Airline review: Etihad A380 business class, Abu Dhabi to Sydney

THE FLIGHT 

Etihad 

THE ROUTE

Abu Dhabi to Sydney 

THE PLANE

A380-800. Etihad introduced a second A380 to Sydney in October 2017, making Sydney the airline's first double daily A380 destination outside of Europe and the Americas. Its global fleet includes 10 A380s. The four-class aircraft's lower deck features 415 economy-class seats. The upper deck is fitted with 70 business seats (or "studios", to use the airline's parlance), nine first-class suites (or "apartments") and an envy-inducing three-room haven known as The Residence. 

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Etihad Guest allows passengers to earn points with partner airlines such as Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand and Philippine Airlines.

CLASS

Business, window seat 8A.

DURATION

Usually 14 hours and 10 minutes; we land 10 minutes early.

THE FREQUENCY

Etihad flies direct from Abu Dhabi to Sydney twice daily. The airline also flies direct from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne twice daily, and to Brisbane and Perth daily.

THE SEAT

The business cabin features a 1-2-1 configuration that alternates between forward- and rear-facing seats. After flying to Abu Dhabi in rear-facing 11D, I request a forward-facing seat for the return flight.  While 8A is next to the chic, dimly lit lounge area known as The Lobby where passengers can gather for drinks and chit-chat, it doesn't distract from the cosy nature of this front-row nook (the generous side table also creates distance from the aisle).  The 55cm-wide seats, with a massage function, convert to a flatbed that's either 204.5cm (forward-facing seats) or 192cm long (rear-facing seats). 

BAGGAGE

Etihad slashed baggage allowances in January 2018. Business passengers who could once check up to 64kg are now restricted to 40kg (with no bag exceeding 32kg).  They can carry on two bags weighing up to 12kg, plus a garment bag.

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COMFORT

My favourite thing about the flight is easily the snuggly cotton and fleece blanket. The airline ditched free in-flight pyjamas for business passengers last year so BYO sleepwear. Amenity kits come in five colourful patterns themed to Etihad destinations (by the end of my round trip, I've collected the Melbourne and Bangkok versions that include a Luxe guide to each of these cities). Mosaics at the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque inspired the Abu Dhabi-themed kit. 

ENTERTAINMENT

Flying to Abu Dhabi, my audio cut in and out on the noise-cancelling headsets, which connect to the system via a magnetic jack rather than pins. On the return flight, I don't have this issue and settle in to binge-watch Broadchurch and Jane Campion's crime drama Top of the Lake: China Girl on the 18-inch TV monitor.  The top-notch TV box sets make up for the lacklustre selection of recent-release movies.

FOOD

The cabin's a la carte Dine Anytime menu ranges from snacks to full meals. After filling up on Arabic sweets in the lounge before the flight, I restrict myself to a bowl of tomato and lemongrass soup, chasing it with a steak sandwich gussied up with Emmental cheese and red onion chutney. The menu offers western fare and Middle Eastern dishes such as an Arabic mezze plate, chicken mansaf and baklava. Alcoholic beverages (listed on a separate menu, perhaps in deference to the non-drinking Emirati culture) include Piper-Heidsieck champagne, an Italian chardonnay and a Barossa shiraz. 

SERVICE

Service is warm but patchy. I order a glass of the Bordeaux blend from the Graves appellation but it never materialises. I try again and the tipple duly arrives – along with an apology.  

ONE MORE THING

Note the ceiling designs and light projections in the cabin's boarding zones and lounge, along with the personal sconce lighting – their design echoes the Louvre Abu Dhabi's multi-layered dome that creates a "rain of light", mimicking the dappled light beneath palm trees. 

THE VERDICT

Nab yourself the right seat and you'll enjoy whiling away the hours in this classy cabin. The Lobby also encourages you not to spend the entire flight buckled into your seat – and surely that can only be good for your health.

OUR RATING 

4 out of 5

Tested by Katrina Lobley who flew as a guest of Etihad.

See also: It's safer, so why don't airline seats face backwards?

See also: Airline review: On board the first non-stop Perth to London flight

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