The flight timings for Etihad to fly out of Mumbai are at a very odd hour at 4:50 AM in the morning. Odd for me I mean. I usually prefer day time flights, or even with a night flight, a departure closer to midnight so that I can get on the plane and go off to sleep at the earliest.
Etihad offers a limousine pickup and drop service for customers flying with them in Business & First Class. Since I was flying Business Class between Mumbai to Abu Dhabi and First Class there on to JFK, I was eligible for the limo service and I called ahead to confirm a pick-up. The car showed up 3 hours prior to departure at my home, and it was a Mercedes E Class.
It was a quick 20 minute ride to get to the airport. Once there, there was no escort waiting for me to bring me inside. Some other airlines, including Emirates, usually have people stationed to assist premium cabin guests through check-in and later on, over to the plane. In this case, I guess Etihad, with only 2 departures from Mumbai has not thought of it being worth their while. When I arrived, check-in counters were open, and I proceeded to the Business Class section to check-in.
Business Class Check-in, but that is not me!
There was nothing premium about the whole check-in experience in Mumbai at least. There was not even a smile on the face of the guy who handed me over my boarding passes, or a cover for the boarding pass on the connecting flight.
Other airports where Etihad operates, First Class guests are seated separately, however Etihad seems to have skipped that step, maybe because they don’t get too much of First Class traffic from India. I’d reckon when Etihad firms up their strategic alliance with Jet Airways, they should fix this bit and get a better check-in experience. To be able to beat Emirates, they should also look at a lounge in Mumbai rather than a contract lounge.
I went through passport control and security checks, and once on the airside, I wanted to try out the Celebrations Lounge, which was the lounge partner for Etihad in Mumbai. Celebrations seems to have a Restaurant and a Lounge, which are all used by different airlines in Mumbai, such as Thai, Korean Air and Ethiopian.
I’ve previously been to various other lounges in Mumbai, including the British Airways Galleries Lounge, Clipper Lounge and the Clipper First Class lounge. However, this one was located near gates 1-4, making it closer to the boarding gate.
In what could be counted as a good thing or a bad thing, the lounge was empty. Totally empty. I mean, apart from the guy who lets you in, there was no help present when I arrived. So, I presented him my lounge invitation card, and I was let in promptly. I also picked up a wifi code on my way in.
Here are a few pictures of the lounge, along with the add schmoozing passenger inside.
I parked myself on one of the empty couches and tried to grab a bite and a drink. The food was, well, sort of, okay. On offer were vegetarian and non-vegetarian sandwiches, some sort of noodles, vegetarian spring rolls and some chicken kebabs.
When I went looking for a drink, there was nobody attending to the bar, and this was supposed to be not a self-service bar but one where you do have a bartender. Hey, it may be 3:30 AM in the morning, but that does not mean the bar is not open, and by inference, that there should be no one attending to passengers. I ultimately had to ask the guy at the lounge gate to help me with a drink of 7Up. Also, as an observation, the bar counter was mostly full of used cups and glasses, and just like some of you may have domestic help at home, there was a helper who did wash the dishes in the sink at the lounge counter, in the presence of 3-4 passengers, along with a lot of noise that she did create in an empty lounge. Not acceptable!
Oh, and I thought that was a novel experience to have some help clean up in the middle of the lounge. However, that was not just it. In the shower room, I found buckets with soap water. Hey, I was supposed to feel at home with this whole lounge experience, right?
The internet connection was cribby, and continued to drop all the time. I wanted to get some work done and some emails answered before I headed out, so I eventually had to use my own dongle to do so.
And since the connectivity was so bleh, and I was not feeling nice about this lounge at ALL, after having a quick bite and getting my work sorted out, I got out of the lounge a full 20 minutes ahead and proceeded to the gate. I’d say, AVOID this lounge. You could instead head to the Clipper Lounge on the other end near Gate 16 if you have access. They are way better.