It's often said that first impressions count. As I began the long journey from Sydney to London, my first impression of Etihad Airways was of an airline of style and sophistication – one that really had its script together.
Greeted at the door by two dapper gents dressed in crisp white jackets and natty maroon ties, it felt like I was entering an exclusive flying country club. The cabin was laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration with some passengers facing the rear of the plane. I’ve seen other carriers cram in an extra couple of seats in this section, but Etihad have gone for a modern, spacious and all-aisle access set up which guarantees privacy and comfort.
The decor reflected the desert home of the Abu Dhabi-based carrier, being a sandy montage of brown, beige and caramel, and was adorned with delightfully subtle authentic touches. As we prepared for take-off, I began imagining our A380 to be a luxurious Arabian caravan heading off into the desert. Of course, that could just have been the second glass of Piper-Heidsieck that our excellent cabin steward Alexandru gave me, but you get the general gist.
Settling into seat 25c was a bit like getting into the cockpit of a racing car: plenty of high-tech gadgets and snug as a bug in a flying rug. The large touch-screen TV was perfectly placed at the right height and distance while the accompanying noise-cancelling headphones ensured I could enjoy a huge array of films, TV shows, games and in-flight information, oblivious to my surroundings and the rather noisy American gentleman across the aisle.
It’s called ‘business’ class for a reason and those who really need to keep in touch with the office at 39,000 feet will be relieved to know Etihad offers the chance to purchase Wi-Fi onboard. There are also plenty of handy sockets for phones, tablets and laptops, while a large table provides adequate work space. There’s even an onboard lounge, called The Lobby, where you can relax and unwind after a hard day in the cabin.
For me, however, the acid test of a business class experience on a long haul journey is really about two things: the food and the seat.
With the former, I enjoyed one of the best meals I’ve ever tasted in the air, comprising of a delicious pea and mint soup with crème fraiche, followed by a tender cut of grass-fed fillet of beef with polenta chips, asparagus and red onion jam, while the lemon citrus tart with berry coulis was simply sublime.
For those who like to eat when they want, Etihad also offers an all-day dining menu, featuring pastries, cereal, yoghurt, a yummy steak sandwich and pies.
As for the seat, it did just about everything except make the tea. You could move it backwards, forwards, in and out - it even offered an in-flight massage. Once fully-flat and with the added benefit of the full-size comforter and pillows, I slept soundly for large portions of my 22-hour journey. (Handy hint: for the taller flier, I would recommend the forward-facing 22k as it seemed to have a touch more space in the footwell than 25c).
This was my first experience flying with Etihad but hopefully it won’t be the last. The crew were exceptionally friendly and helpful and the silver service onboard was exemplary. You only get one chance to make a good first impression...and this one has left a lasting impression.
Subscription successful! Thank you for subscribing.