Airline review: Etihad Dreamliner, business class, Abu Dhabi to Zurich

THE PLANE

Boeing 787-900, Etihad has 16 of this aircraft in operation 

THE ROUTE

Abu Dhabi to Zurich

LOYALTY SCHEME

Etihad Guest reward system has 400 partner airlines, including Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia.

CLASS

Business, seat 9A

DURATION

4 hours, 35 minutes

FREQUENCY

Daily direct flights

SEAT

The 28 business class pods on our Boeing 787-9 offer privacy and a high level of comfort. The seats are a generous 73 inches (185 centimetres) in length and can be easily transformed into a flat bed. The electronic control panel is clear, precise and easy to operate.

BAGGAGE

Etihad business class passengers are allowed a maximum of two check-in bags, each weighing up to 32 kilograms, plus three pieces of carry-on hand luggage.

COMFORT

The Dreamliner is a very sophisticated aircraft delivering a smoother ride, larger cabin windows, increased cabin pressure (and hence less jet lag) and the very latest entertainment systems. For business class guests this means a spacious pod equipped with a 15-inch flat screen, plenty of lighting options, an easy-to-use control panel and electric-powered window blinds. Each seat comes with its own pillow and quilted duvet – slippers and pyjamas are supplied on long-haul flights. In addition, each passenger receives a LUXE amenity kit in a handy zip-up satchel. The kits, which are themed around cities such as Rome, New York and Bangkok, contain a toothbrush set, eye shades, socks, skin care products, ear plugs and a LUXE mini guide to your chosen city. 

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ENTERTAINMENT

Etihad has gone to extreme lengths to ensure that guests are fully occupied throughout the flight. Business passengers have the choice of 140 movies, including a good selection of new release titles, 350-plus television shows, 60 interactive games and seven channels of live news and sport, including BBC and CNN. With more than 500 albums to choose from, the audio selection is particularly impressive, covering genres such as pop, jazz and classical. The noise-handling headphones that are supplied are not brilliant – take your own if you want to enjoy superior sound. Once airborne, passengers can access the aircraft's mobile phone service, but will need to purchase an online package (these begin at US$4.95) to use Etihad's Wi-Fi service; the airline is in the process of introducing pre-paid vouchers for this service.

SERVICE

Each business passenger is assigned a personal flight attendant for the duration of the flight. My valet was called Eric, a smartly dressed young Frenchman who took my meal orders, stowed my jacket and brought me drinks with calm efficiency. There were several young children on the flight and the crew was equally attentive to them.

FOOD

Since this was an early morning flight, the food service was limited to breakfast and, for me, several cups of freshly-brewed coffee. Healthy breakfast options range from banana, date and chai smoothies to seasonal fruit and natural yoghurt with honeycomb. Guests can also select something more substantial such as freshly prepared scrambled eggs, feta cheese baked eggs or vanilla pancakes. I plumped for the chive omelette, which was served piping hot and well seasoned, alongside perfectly cooked Cumberland beef sausage, hash browns and tomato. My breakfast was paired with a glass of Billecart-Salmon NV Brut Champagne. Guests who get peckish later in the flight can choose something from the all-day snack menu; the steak sandwich with Emmental cheese and red onion chutney sounded tempting. The wine list is compact but well-chosen with a good mix of New World and Old World vintages. Apart from coffee and soft drinks, there is a wide range of single origin teas.

THE LAST WORD

The combination of attentive service, great food and a comfy bed makes Etihad business hard to fault – in fact, the experience was over far too soon for me.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE: ★★★★½

Mark Chipperfield travelled as a guest of Etihad Airways

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