Executive travel: Etihad's Business Class is top choice for long haul to Sydney
As I've previously alluded to, I'm not one to seek out luxury when it comes to getting me from country to country.
As far as I'm concerned, getting to London for Dh700, including a five-hour layover in a Romanian airport at 2am and a spartan flight experience onboard a budget airline, far outweighs the food and decent legroom a normal airline affords. Given that I'm from New Zealand, a small island nation thousands of miles from any other discernible land mass where direct flights can cost Dh3,000 one-way, sometimes those cheap flight hacks can shave off thousands of dirhams of savings.
But then I flew Etihad's Business Class. And perhaps now I understand where all you direct-flying, luxury in the skies seekers are coming from.
Getting home to Christchurch is always tricky in terms of lining up connecting flights, ticket prices and long hours in the air, so when I headed home recently to run the city's marathon, I opted to fly via Sydney from Abu Dhabi. The flight time from Abu Dhabi to Sydney is 14 hours, and from Sydney to Christchurch is just over three hours – longer if your Jetstar flight is cancelled due to fog and you're rescheduled for 13 hours later.
Abu Dhabi Airport's separate Business Class entrance is almost an experience in itself, with check-in desks and security clearances devoid of queues and helpful staff ensuring we're checked in and in the Business Class Lounge in barely 10 minutes.
The lounge is sweepingly vast, with several buffet areas and a couple of bars dotted around the place, as well as a spa and shower facilities.
To be honest, by the time we make it on to the flight, I'm stuffed full of seafood casserole and Umm Ali, but a quick glance at the menu has me adamant that two three-course dinners is all part of pre-marathon preparations.
Etihad's A380 "studio seats" are firm, yet comfortable, with options to soften the cushion and even a massage function. The movie and television options seem endless, leaving a hard decision between sleeping on an overnight flight, or watching seven blockbusters.
I'm swiftly greeted by a friendly attendant, who helps me with my overhead luggage and offers me a drink, before I curiously rifle through the Acqua di Parma amenity kit. It's a nice touch, full of quality socks and an eyemask, a toothbrush and toothpaste, hand cream and a miniature vial of perfume to ensure you smell fresh throughout the flight.
Once we're in the air, drinks and dinner are served promptly, and the dedicated F&B manager is around to ensure everything flows smoothly. The dinner (a smoked salmon starter, beef fillet main and cheesecake for dessert) is by far the most enjoyable dining experience I've ever had in the air. I'm finally starting to see why people spend more for this kind of experience.
When I eventually concede defeat partway through Captain Marvel and decide to get some shut-eye, I'm astounded to find that by the time I wake up, six hours have whizzed by. The flatbed and plush duvet seem to have laid waste to my inability to sleep while travelling.
By the time it comes to disembark in Sydney, I'm fresh-eyed and bushy tailed and, for once, not needing to sleep for 75 per cent of my trip back because of the horrendous flight home. (Until, of course, the aforementioned debacle getting from Sydney to Christchurch transpired).
Suffice to say, when it came time to return to Abu Dhabi, I was almost looking forward to the journey more than the destination (I love you Abu Dhabi, truly I do, but returning to work after being home is always a struggle).
This time round, I was prepped and ready to go, having not overeaten in the humming The House lounge in Sydney airport – despite the glorious a la carte menu and the tempting chicken and brie burgers being dished out left right and centre. When I board the flight, I'm greeted like an old friend with a "welcome back" by my attendant, and completely floored when the F&B manager (the same from my flight to Sydney) apologises for being unable to remember what I was drinking last time so I could have it upon my arrival. Truly, the standard of service and affable personalities on this flight was an utter highlight.
Upon disembarking in Abu Dhabi, another six hours sleep and top-notch dining experience under my belt (I'm willing to go out on a limb here and state that the salmon tartare starter was the best I've had, ever), Etihad's Arrivals Lounge made jumping off a red-eye flight bound straight for work far less tedious. The shower facilities are much nicer than my own home, and the coffee and nibbles mean by the time I head off with a chauffeur to get to the office, the idea that I should be prepping myself for bed in New Zealand rather than a full day of work in the UAE are far from my mind.
One-way tickets from Sydney to Abu Dhabi start from Dh2879 in economy, and Dh13,397 in Business.
Updated: July 12, 2019 12:16 PM