Airline review: Etihad Airbus A380-800 business class with 'Flying Nanny' on board, Sydney to Abu Dhabi

THE PLANE

Airbus A380-800. The largest of its aircraft, seating up to 496 passengers, Etihad has 10 A380s in its fleet.

THE ROUTE

EY455 Sydney to Abu Dhabi

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Etihad codeshares with Virgin Australia, and their loyalty programs are also linked, so I lob my points onto my Velocity account and I also swipe my daughter's points under Velocity's ''family pooling" scheme.

CLASS

Business.

DURATION

14 hours 40 minutes

FREQUENCY

Etihad flies Abu Dhabi to Sydney twice daily.

THE SEAT

Business class has a 1-2-1 configuration, with the seats dovetailing into each other: half face forward, half are rear-facing, all have aisle access. I'm flying with my seven-year-old daughter, Yasmine, and we're allocated rear-facing seats 19C (window) and 19D (aisle), on either side of the aisle. The cabin manager explains that it's easier for me to jump up across the aisle to attend my child, rather than sitting side-by-side, as the two tables on the rear-facing seats are joined to create a barrier. However, the section is almost empty, so we're invited to switch to forward-facing centre seats 24E and 24F, which are far more convenient. The two seats are separated by a privacy screen that's raised every time Yasmine's friend Rocky comes to visit. The cabin manager explains these are most popular with couples, while our original seats are good for solo travellers or couples with a bassinette, which can be anchored onto the joined tables.

BAGGAGE

Two cabin bags with a combined weight of 12kg plus a small handbag up to 5kg, with another 40kg in the hold.

COMFORT

The 70-seat business class has 20-inch wide, lie-flat beds that stretch out to 203cm (plenty of unused real estate for my 120cm-high daughter) and controls even a child can use. The cabin swirls with the scent of Acqua di Parma perfume from its amenity kits. My one tiny gripe is the moodily lit bathrooms have sinks so narrow, you cannot avoid splashing water on the floor when washing your face.

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ENTERTAINMENT

There are several 2018 releases in the family movie section, while the TV shows have a retro feel: think Scooby Doo and Smurfs. Pac-Man gets the thumbs up as the best of the games and Yasmine is gifted a little activity backpack from the Flying Nanny, staff trained by the UK's Norland College (which trains the British royals' nannies) to entertain children inflight, across all classes.

SERVICE

During my years of flying Etihad, it's the first time I've knowingly met one of its fabled Flying Nannies. When they were first introduced in 2014, the orange pinafore-clad crew members were dedicated to children, but in the age of austerity, they now perform regular flight duties and their nanny duties on top, so if it's a busy flight, you may not even know they're there. This night flight departs at 9.50pm, arriving in Abu Dhabi at 5.30am. With an exceptionally low occupancy across business and economy tonight, staff are charming and chatty. As soon as we awake, tea, watermelon juice and hot, cinnamony pastries arrive. It's a different story on the packed return leg, which is marred by turbulence that puts everyone – including staff – in lockdown.

FOOD

Having been scarred by a previous Etihad long-haul economy nightmare of reoccurring cheese macaroni and UHT banana milk that comprises the kids menu – with no water served with their meals – I don't request a specific child's menu. And why would you? The Business class menu and its anytime snack menu have plenty of kid-friendly options, including steak sandwiches, baked eggs, fruit and cheese plates. Potato chips and Haagen Daas ice cream during Peter Rabbit II win over the bread-and-butter pudding.

ONE MORE THING

The business class lounge at Sydney Airport – now called The House since Etihad's recent lounge merger with Virgin Australia – has a petite, beanbag-packed family room that's blissfully soundproof. However, Abu Dhabi goes one better: its business-class lounge includes a nanny who'll take your kids off your hands so you can enjoy a quiet drink, take a shower or perhaps a massage in the inhouse Six Senses spa (costs extra). Our next flight (economy) will be a rude shock for Miss 7.

THE LAST WORD

I'm playing with fire here, but on our flights both to and from Abu Dhabi, there are babies in business class: perhaps it should take a leaf from Virgin Atlantic's book and be called simply "upper class"?

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

★★★★

Tested by Belinda Jackson, who flew as a guest of Etihad Airways.

See also: 'Unacceptable': Flight attendant's anger over baby in business class

See also: No, I'm not going to apologise for flying with a baby

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