internet on board, via Wi-Fi, but at the international roaming rate. I tried to connect (I had a South African SIM card) but couldn't. Probably due to the fact that there are not enough funds. It was only possible to receive information about the flight:

After gaining altitude, they began to serve drinks, including alcoholic ones, and a small pack of mini-crackers, for starters before lunch. I chose sparkling water with ice:

I adjusted the maximum transparency of the porthole (there are no plastic curtains in the dreamliner), but it still seemed that the window was a little tinted. Nothing interesting was visible outside the window: alternating clouds with the ground, but without haze:

The flight attendants began serving food. There were three menus to choose from: meat, chicken and pasta. Over the past two weeks I have flown quite a lot and always chose meat, so this time I opted for pasta:

There is no point in listing the components of the dish menu; everything is clearly visible in the photo. Ill say this about nutrition. Etihad is still a top company, so metal cutlery with an engraved airline logo was not surprising; for top people this is an ordinary occurrence. They are served in a very cooled thick napkin. The food utensils were made of hard plastic, including the lids, and were easy to open. That's a plus. Therefore, for serving and serving method - 5 points. Just remember trying to open the soft foil lid when you are served hot food in a soft foil package. Firstly, it is hot to the touch, and secondly, when you open the lid, it gets dented. According to the quantity offered for lunch, i.e. volume is more than enough, this can be seen from the photo and here too 5. Taste qualities? I'll give you 4 points. But 4 doesn't mean it's bad. Just having once tasted the in-flight food provided by Qatar Airways and Kenya Airways, I realized that in my flight history it was the best thing I had tried on board. If we compare with Ethiopian and RwandAir (the comparison is fresh, since I flew both within 10 days of this flight), then the taste of Ethiopian is definitely lower, but I would rate RwandAir even a little higher than Etihad.
The choice of alcoholic drinks was extensive, I took white wine with the pasta.
During lunch we began to fly over the mountain range called Mulanje. These mountains are located in Malawi, a small (by African standards) and poor state. But on the eastern slopes there is a border with Mozambique, over whose territory the plane was now flying. Even from cruising altitude, the mountains were pleasing to the eye, even though they seemed small. But when you look at the mountains while standing on the soil of Mozambique, the picture with their background is magnificent and fantastically beautiful. And from the ground they look like a truly huge mountain range:

A surface of water appeared behind the mountains. This was Lake Chilwa. The plane continued to fly along the borders of neighboring states: it passed along the near edge of the lake. Thus, the lake itself, the visible island on it and everything beyond the lake is Malawi, everything closer to the plane is Mozambique.

The screen monitor confirmed the picture behind the window:

Numerous columns of smoke could be seen along the lake from the Mozambique side. It was difficult to understand what served as their sources. The isolation of the pillars suggested that these were not fires, but something was being burned in the villages. Perhaps they are roasting corn cobs, the smell of which so invigorated me in Rwanda when I found myself at the local airport. Those who read my review of the flight with RwandAir will understand my nostalgia):

To top off the meal, they brought the third one. I grabbed some tea with milk:

While drinking tea, I looked out the window. Africa floated under the wing. Not the one that is in its Arab, northern part, with all these Egypt, Libya and other Morocco, with the Muslim way of life and the fuss that accompanies it and not at all an African way of life. Not the one that is located in civilized and at the same time criminal South Africa, where the situation itself and the surrounding picture are more similar to the USA than to Africa. And Im also not talking about West Africa, where I have never been, and which is a dark horse for me. Below was Real Africa, exactly the one whose image is evoked by books from childhood about Barmaley and Aibolit, and which I like most. And these are precisely the associations I have with East Africa, which I have traveled far and wide, from Ethiopia to South Africa. Yes, somewhere below there is, for the most part, poverty, dirt, corruption (in some places worse than Russian), deprivation and hopelessness. But in contrast, there is also carelessness, a simple attitude to life, stunning nature with national parks and corresponding fauna, healthy ecology and other Limpopo, Kilimanjaro and Kalahara.. The mountains and lakes ended, the plains began. The picture overboard became monotonous, but here and there the cobs continued to fry:

The plane was approaching the border of Mozambique and Tanzania. Cloudiness began to prevail:

The flight path passed almost over Dar Es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania. And if it werent for the clouds, it would have been perfectly visible. But the continuous veil of clouds broke off right behind him and one could only see the coast near the outskirts of the city. The plane began to fly over that part of the ocean where ferries run between Dar Es Salaam and the island of Zanizibar:

Zanzibar itself appeared. When the focus moves away, the apparent distance between it and the mainland seems insignificant, but a high-speed ferry overcomes it in 1 hour 40 minutes:

Brought the mainland coast closer. On the left is a small bay - there is the northern outskirts of Dar Es Salaam:

Zanzibar zoomed in. In the photo below is its southern tip, the shape of which suggested that somewhere in the distant geological past two separate islands met and closed tangentially with each other:

Ironically, flew over the place , which I visited literally three days ago. I stayed at the northern tip of the island, in Nungwi. It has stunning beaches with minimal tidal influences. Therefore, if you go to Zanzibar, then only to Nungwi. As a matter of fact, you can look at Nungwi not only from a height of 11 kilometers. This is what the place we were flying over now looks like from sea level:

The whole island in one frame:

The plane was moving away from Zanizibar at an angle, going deeper into the ocean:

But this was a temporary farewell to Africa. The flight path then again brought the plane to the continent, but in a different place:

Here it is, again becoming visible in the field of view:

K By this time, the plane had already covered most of the route:

The entry point to the continent turned out to be exactly above the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu. Flying over it:

