Congratulations to Etihad Airways who just won World’s Leading Airline at the prestigious World Travel Awards! And since I just had a ride in the posh seats between Sydney and Abu Dhabi, I thought it prudent to give you the low down on why they won…
Etihad Airways’ hub is the United Arab Emirates city of Abu Dhabi (about an hour’s drive from Dubai) and from there hundreds of direct flights into Europe, India, Africa, etc. Next year they have announced another 100-odd cities coming on stream. The airport has 3 terminals and a brand new one is due to start being built next year specifically for Etihad.
It also has a Six Senses Spa in both First and Business class lounges which offer free 15-minute appointments (think well-deserved facials, head massages, foot massage, neck and shoulders…). Of course if there is time you can pay to have something that doesn’t make you think every 30 seconds, is my time running out yet??
They have a kids lounge with toys and TV while the adults are indulging in spa treatments, a glass of wine, free WiFi or the smoking lounge. Yes they have one within their Business Lounge and for some people, that will be a blessing.
Even though alcohol is hard to find in the UAE you’ll not find it a problem on the plane! I started with champagne and before I’d finished she was taking my order for which wine I’d like with my meal. A Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc please.
The business class configuration is 2 seats together in the centre (which would probably a little too close for comfort if you didn’t know the passenger next to you). The window seats kind of ‘merge like a zip’ so every 2nd seat has the window which is tucked almost behind the aisle guys. (Hmmm, I may not be explaining that very well. Here’s a configuration plan of the A340-600.) Tip: if you’re on the A340 go for 5C or 5H if travelling alone as you get a bonus storage area.
The meals are amazing. So much food that kept on coming – 5 courses. Here’s a taster of what you can expect by way of Business Class hospitality: sip your champagne as they fluff about getting the plane ready for departure and you change from shoes to travel socks and get your book stowed. Your order will be taken for what wine you will switch to once we’re in the air… Aussie shiraz, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, as well as a couple of French wines, Italian and Californian. There’s also the Forrest Estate Gewurztraminer from the Wairau Valley for afters – if you’re still compus after all that! My advice is to drink up because where Etihad will take you, alcohol won’t be easily found.
About an hour in and the smells of dinner are wafting through the cabin. Next minute a little demitasse of salmon soup arrived, then a hot loaf of 3 types of bread cleverly baked into one with some dips and sea salts. I ordered the lobster tail with lemon butter and rocket for a starter, followed by the Arabian mixed grill of a chicken kebab, lamb cutlets and beef kofta with rice. Other options were a juicy steak, monkfish and king prawn, or mushroom risotto.
Alas I had to admit defeat by the time dessert was offered but the choices were tempting: cheeses, blueberry pie, Valrhona chocolate parfait, fresh fruit or icecream. I still kept my hand up in defeat at the coffee or any other drinks and settled in for a satisfying sleep on the 14-hour flight. There is a ‘Kitchen Anytime’ menu with shwarmas, potato chips, prawn crackers and icecream and oh my, breakfast is another 6 choices. When I woke and decided to haul open the laptop, the flat white was just what I needed. And it was a proper espresso one.
I pinched a menu from economy class and they also get 3 courses, plus an extra snack service. They don’t get a choice of starter, but are 3 mains that you choose from a menu and instead of dine on demand, they come round offering ‘Hamper Service’ about 4 hours into the flight which includes baguettes, ice cream and a fruit basket. But you’ll still get two 3-course meals on the long flight between Abu Dhabi and Sydney and sloshings of alcohol.
My favourite discovery was the airplane loo! It has a window onto the world so one could sit here all day (swivelled backwards) watching the view if it weren’t for other passengers and their pesky knocks on the door.
Movies on demand are so new that I’ve already bawled at the Time Travellers Wife and its not even in NZ cinemas yet. The business class seats also recline flat (rather than pulling the seat forward) so you’re lying on the cushioned part, albeit with a lumbar roll making side sleeping a little uncomfortable. Oh and my next favourite thing: the vibrating seats! There are a few combinations to massage your back and butt and when your companion is asleep it’s terribly good fun to lean over and turn theirs on.
Congratulations Etihad. You deserve the win!