Etihad Airways have been winning airline awards aplenty for the last few years. So to find out what all the fuss is about, KarryOn recently put the A380 Business Class to the test from Sydney up to Abu Dhabi.

Given Etihad Airways rapid rise to prominence, it’s remarkable to think that Abu Dhabi’s home carrier is still only thirteen years old when you compare them to legacy airlines like Qantas for example, who have just celebrated their 90th year of flying.

I’d flown Etihad Airways Business Class on the Boeing 777 before, but not the Airbus A380, so I was keen to find out how the experience stacked up.

The verdict? Read on.

 

Check In and the lounge

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If you’ve booked a Business or First ticket with Etihad Airways, your star treatment begins from the moment you step out of your front door as a complimentary limousine return transfer is included with most tickets.

I got to check in and was greeted with a warm “Welcome to Etihad Airways” from the lovely lady at check in who efficiently got me on my way in no time with an express card to speed through immigration.

All Business Class passengers get access to the dedicated Etihad Airways Business and First Lounge in Sydney, which is a warm-up for what’s to come onboard with a flawless service performance from the moment you step through the golden sliding doors.

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So after another fine welcome at the front desk, an impeccably presented Lounge Attendant then personally escorted me downstairs into the lounge itself and handed me on to a waiter who politely offered me a seat and a drink.

The lounge is exquisitely stylish and feels like a secret, refined lair where you feel you might just bump into George Clooney, Cate Blanchett or perhaps even Etihad Airways brand ambassador herself Nicole Kidman snacking on a few dates and a glass of champagne.

With Etihad’s Middle Eastern inspired, natural colour palette of gold, marble, sand and hints of mint and tangerine it’s a quiet, cool space that’s easy on the eye and a lovely space to relax in preparation for your flight.

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Cuisine wise you can choose from a range of Middle Eastern or Western light and healthy nibbles and dishes or select from the A ‘la Carte Menu which features a number of choices immaculately served over three courses.

I decided to sit down to graze off the A ‘la Carte menu and tucked into a grilled Riverina Haloumi Salad as an appetiser followed by a delicious Quinoa crusted Humpty Doo Barramundi with a warm roasted pumpkin salad, sweetcorn and courgette and some sticky dates and Arabian coffee for dessert. The dishes were all a good size – not too big and so easy to digest for the flight ahead.

My friendly waiter keeps on refilling the French champagne (I didn’t ask him honestly) and by the time the flight is called I’m feeling very spoilt and ready to walk the short distance to the plane.

 

The seat

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Your private cocoon awaits…

Business (Studio) Class is on the upper deck of the A380 with 80 seats in total in a 1-2-1 configuration with the middle two seats rear facing. At the very front of the plane are both The Residence and 9 First Class Suites.

I’m in a window seat (8K) right next to the lounge area where you can stretch out, take a seat with a friend and enjoy a cocktail and a bite or even have a meeting and use the large screen to run your presentation on if you need to do some work.

Thankfully there are no presentations for me tonight and I settle into my comfy leather seat and stretched out my extra long legs to the full. The seat itself is a sort of private cocoon with plenty of surfaces, compartments and two stowaway bins to store all your devices, shoes and whatever else you’ve brought with you.

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You control your experience

There are two USB chargers (which is excellent), a pair of headphones and a stylish amenities bag which includes a Luxe City Guide (I get Rome. Abu Dhabi would perhaps have been better though), eye mask, socks and toiletries by Scaramouche and Fandango.

Pyjamas are handed out too before take off which are 100% soft cotton and wonderfully comfy. I wore them to sleep in, and you also get to take them home too.

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The Business Class Amenities kit on Etihad Airways

The seat with inbuilt massage options goes down to lie flat entirely, and there’s a 100% cotton duvet for once you do decide to sleep that’s been specially designed for altitude and keeps you comfortably warm but not overly so.

At the press of a button, you can also control your electric window shades, which is very cool. It’s even cooler when the crew turns down everyones shades including THAT person who insists on keeping theirs up while everyone else is sleeping.

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The Electronic shades scream quality

 

Food and wine

One of the best things for me about flying Etihad Airways Business Class is that you can eat what you want from the menu when you want.

Want to go to sleep straight away? No problem. You can order some food now for later, or when you wake up. Having the choice makes a big difference.

Like the lounge, you can dine A ‘la Carte in your seat or snack as you please. There are no trolleys here, just bespoke ordering off a menu that’s varied and plentiful and includes the finest selection of champagnes, wines and spirits.

The Mezze Plate

The Mezze Plate

I started the evening’s gastronomy session with the signature Mezze Plate and was recommended to match it with a glass of chilled South African Chardonnay. For main, I chose the tasty beef with spicy pumpkin and Brussels Sprouts (never had those on a plane before) and a matched glass of Portuguese red. Dessert was a warm bread and butter pudding with angelises sauce that was rich and gooey.

Later in the flight after some sleep (7 hours no less) I ordered some breakfast of muesli, Raspberry yoghurt and then poached eggs with spinach and tomatoes, which came with some warm pastries and a (real) latté. Delicious.

The service throughout the entire flight was speedy, attentive and friendly and I got the impression that I could keep ordering anything on repeat throughout the flight and the crew wouldn’t bat an eyelid.

 

Entertainment

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Facing you in your seat is a very generous 17” flat touch screen with an additional controller that also features a display much like an Iphone’s so you can watch two different shows at once if you feel like it.

Etihad’s E-BOX entertainment system has a broad range of TV choices, new movie releases and classics as well as enough foreign films to satisfy the most cynical of culture vulture’s appetites. There’s plenty of music and radio to tune into as well as games and flight and destination info galore.

Something I love about Etihad’s E-BOX system though is the live TV option where you can watch five news, and sports channels streamed live to your seat.

Being able to watch BBC World live and catch all the latest news in-flight or a live Premier League football game at 36,000 feet feels very special and another point of difference that I haven’t seen on another airline.

 

The verdict

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Fabulously impeccable service at every touch point, considered design details everywhere and points of difference like A ‘la Carte lounge and in-flight dining as well as live TV made this flight extremely enjoyable.

Even the toilets on the Etihad Airways A380 are impressive, being bigger and more comfortable in size and with mood lighting that puts you in your best light as opposed to that ‘Who turned on the ugly lights?’ nightclub moment you get on most aircraft.

 

The deets

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Flight: EY221 from Sydney International to Abu Dhabi

Seat: 8F – Business Class, Upper deck, window, forward facing

Flight time: 14.5 hours

Dep: 2150 Arr: 0540 Abu Dhabi time

Timing: The Flight was on time, and the process of getting through Abu Dhabi airport was smooth and quick. I was out of the airport in around 25 minutes from disembarking the plane.

For more information, head over to Etihad Airways

Matt flew as a guest of Etihad Airways and Abu Dhabi Tourism

Have you flown with Etihad Airways recently? Share your thoughts below.