A340-600 aircraft, EY455 Sydney to Abu Dhabi, Pearl Business Class, Seat 6D
Check-in and luggage allowance:
Greeted by pleasant and warm Etihad staff at Sydney International Airport at 8pm on Wednesday night, I was left walking toward the departure gate within five minutes after the breezy no-fuss, friendly and professional check in experience.
Since Etihad do not operate a private lounge in Sydney, I was provided access to the Air New Zealand lounge which was operating with skeleton staff at that hour, but still went out of their way to ensure that my needs were met with my specific dietary requirements.
Usually waiting until the eleventh hour to board a flight, after all, I’ll be sitting in the aircraft for over 14 hours, I was the opposite on this occasion and as soon as the gates opened, I stepped on board my first Etihad flight.
If anything, Etihad knows good service. The experience starts when you show your boarding pass, and instead of being told to “turn left”, guests are greeted with a personal welcome and shown to their seat, helped with their bags and asked what pre-take off beverage they would like.
The cabin, configured in 1-2-1 seating arrangements although technically making two people sit in the same row, the large middle area between seats provides optimum privacy.
As I settle into my seat, unwrap the comfortable, heavy duvet (with one side silk or nylon so as not to get any fluff on your clothes), I notice the buttons to my right showing a simple seat diagram with the different angels one can choose. I was more interested however, in the little wave buttons, and although indulgent, immensely enjoyed the different massage options until being served my Henriot Blanc Souverain NV Champagne.
Just before take-off, the personal stewardess for the cabin enquires what post take-off beverage one would prefer, which is served promptly with some chicken skewers as soon as the seat-belt signal is turned off.
Meal and snack service:
Hot scented towels and amenity kits with Aigner products are presented to each guest, as well as the most-extensive business class menu I think I have ever seen.
An “express” menu is available for those who want to have a quick meal, which included three courses, but for those who prefer choice, this is definitely the airline for you. As I looked over the seven choices for entrees and mains, plus the four desserts and four snacks, I took my time figuring out just exactly what, and how much, I wanted to eat.
As everything is prepared freshly in the galley kitchen, I could be my usual fussy self and opt to have the dressing on the side, selection of cheeses and fruits and so on.
Ordering the Asparagus, tomato and artichoke salad, followed by the interestingly named Machboos rice with braised chicken, cashews and raisins and to finish, a cheese sampling with dried fruit and nuts, I thought I did well to cover a variety of dishes from the menu which ranged from Steak sandwiches to beef tenderloin and chicken pie. Desserts included Apple tart tatin, Arabic baklava and a variety of Providore ice cream.
Served on fine china, with finally a proper knife, each course was presented individually to guests and surprisingly, wine was poured at the table allowing for tasting before being served. It is this attention to detail, and excellence in service, which I think Etihad excels.
Nestling into the seat (49-inch seat pitch), I switch on the 16-inch flat screen, put on my noise cancelling headphones and browse through the extensive movie selection.
Unfortunately picking a dud-movie (note to self, just because Shia LeBeouf is in a movie doesn’t mean it is any good), my meal was served course-by-course.
The salad with the dressing on the side was a nice break from freezing-cold vegetables usually encountered on flights, and the delicate chicken, cooked to perfection smothered in Middle-Eastern spices was as good as any restaurant prepared meal. To finish, warm mixed nuts, oat crackers and three different cheeses was perhaps a little too much decadence, but delicious nonetheless.
After deciding to use my iPad to watch some hard-hitting drama (Gossip Girl and Entourage of course), I loved the option to plug in the device knowing I wouldn’t run out of battery mid-show.
The light blue decor, complete with star-gazing mood-lighting (which is turned on after dinner service), allows for guests to relax and take advantage of the full 6ft1inch lie-flat bed, especially as it is an over-night service. I fit into the bed with plenty of room to spare, put on the comfortable soft eye mask (again, a nice touch compared to some of the other cheaper made products usually provided), I drift off to sleep for seven-straight hours.
It was either the comfort of the seat, the right level of air conditioning and the non-dehydrating cabin, or just the over-eating and being 1am Sydney time, but I look around when I wake and notice most other passengers had done the same, a feat I can only attribute to the comfort of the seat.
Breakfast orders were taken individually and again, being able to chop and change from the extensive menu, I opted for a healthy start to the day with fresh fruit and oats.
However, looking around the cabin, the Traditional English Breakfast complete with scrambled eggs, chicken sausage, baked beans, potato and grilled tomato seemed to be a bit hit with the other travellers.
Arriving on time in Abu Dhabi, I was greeted with again, a personal guide, taking me to the Etihad Business Class lounge to await my onward flight.
Etihad flies twice a day from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, and has just announced a code-share agreement with V Australia.