An etihad plan sitting on the runway at dusk.

From The Pointy End: Etihad Airways Business Class Review

11 May 2016

Words by Jason Dutton-Smith

Winning  top marks for their comfy Business and First Class cabins, the accolades continue for Etihad's engaging inflight entertainment and friendly cabin crew. With this kind of passenger and industry recognition, we were keen to experience the famed Etihad service for ourselves. And what better way to enjoy it than on the airline's brand new 787 Dreamliner between Brisbane and Abu Dhabi.

We enjoyed elevated views, overlooking the runway, from the lounge above gate 82 of Brisbane International Airport's newly refurbished terminal. At boarding time we were personally advised our aircraft was ready and escorted to the aircraft.

A view of the Etihad 787 Dreamliner on the runway at dusk

As we made the short walk to the gate, oversized windows of Brisbane International revealed our brand new Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner aircraft waiting to whisk us to Abu Dhabi and our final destination, Germany.

Stepping onboard, warm toned cabin colours greeted us that subtly reflect the desert landscape hues of this award winning airline. We were quickly greeted by name and directed to our seat.

The cabin crew members were immaculately dressed; the male cabin crew in their dark coloured suits with matching ties. The food and beverage manager was separated by a cream coloured jacket.

Female crew sported stylish beret hats, coloured scarves, a chocolate brown dress with matching jacket and leather gloves pulled up past the wrist.

Based on the attention to detail of the staff uniforms and beautiful aircraft appearance, I couldn't help but wonder if the product and service onboard would match.

Quick Overview:

  • Route: Brisbane to Abu Dhabi
  • Aircraft: Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner
  • Class: Pearl Business Class
  • Seat Number: 11E (aisle seat)
  • Duration: 14 hours, 10 minutes
  • Baggage Allowance: 2 bags at 32kg per bag

Check-in

For select Business Class and First Class fares, passengers are able to reserve a private car transfer to/from home to the airport, plus a transfer on arrival to your destination within a certain kilometre radius.

Our chauffeur promptly arrived close to ten minutes prior to the scheduled pick-up time in a new Holden Statesman, and we arrived at Brisbane's international terminal within 20-minutes.

Etihad Airways uses counter ten for check-in, with three distinct lines dividing economy, business and first class passengers for check-in.

Although the flight was 100% full, we walked to the counter and were checked-in quickly and efficiently. Our luggage was tagged to our final destination of Munich and we were given express path immigration cards for boarding and directions to the lounge.

Lounge

Etihad Airways guests have access to the newly opened Air New Zealand Star Alliance lounge, located above gate 82. Other airline passengers that can access the lounge include Virgin Australia and all Star Alliance carriers.

As our flight was not due to depart until 9:50pm, we were the only flight departing at that time of evening and had the lounge to ourselves.  I do imagine at peak times the lounge would get crowded; although, there seemed to be plenty of seats and space available in comparison to the tired previous lounge.

While smaller than the sister lounges at Sydney and Auckland with their large staffed bar, the Brisbane lounge is self serve for food and beverages. The fridges were stocked full with several beer varieties and sparkling wine options, while the top bar had a selection of self-pour spirits next to the juice, tea and coffee station.

Six hot food options were available including a vegetarian pumpkin risotto, chicken dishes and soup. A salad bar was on display with the Air New Zealand staples of a great cheese selection, muffins and freshly baked scones with jam and cream.

Overall, the lounge was beautifully presented, with plenty of work stations and power adaptors at each seat, plus a nice food buffet and beverage selection. The only downside to the lounge experience was the hot and cold food buffet was cleared at 8pm, which seemed a little unusual considering most people were arriving around this time for the 9:50pm flight.

Seat

We were lucky enough to have one of Etihad's newest aircraft with the latest 'Business Studio' seats arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. Some seats face backwards in a dovetail layout with a mix of couple seats in the centre and aisle seats for single travellers.

Each of the 28 lay-flat 'Business Studio' seats are partially covered in Poltrona Frau Leather. Each passenger has direct aisle access with seats folding to a 6-foot, 8-inch flat bed with 20-inches of seat width.

An interesting and welcomed feature is the seat firming and massage option. At the touch of a button, the seat cushion can be pumped up or down to your desired comfort level with built-in lumbar support.

Convenient hidden storage options for headphones and tablets were in a side cabinet; a shoe storage area was located under the footrest; and a large dining table and oversized side table provided ample room to spread out.

