TR: EK vs EY, The Showdown

Old May 25, 12, 8:14 am
  #1  
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TR: EK vs EY, The Showdown

Some of you will have read that I have become more than a little dissatisfied with EKís attitude and service of late. Their treatment of their top-tier elite pax is, quite simply, nowhere near good enough anymore.
Many FTers told me that if I left, Iíd be crawling back to EK in 12 monthís time as they were the best of the bunch. Still, I had to leave. I had to test it out for myself, and if in 12 monthís it does turn out that EK are indeed the best of a bad bunch, then at least Iíll know this for a fact; which may just make their poor service a little more bearable. Maybe.

With that in mind, I booked myself a J class ticket to KUL via AUH on EY. I then booked a J class ticket from SIN Ė BNE/ MEL Ė SIN on EK. This way, I can compare the airlines side-by-side on the same trip.

Why EY? Well whilst I did consider QR, EY were the logical choice for me, as our office does a lot of business in Abu Dhabi.

So, let battle commence...

Letís start with the car. The chauffeur service was arranged to pick me up from my house (100 miles from LHR) without charge. This is a +1 for EY straight away. Whilst EK never actually charged me for this service, that didnít stop them trying (due to the ďexcessive distanceĒ) every time I booked.

The car (7 Series) arrived on time, with a pleasant, unobtrusive driver, and the journey to LHR was painless.

Once at the airport, I found the check in desk, and after fighting my way through a UA economy queue which had snaked its way across the front of the business class check in for EY, I managed to get checked in. My bag was tagged, I was handed my passport and boarding pass, and sent off to the lounge.

It was only when I arrived at the lounge, however, that I realised I didnít have my AUH-KUL boarding pass. I asked the angel on the desk, who looked a little confused, and printed it out straight away. After Iíd been in the lounge for 10 minutes or so, she then came over again and handed me a baggage reclaim card. It would seem that Iíd been checked in by the work experience kid.

The lounge itself was disappointing. EK lands a shot right on EYís jaw here.
Whist the EK lounges are generally airy, light, and have a nice selection of buffet foods available, the EY lounge was dark, minimalist and the buffet looked like the contestants of ĎBritainís Fattest Fattyí (or whatever that ridiculous programme is called where a fat woman loses 2lbs and cries for 90 minutes) had been through it just previous to my arrival.

It was replenished whilst I was there, but it still looked a bit sub-par, to be honest. I ate from the a la carte menu, and that was perfectly fine. Nothing amazing, but adequate for lunch. The lounge staff could definitely do with popping over to the EK lounge to see how things should look, though.

I asked for a glass of champagne, and was surprised when they bought over a bottle of Drappier. Now, I quite like Drappier champagne, but itís a brave choice for an airline to make. Most that Iíve been on tend to stick to the brands that even the Op-Uped Jeremy Kyle reject will know (namely Moet and Veuve). Drappier is a strong, bready champagne (almost a blanc de noirs), and itís certainly not to everyoneís taste. As I do like it, however, itís a +1 to EY for having the balls to be different.

The flight was called, and I made my way to the gate. All Y pax were onboard, so I walked straight through to the plane.

Now, I need to digress for a moment, here. I should point out that Iím aware I donít look like an Ďaverageí J pax. Iím under 30, in decent physical shape, with a shaved head. If Iím travelling somewhere hot, Iíll be wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Oh, and Iím also quite heavily tattooed (I donít mean biker skulls and ĎI heart Mumí prison tattoos, I consider tattoos a form of art, but I do understand that they can raise eyebrows Ė not saying I agree with that, but Iím aware of it).

When I travelled on EK, Iíve had cabin crew and lounge staff double and triple check my boarding pass when theyíve seen the J seat number. One EK sky waitress actually turned to her colleague and said ďI didnít think there were any upgrades todayĒ. She soon regretted that comment, and the purser spent the rest of the flight grovelling an apology. This is one of the reasons I walked away from EK; if I was a 50 year old portly gentleman travelling in a lounge suit, my experience may have been very different.

So, back to EY. I flip-flopped my way down the air bridge, and was greeted by a friendly girl at the door of the plane. No double checking this time, straight to my seat, and I was pleased to see that the other people in J were a diverse mix of pax. Some were clearly leisure travellers, there were a couple of suits, a couple of Arab gents in the traditional garb, but the whole cabin seemed a lot less Ďformalí than EK. +1 EY.

The seat itself was interesting. I had a window seat, and when sitting in the seat, it had a real feel of a mini-suite about it. The narrow aisle access makes you feel like youíre closed in. From a privacy perspective it was excellent. Aisle access from every seat is also a big plus. I was surprised, however, with the seat pitch. It was very narrow. Now, Iím an average sized guy, so it was no problem for me (in fact, I prefer the Ďcocooní feel to it) but I suspect that if one of those ĎBritainís Fattest Fattyí contestants were to try and fit in, theyíd have a bit of trouble.

