On board Etihad Airways’ inaugural non-stop flight from Abu Dhabi to Boston

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The first Etihad Airways flight to Boston touched down on Sunday as the national carrier began a new route serving its fourth US city.

Known for its history, culture, and home to some of the world’s best universities, Boston is the gateway to New England and the Massachusetts state capital.

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner departed from Zayed International Airport in Abu Dhabi just after 3am on Sunday morning.

“It’s a great honour to be the first Etihad pilot to fly into Boston,” Emirati Captain Majed Al Marzouqi told The National from the flight deck during the 13-and-a-half-hour journey. “I am proud to play a pivotal role in this historic flight.”

Alongside him was First Officer Khalid Al Naqbi. Having never visited Boston before, he is one of the few people who can say that the first time they visited, they flew themselves there.

Etihad also flies to New York, Chicago and Washington. “We would always fly from JFK in New York over Boston and I always looked down and thought: ‘I have to be there’, and now here we are,” he said.

‘Some people go fishing, I go flying’

Soaring under a blue sky and above marshmallow-like clouds, the view from the cockpit was something special, making it easy to see why the pilots enjoy their job. “Some people go fishing for fun, I go flying,” said Al Marzouqi.

The route from Abu Dhabi to Boston covers more than 10,000km of airspace over places including Iraq, Turkey, Poland, Germany, Greenland, Canada and the north-eastern coast of the US.

A knock at the cockpit door signalled that it was time for a shift change and the two Emirati captains headed out of the flight deck to rest, leaving the Dreamliner in the capable hands of relief pilots Captain Michael Hoong and First Officer Nikhil Singhania.

Meticulous planning has gone into the new route, and Captain Al Marzouqi – who returned to the cockpit just before landing – wasn’t fazed by touching down in a new destination.

The UAE investment is about $25 billion into the US economy, and a lot of that is to companies in Boston

Arik De, chief revenue and commercial officer, Etihad Airways

“Boston is at sea level with no significant risk from terrain. We just need to be a bit more conservative since it’s our first time, but we will enjoy the approach and the landing,” Al Marzouqi said.

Passengers received celebratory redbrick-themed finjans – Arabian coffee cups without a handle – represent the ties between Abu Dhabi and its newest destination, which is known for its claret brick architecture.

All 28 business class suites on the jet were occupied. Premium passengers also enjoyed Armani / Casa bedding from Etihad’s partnership with the Italian fashion house, and Espa toiletries.

A Boston-themed menu was also on offer with dishes such as lobster rolls, Boston lettuce salad and vegetable chowder.

Daily flights from Abu Dhabi to Boston coming soon

For now, Etihad’s flights to Logan International Airport will operate from the UAE capital on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. That schedule will soon increase according to Arik De, chief revenue and commercial officer for Etihad Airways.

“It’s currently four times a week, but it will go to daily very soon,” he told The National on board the inaugural flight.

Etihad’s preclearance for US flights is not currently available on Boston services, but that’s also something that is going to change in the near future. “The preclearance facilities go live in July, so from July all US flights are going to be pre-cleared and it will be a fantastic facility,” said De.

With a full load on the inaugural flight, Beantown, as Boston is often called, looks set to be one of Etihad’s most popular destinations, something that De doesn’t seem surprised by.

“There are significant ties between the UAE and Boston. The UAE has more than 1,000 alumni in the last three years, some 200 students are studying there now. And there is a lot of investment – the UAE investment is about $25 billion into the US economy, and a lot of that is to tech companies and healthcare companies in Boston,” said De.

The city is also a good connecting point for travellers looking to fly elsewhere in the US, as it’s the home hub of JetBlue, one of Etihad’s partners, which offers flights to nearly 100 destinations in the US.

Boston celebrates ‘the best of America’

Incredibly rich in history and culture, Boston has plenty to offer visitors. “Catching a baseball game at Fenway is one of the things I definitely recommend doing – there’s something really cool about that,” said De, who lived in the city for five years.

“I think in many ways Boston celebrates the best of America. It’s warm and welcoming, and has a lot of immigrant stories, whether it’s Irish immigration, Scottish or Italian.

“That continues today with the universities, where people from different parts of the world come in and get this amazing education. And that story ties in very much with the UAE’s story; all of us here are from different parts of the world, coming here for a common journey.”

He added: “It’s also one of the few cities in the US that has an American feel, but then it has a very old-world charm, and you don’t get a lot of that in North America.”

And for travellers hoping to make the most of a visit by beating jet-lag, Captain Al Marzouqi said the scheduled flights on the new route work very well.

“The timing is perfect, you’ll be leaving Abu Dhabi after midnight, so you can enjoy the Etihad experience and get some sleep, and we’ll touch down in Boston in the morning, so you can start your day right away.”

Etihad to fly to Bali, Jaipur and Nairobi

In addition to the Boston launch, Etihad has announced new routes to Nairobi, Jaipur, Antalya and Bali. The airline is also launching seasonal services to Mykonos, Nice, Malaga and Santorini, all of which will start just in time for the peak summer travel period.

“By the end of the year, our network is going to be bigger than it was before 2019. By January 2030, we will fly to 150 destinations, adding about 10 destinations per year,” revealed De.

Updated: April 01, 2024, 9:41 AM

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