An 18.5-inch personal flat TV screens with countless hours of entertainment options on the award winning E-Box system were available. Noise-cancelling headphones were also provided.

Post take-off, we were presented with amenity kits with the standard eye mask, socks, toiletries and hand creams.

When ready to rest, the bed was quickly converted by a crew member with a pillow top mattress pad and comforter. Unfortunately, the pillow was the same seat pillow as when we boarded. The only enhancement would be the offer of a new pillow for when ready to sleep.

Looking at two entertainment screens side by side
Image courtesy of Jason Dutton-Smith

Entertainment

The award winning E-Box personal TV screen (available in all classes) has a wide range of all-time favourites, latest release movies, still in cinema movies and timeless classics with English, Arabic, Indian and select Asian and European language options. Each of the 150-plus movie options play on-demand on your high definition flat screen, 18.5-inch TV. 

There are over 250 TV shows, 400 pre-loaded CD's and other audio entertainment and games. Select flights (including ours) even have live news and sports channels. The E-Box has thousands of hours of entertainment to pass the time.

My favourite feature was the 'share screen' option. My partner and I could watch the same movie at the same time. As we wanted to see the same new release flick, this was a great touch. Even if in different seats or classes, you can still share the same screen to watch a movie and use the seat chat to discuss after.

Service

This is where Etihad excels. Flying nannies onboard with training at Bath's Norland College; Savoy Hotel trained butlers in First and Business Class and onboard chefs, all contribute to exceptional service.

As we boarded the flight we were greeted with champagne, juice or water and an introduction by the cabin crew serving us for the first leg of the flight.

Shortly after takeoff, the food and beverage manager moved through the cabin to take our dinner order and explain the 'Dine Anytime' service, which was filled with a variety of food and beverage options. This is a great concept with no set meal times.

We were soon presented with warmed mixed nuts and a beverage of choice while our main meals were prepared. We also enjoyed a light snack mid-flight of pulled pork sandwich, fresh baked cookies and tea.

Approximately 1.5 hours prior to arrival, a breakfast was served with several choices from continental and hot meals.

Throughout the flight the crew were always available and experts at anticipating our needs. While always there, they were barely seen, yet appearing at seemingly the most appropriate time. The crew training on this flight was shining through with each member always cheerful and happy to attend our needs.

Food and Beverage

The menu consisted of four courses from an extensive a-la-carte menu with a choice between three starters, four main courses, cheese plate and dessert.  This was backed up with the 'All Day' selection of sandwiches, pies, chips, pretzels, ice-cream, fruit, cheese and different breakfast options.

Essentially anything you wanted, including espresso served with traditional Arabic Baklava and cookies, was available.

The wine and beverage list offered French Champagne, two whites and two reds – all of high quality. Complimenting this list was dessert wine, aperitifs and spirits, beers and liqueurs'.

The meals arrived swiftly and serving portions were large, with each as delicious as the next. We were certainly satisfied.

For starter I ordered the traditional Arabic Mezze plate.

Looking at a mezze plate with various dips and breads
Image courtesy of Jason Dutton-Smith

Followed by fillet steak with rocket, tomatoes, parmesan, balsamic and potato fondant.

A steak dinner with tomatoes and potatoes
Image courtesy of Jason Dutton-Smith

The cheese plate was simple but delicious....

A cheese plate and crackers
Image courtesy of Jason Dutton-Smith

And I finished with a rhubarb and custard pie with vanilla ice-cream.

A pie and ice cream with tea
Image courtesy of Jason Dutton-Smith

Full, satisfied and content, I needed several hours of sleep to digest!

A cookie with tea
Image courtesy of Jason Dutton-Smith

For breakfast I selected the lighter continental option with corn flakes, a croissant with jam, fresh squeezed orange juice, hot tea, fresh fruit and yogurt with mixed berry compote. A warm breakfast was also available for those with a heartier appetite.

The 'All Day' menu was available at the press of the call-bell throughout the flight.

Overall, Etihad did a great job with their food selections and presentations, with our first choice available every time.

Last Word

With an elegant and warm cabin, modern seat designs, fantastic food and beverage options and service from highly trained cabin crew, the entire flight passed quicker than normal.

For the first time in all my travels, I slept seven hours non-stop. One of the cabin crew even commented that it looked like I enjoyed my rest. Does that mean I was snoring? Let's hope not!

This airline has nothing but top marks from this happy guest. I actually looked forward to my return flight home; another first! With a business class this impressive, I can only imagine the first class experience. One to add to the bucket list.  

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