I glanced down into Y, just to have a quick look at what the product looked like, and was surprised to see this: http://img717.imageshack.us/img717/5355/photoepy.jpg

I apologise for the blurry image, but Iím sure you can still see that this is something a little unusual. The entire first section of the Y cabin was empty. A little strange, seeing as the J cabin was full, but I guess these things happen from time to time.

Pretty soon we were pushing back, and then we were in the air. The safety information was concise and brief, and I was pleased not to have to endure the endless stream of promotional videos that EK subject us to.

As for the IFE itself, I was prepared for the worst. I knew that EKís IFE was second to none, and EYís would not compare. As I trawled the list of films, I found a few I fancied watching, but I knew that after this trip Iíd have exhausted the IFE on this system. Another trip this month would be out of the question without loading up the iPad.

When I boarded my EK flight in SIN, however, I noticed that the IFE had a very similar list of films. Whilst the TV seriesí were more extensive, I think it was just a case of it being a bad month for films. EKís IFE takes the point on this one, but after comparing side by side, EY was certainly not as far behind as I thought.

My champagne glass was kept topped up for the first hour, and when dinner was served I switched to a perfectly drinkable Austrian Riesling. This was the only wild card on the wine menu, the rest of the options being very predictable; old French vines or new world Australian/NZ. Not really pushing the boat out, but an acceptable choice, and superior to EKís options of whatever was on offer at ASDA.

Dinner was a smoked duck breast salad, followed by swordfish in lobster sauce. It was actually very good; Iíd go as far as to say one of the best meals Iíve had on a plane outside of F. Even the little touches, like the warm bread, soft butter, pinch pots of sea salt and black pepper, all came together to show that EY are really trying.

We landed in AUH, after what had been a very pleasant flight. The cabin crew gave us a friendly goodbye, and it was off to the lounge for my next flight.

This lounge was better. It was a little busy when I arrived, but the angel on the desk told me that two flights would be boarding in 10 minutes, so it would thin out. She was correct, and within 15 minutes the lounge was no more than 1/3 full. The buffet selection was very good. Sushi, Arabic mezze, Indian dishes, Western dishes, and a selection of snacks, fruit, breads, etc. I grabbed a small plate of salad and hummus, more to kill time than anything. The barman looked bored now everyone had gone so I put him to work pouring me a vase of scotch, and then I settled down to do a bit of work.

My flight to KUL was called, and within a few minutes I was in my seat. I had a window seat once again (I should point out that I called the EY call centre to request window seats when I made the booking, as most of the seats on the online selector were blacked out). There was a technical problem with the plane which kept us on the tarmac for an hour, but I simply made my seat into a bed and went to sleep. I was then awoken by cabin crew to inform me that we were departing, and we were on our way.

I slept for the majority of this flight, and it is here that EY really shines through. Fully flats on every long haul is a massive plus. EY has totally got EK against the ropes on this one. On my flight from MEL-SIN with EK, the seat was at such an acute angle it felt like I was trying to sleep on a childís slide. Whether there was something wrong with my seat, or Iíd just been spoiled by the fully flat (with a mattress, no less) experience of EY, thereís no question that EY takes this round.

We landed at KUL, later than anticipated due to the time on the tarmac at AUH. I was handed a Fast Track card for immigration (which was really handy as it was quite busy) and I was standing at the baggage carousel within 15 minutes of the plane touching down. My bag arrived within a couple of minutes, and I was on the train to KL Sentral 15 minutes later.

Thatís not to say EK didnít put up a fight. My flight from SIN-BNE was one of the best EK flights Iíve had in the last 3 years. The service, food and general ambience was excellent. This was the EK I thought had been forgotten. A relic of their glory days.

The lounge at SIN was very nice. Nothing new there, EK lounges are generally excellent. I believe the champagne was Moet, but I was too busy guarding the scotch bottle to pay too much attention. The food selection was fine Ė I donít really remember it, so it must have been adequate.

My seat was the usual EK angled lie flat, but I was reminded of how much it irked me that you have to climb over/be climbed over by someone to get to the aisle.

The crew were excellent. Canít fault them. The English girl serving my side of the J cabin really made me laugh when (after Iíd asked her for a large cognac) she bought me what I can only describe as a bowl full of cognac, and then asked if Iíd like a spoon. Itís been a long time since I had any decent interaction with EK staff, and it was a welcome reminder of what EK can be like when they get it right.

I donít remember the food on the flight, but I probably ate. As I canít remember it probably wasnít particularly note-worthy in a positive or negative way.

We landed at BNE. I was given a Fast Track card but immigration was deserted. Had to wait a few minutes for my bag, but nothing unacceptable. My chauffeur driver was waiting on the other side with a sign with my name on, and we headed straight off to the hotel.

