Flight test: Etihad Airways business class

Etihad Airways business class.
Etihad Airways business class. 

THE ROUTE

Melbourne to Abu Dhabi

THE PLANE

Boeing 777-300

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Etihad Guest. No alliance membership, but passengers can earn points for Virgin Australia's Velocity through the airline's Etihad partnership.

CLASS

Business, seat 5K

DURATION

13 hours, 35 minutes

THE SEAT

The layout is 1-2-1 in the business class cabin. There's 82 inches (208cm) of seat pitch in business class, with seats converting to a 74-inch (188cm) lie-flat bed. The seat is 22 inches (56cm) wide. There are various places to store bits and pieces, including a personal magazine rack. In-seat power is available and there are two personal lighting options.

BAGGAGE

Checked bags weighing up to 40 kilograms in business class, with two carry-on bags permitted for a total of 12 kilograms in weight.

ENTERTAINMENT

A 17-inch LCD screen featuring more than 750 hours of entertainment options, according to the airline. Movies, TV shows, music and games. The TV selection is good, though some choices offer entire seasons of a show but others feature only one or two episodes. Noise cancelling earphones are provided.

COMFORT

The design of the business class seats means every second seat on the window puts the passenger close to the aisle, which some travellers might find disturbing when trying to sleep. I am fortunately in one of the other seats, putting me closer to the window and giving me a strong sense of privacy and cosiness. In lie-flat mode the bed easily accommodates my 185-centimetre frame and, with a soft pillow and warm doona, I get a good sleep during the overnight flight. The amenities kit includes socks, eye mask, hand cream, lip balm, toothbrush and toothpaste, and a "care kit" with cotton buds, pads and an emery board.

SERVICE

Uniformly excellent. Crew members introduce themselves at the start of the flight and tell me to ensure I let them know if I have any needs. The efficiency is impressive: I press the call button and then briefly glance out the window - by the time I turn back an attendant is already by my side.

FOOD

I opt for the Arabian-themed dishes, starting with a mezze plate of hot and cold appetisers that includes grilled haloumi, lamb kofte, stuffed peppers, olives and dolmades. For the main, it's a spiced braised lamb shank with rice and vegetables - the lamb is so good it's hard to believe that it's airline food. A cheese platter finishes off the meal. There are various snacks available at any time throughout the flight, while the breakfast menu offers another nice selection of options. The wine list offers champagne, three white and three red options, all with detailed tasting notes.

ONE MORE THING

Etihad recently unveiled new seats across all classes for its upcoming Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes, including an impressive-looking new business cabin. These will eventually be retro-fitted to the rest of its fleet, including its 777-300s.

THE VERDICT

With a comfortable lie-flat seat, an excellent cabin crew and delicious dining options, this is about as good as long-haul flying can get (though things can get better - Etihad also has a first class cabin).

FREQUENCY

Etihad flies Melbourne to Abu Dhabi daily.

Tested by Craig Platt, who flew courtesy of Etihad.

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