Last year, Etihad Airways celebrated ten successful years of flying to and from Australia serving up their award-winning excellence to the Middle East, Europe and beyond.
I recently flew from Etihad’s home hub of Abu Dhabi to Sydney on Etihad Airways superjumbo, the A380-800 to get the latest lowdown on the twice-daily service. What did I think of it? Read on.
CHECK-IN & PRE-BOARDING
Is this the best check-in experience going? It must be up there surely. Checking in to Etihad Business Class at Abu Dhabi Airport is an absolute dream thanks to a dedicated Premium check-in suite right next to the airport front door.
Here you firstly get to sit in a comfy leather chair feeling like a rock star while the efficient ground staff take care of the formalities and your bags (two checked bags tallying 40kgs plus two carry-on bags weighing up to 12kgs in total)…
Boarding pass in hand and bag free, you then cruise through another set of doors to priority immigration (usually with no queue) and shazam, you’re in duty-free and on your way to the Etihad Premium Lounge, just a short walk or lazy travelator away. This is an enormous time and hassle saving feature compared to many other airports in the world, as the whole process usually only takes around ten minutes max.
The Etihad Premium Lounge itself is vast and features numerous comfy and quiet areas to kick back in, plenty of space to work if you need, top quality food and drink options, showers and a Six Senses Spa if you feel like a quick massage or treatment. It’s also only a few minutes walk or travelator back to gate 32 where the flight to Sydney normally departs.
70 Business Class ‘studios’ along with 9 First Class ‘apartments’ and the outrageous three room Residence, together with a lounge (aka the Lobby) take up the entire upper deck of this uber classy bird. Priority boarding from a separate, elevated gantry means you won’t even see anyone in economy.
The Business cabin is set up in a 1-2-1 configuration, with all aisle access and alternating dovetailed studios facing backwards. For those that always like to sit in a forward direction or are travelling with a friend – you may want to ensure you request your spot early. If you crave total privacy, aim for a window seat.
I’m in 24F, which is a forward facing middle studio towards the back of the cabin. Though I can see my fellow flier next to me, there’s a privacy screen that pops up to save any unnecessary awkwardness. Though travelling with a friend or partner would have been fun.
All of the ‘smooth as a baby’s bum’ seats are upholstered in leather by Poltrona Frau, the prestigious Italian suppliers of Ferrari’s interiors no less, and there’s plenty of surfaces, compartments and two stowaway bins to store all your devices, shoes, duty-free, dates, stuffed toy camels and whatever else you’ve brought with you.
There are two USB chargers, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and a stylish ‘Luxe’ themed amenities kit which includes a Luxe City Guide (I get Bangkok this time), a comfort kit by Scaramouche + Fandango complete with a sleep pack and earplugs.
The 22-inch wide seat with inbuilt massage features (yes really) reclines entirely flat to 80.5-inches, and there’s a 100% cotton duvet to cocoon yourself in that’s been specially designed to keep you comfortably warm but not overly so at altitude. These are the subtle details that set this product apart from many of its rivals.
With an understated cream and chocolate colour palette, a range of mood lighting and the cabin crew’s gorgeous outfits and alluring looks, the recurring theme here is ‘seriously chic’.
I’ve always been a big fan of the Etihad Business Studio LCD touchscreens. At 18 inches they’re big, crisp and a total indulgence where you can comfortably enjoy your dinner and watch a movie at the same time.
The e-Box entertainment system caters for every discerning taste with TV boxsets backing up the latest movie releases and streaming LIVE TV to watch the latest sport and news. I find it a pure luxury to watch live English Premier League football in a seat like this at 39,000 feet with a glass of wine in my hand. But that’s just me.
You can control all of the action via the touchscreen, or use the secondary console controller that doubles up as another screen should you get torn between two shows. It’s also handy when you’re in full recline mode and can’t reach the central touchscreen easily.
If you can’t take being offline for so long, Etihad also offers their Panasonic “wi-fly” access which is available for US$24.95 for the duration of the flight. Pretty decent value on a thirteen plus hour flight.
There’s a host of magazines and papers to read, games and music too if you want something different or alternatively, you can stare up at the impressive ‘rain of light’ lit ceiling which is akin to the Louvre Abu Dhabi showpiece dome roof design.
There’s also a lounge area (the Lobby) where you can stretch out during the flight, and enjoy a cocktail and a bite with a friend or a complete stranger.
THE SERVICE, FOOD & DRINKS
I found the cabin crew to be impeccable on this flight at every stage of my journey. From check-in to boarding and beyond, the all international team were attentive, warm and friendly in true 5-star fashion.
After the obligatory welcome glass of champagne (Piper-Heidsieck) and hot towel, orders were taken from the a la carte menu for lunch before take off (though you could dine anytime you liked throughout the flight) and then served around 40 minutes into the flight.
The extensive beverage list has plenty of good options on it to discover, with most wine regions in the world represented including South Australia. I chose a couple of glasses of the delicious 2008 Margaux Bordeaux. There are also lots of herbal teas and soft drinks for those opting out of the harder stuff.
While the menu features both Western and Middle Eastern cuisine, I mixed it up with the ever tasty Arabic Mezze Platte to start and then moved on to the Beef tenderloin with roast potatoes, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and shiitake mushroom sauce. By then, of course, I couldn’t help myself and went all out, finishing with the heavenly sticky toffee pudding and butterscotch sauce.
Around 6 hours of mile-high slumber then followed my royal chowdown. This flight is a day sector, so my trusted ‘jetlag beating’ rules applied. Set my watch to local Sydney time on take off (6 hours ahead) and then try to sleep at the usual bedtime with the aid of a sleeping tablet.
Breakfast is served whenever you want from the all-day menu and after a couple of quality lattés to wake me up again, and I tucked into some tasty scrambled eggs with mushrooms alongside a couple of warm croissants and jam.
It’s incredible where the time goes on an almost fourteen-hour flight. Being in Business Class probably has something to do with it.
If Louis Vuitton had designed a plane, the Etihad A380 would be it. Even the colour palette is on point. All of the glamorous crew looked like they should have been stepping on to a different kind of runway yet were wonderfully personable during the entire flight.
In recent years, Etihad has continued to up the comfort ante for travellers and consistently deliver an award-winning service minus the fanfare. Etihad Business is a fantastic option to fly to the Middle East, Europe and beyond in pure class whether for work or pleasure.
Flight: EY450 from Abu Dhabi to Sydney International
Seat: 24F – Business Class, Upper deck, aisle, forward facing
Flight time: 13 hours 55 minutes
Schedule: Dep 1030 (Abu Dhabi time) Arr: 0630 Sydney time (next day)
For more information: Visit Etihad Airways
Matt flew as a guest of Etihad Airways and Jordan Tourism
- READ: AGENT TALES: Flight Centre’s Ben lives it up FOR FREE in Etihad’s Residence
- READ: GLOBAL GATHERING: Flight Centre Agents take off to Berlin on an Etihad A380
- READ: ETIHAD WRAP: New routes, new planes and financial results
Have you flown Etihad Business Class before? Share your experience with us.
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