Of course, during such a long flight, you will get bored looking out the window all the time. Kudos to Etihad who have a great in-flight entertainment system. Movies, music, news, podcasts, board games... I've never played Sudoku, but during the flight it got me hooked. Having chosen the most difficult level, it still didnt give in to me:

I also played 2048, a game as simple as three rubles, but also capable of captivating:

The problem of going to the toilet, or even just getting up from your seat, was very pressing on this flight. As I said above, there was a family sitting next to me with a small child, who spent most of the flight sleeping in the arms of the parent sitting next to me. On the one hand, a calm child sitting next to you on an airplane is a blessing, but on the other hand, it is a certain discomfort. Disturbing a child not only for the sake of supplementing the review with photographs of the toilet, but even for the sake of satisfying ones physiological needs, which became a reality after 6 hours of flight, was blasphemy. Therefore, I patiently waited for the moment when the childs parents themselves wanted to go to the toilet and made body movements, as a result of which I would be able to slip out of my seat into the aisle.
Any expectation, especially when you become fixated on it, comes to an end. Having gained freedom, I walked along the aisle to disperse the blood and visited the toilet:

The inside is spacious, if this word is generally applicable to on-board toilets, the interior is designed in the colors of the airline.
Back to my seat. Just in time for the second time when the in-flight meals began to be served. Probably, if you go by the time, it was afternoon tea. Judging by the food set, this is true. They gave me a pie and a cake. He asked for some coffee.

The filling of the pie resembled jam, but it was not it, since it turned out to be not sweet. I couldnt make out what it was, but it was quite tasty:

For the sake of the afternoon tea, they didnt bother serving it with metal utensils. But interestingly, even the wooden stirrer for hot drinks had elements of the airline's livery - Etihad's has a set of intersecting lines that form geometric shapes:

Outside the window, things were winding down. At this moment, the plane, now finally, left the African continent and began to fly over the territory of the Gulf of Aden:

This happened at the very tip of the African horn. The sun had descended almost to the horizon and its position directed its dim pre-sunset rays at right angles into my window:

I dont remember watching the full sunset from the plane:

Having passed the Gulf of Aden, the territory of Oman was no longer visible, first from the sunset and the position of the Sun, and then haze and darkness completely hid the earth from observation.
They began to descend:

The lights of populated areas appeared, but everything was in a haze. This is due to the heat that reigned in this part of the globe.

The descent was straight and smooth, without turns or reversals. There were hundreds of meters left to the ground, then dozens:



Stop. We stopped not at the jet bridge, but in a parking lot far from the terminal:

The monitor warned that it was 38 degrees outside, despite the evening:

These are the contrasts - in the morning, leaving the hotel in Johannesburg, it was plus 7. We jumped into the heat with a difference of 31 degrees.
I have repeatedly observed that immediately after a stop, a massive signal is triggered in the minds of passengers to jump up from their seats, frantically and hastily remove their hand luggage from the luggage racks. I can understand those who have a short layover, but not everyone has it. And most importantly, after all these sudden body movements, passengers line up in a row in the aisles and still wait to disembark, but in more uncomfortable positions. Sometimes for quite a long time. Sometimes some people sit down in their seats again, since standing with backpacks already on their backs in cramped spaces is inconvenient and difficult. For some reason this always happens. In those rare moments when my place is near the aisle, I also have to participate in this crowd. The incentive for me is the starting poses of the passengers sitting next to me, who are ready to jump over my knees if I hesitate. Perhaps specialists should study this phenomenon. This is akin to the reflex initiated by stopping an airplane. Here it is, this moment. Everyone has been standing in a dead formation for five minutes:

Some passengers do not succumb to the general panic of fleeing the plane and calmly take out their luggage. And there are those who sit completely relaxed:

After the flight, Abu Dhabi airport
I go out to the sauna:

It feels like the temperature is over 40, as the humidity is prohibitive. A bus takes you to the terminal. The air is hazy:

Even in Africa there is no such heat. Im not talking about South Africa, on the same coast in Kenya and Tanzania, or inside the continent there is no trace of anything like this.
The bus took a long time to get to the terminal. The new terminal had not yet opened, so we were taken to the old one, which I had been to several times and which was quite familiar to me. I go inside the terminal, go up the escalator to the baggage claim and passport control area:

Next along the corridor, along the display windows:

I head to passport control. To the automatic booths serving passengers without a person:

I go through automatic control. I put my passport on a special reading surface:

The first plastic gate opens, letting me inside:

Inside I look at the special sign, after a couple of seconds the second gate opens and I officially find myself in the UAE:

I pass by a small duty-free shop, not in demand by anyone:

I also transit through the delivery area luggage, since I didnt have any with me:

I head towards the exit, following the signs:

Welcome to Abu Dhabi !

I leave the terminal and find myself in the sauna again:

To summarize, I would like to report the following. The seven-hour (even a little more) flight went perfectly. The service provided by Etihad is quite decent. The onboard entertainment systems worked perfectly and the selection was excellent. The food is also excellent, despite my tediousness in this part.

Remembering the history of my flights (including flights on low-cost airlines, which I rarely use, and business class, which I fly even less often), and comparing the comfort criteria that are important to me first of all (time of day of flight, seat on the plane, food, view from the window, the ratio of flight time and fatigue) probably this one, based on the combination of the above factors, was one of, if not the best.

Therefore, in conclusion, I say : Citizens! Fly with Etihad planes!

P.S. Track of my flight from 24flightradar:

Safe and interesting flights everyone! And see you in new directions!
Vote for review:

Etihad Airways

Boeing 787-9

Abu Dhabi Zayed International Airport

Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport

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