I was worried at this point that I may have to rethink distancing myself from EK. It had been a truly great flight, and it had taken me back to the days when I loved flying on EK. Granted that fully flat EY slumber palace weighed heavily on my mind, but EK had stirred up emotions in me that Iíd long forgotten; a fondness for their little flourishes that had made a welcome return on this flight.

It didnít last long though. My flight from MEL-SIN was enough to convince me that nothing had changed.

Surly check-in staff. Surly lounge staff. Indifferent cabin crew. This was the EK Iíd come to know and loathe.

No-one did anything to seriously offend me, but their indifference and ďIíll get to you right after Iíve finished this phone call, made myself a coffee and scratched my arseĒ attitude irritates me. Ultimately, Iím paying to fly in a premium cabin, and I donít think itís unfair to want a premium service. Donít get me wrong, Iím not asking for a personal butler, but if I ask for a newspaper I donít think 20 minutes is an acceptable time to wait for it.

So, as I disembarked in SIN, a little surprised not to feel a boot up my arse to get us off quicker, my mind was made up Ė Whether or not EY became my new carrier of choice, I was done with EK.

I arrived at KUL about 6 hours before my flight, so I dumped my bag at Left Luggage and jumped on the train to the city for a few hours. When I got back, check in was open and I was surprised to see so many people in the Business check-in queue. Security were equally as perplexed, apparently, and they promptly turfed about 20 Y pax out of the queue.

I waited for about 5 minutes, and was presented with my boarding pass. I was then directed to the lounge.

Unfortunately, the Golden lounge (MHís home lounge) which EY uses was closed for refurbishment. This is a shame as I really like that lounge at KUL. I was directed to the China Airways Lounge (or some similar name, it was definitely something to do with China) which was distinctly average. I can forgive this, as it is only temporary and the wifi was good, but it did make me gaze longingly at the EK lounge as I walked past.

The food in the lounge was actually OK. They served a perfectly decent Thai green curry, and a selection of sandwiches and snacks. The alcohol selection was limited, and what was available was being consumed at a considerable pace by a group of Indian men. From what I could gather, theyíd snuck into the lounge and were trying to get as much Johnnie Walker down them as possible before they were forcibly evicted.

Once I got on the plane, I took a glass of Drappier and settled down. After a couple of minutes in my seat, however, the purser came over and introduced himself. He then said something that confused me a little; ďSo, Mr. Wozza2404, I understand youíre giving us a trial after being a regular with EK for quite some time? How is everything so far?Ē

It was only when I thought back over my previous flights that I remembered Iíd mentioned this to one of the crew on my LHR-AUH. They were explaining one of the seat functions to me, and I told them that it was my first time on EY so wasnít familiar with everything. We then briefly discussed my history with EK. So this cabin girl must have told the purser who made a note on my account?

It was a nice touch, and Iíve got to admit that the friendly, personal service I had on EY has made them a strong contender for my new carrier of choice. Yes their schedule isnít as frequent as EK, but thatís not a huge issue for me. The fully flat seats, suite-like window seats, good food, better crew and generally being made to feel welcome makes EY a great product. In J, at least. My flight from AUH-LHR was in F, and I wasnít particularly impressed with that, but thatís a story for another TR.

Conclusion? Well, if Iíd compared my EY flights in J with just the EK flight from SIN-BNE, it would have been a points victory for EY. Comparing the flights with both EK flights, and my past experiences with EK, and itís a complete EY whitewash. A jaw shattering knock out from EY.

Keep this up, Etihad, and Iím converted.
Wozza2404 is offline  
Old May 25, 12, 10:23 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
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Great TR, thanks. I was loyal QR to the core - but EY have definitely got something special going on lately. If they can get their call centres working as well as (most of) their inflight service, theyve certainly got me.
piasayang is offline  
Old May 25, 12, 12:51 pm
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Join Date: Feb 2011
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Very well written, thank you for sharing. I have my first EY journey coming up (J) and now I'm even more excited. Thank you for sharing.
bruadair is offline  
Old May 26, 12, 11:19 pm
  #4  
 
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Thanks Wozza2404 for taking the time to write the detailed report, and sorry I missed you in the lounge last week.

Just to add, as an overweight EY traveller I find the seat / bed fine, but it's a squeeze getting to the aisle from the secluded window-seat.
harryhv is offline  
Old May 26, 12, 11:35 pm
  #5  
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Very nice report ^

Would be very keen to hear about your F experience. Sounds
NoY is offline  
Old May 27, 12, 3:22 pm
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Nice report, and I am sharing the conclusion ... despite some issues I had with EY recently.
CalFlyer is offline  
Old May 28, 12, 2:20 am
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Join Date: Oct 2009
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Yes, thank you for this report, seems I won't be flying EK in J any time soon.

Just had an excellent (almost perfect) EY J trip BKK-AUH-BRU-AUH-BKK.
tartempion is offline  

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