Flight EY 451, Sydney to Abu Dhabi, flying over Kununurra, the Java Trench, Sri Lanka.
Airbus A380-800; Etihad has 10 of these in its 102-strong passenger aircraft fleet.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Etihad Guest offers air miles with its Sky Team partners (including Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, Korean Air and Garuda Indonesia).
14 hours, 10 minutes, covering a total of 14,908 kilometres.
Twice daily from Sydney and Melbourne, daily from Brisbane.
Effortless in Sydney, though there are consequences when we arrive later at Abu Dhabi, as scheduled at half past midnight. We wait for about 45 minutes for my youngest son's bag to appear on the carousel, before heading over to the lost baggage counter. Though the staff are surly, they're able to tell us within minutes that his bag has been located in Sydney and will be on the next departing flight. (It arrived at our hotel the next day.)
I'm in an aisle seat, 70C, next to my two teenage sons. Our flight, in the Christmas/New Year crush, is almost full. The 415 seats in the economy cabin are in a 3-4-3 configuration (though enviously I note seat 69D has extra legroom with no seat in front of it – as do seats 76A and K).
On this flight, you're allowed two bags, each weighing up to 23 kilograms, plus a carry-on bag. Please check your flight however, especially if you're flying to the US or Canada.
My growing sons declare these are the most comfortable economy seats they've ever flown in, and I agree they're better than most. The 18.9-inch (48cm) width and 31-inch (48cm) recline of the cradle-style seats are generous, so my 14-hour journey is painless despite a sprained knee. The legendary air quality of the A380 is to the fore, but acts to the disadvantage of my younger son, an asthmatic who spends much of the flight sneezing despite swaddling in multiple blankets. Both boys have brought their personal headphones (more things to lose!) but the airline-issued noise-cancelling headset I use is a genuine plus – making the journey much more enjoyable.
Perhaps I'm getting too picky. The LCD screen in economy is 11.1 inch and there's plenty of choice (750 hours of entertainment, including 90 movies, 180 TV shows, around 50 interactive games). However I'm underwhelmed, perhaps because I'd avoided seeing a couple of new release movies thinking I could watch them on this flight. Still I did enjoy Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman, the seasonally relevant The Man Who Invented Christmas, plus the live news access to BBC World. Wi-Fi is available in economy, but at a cost.
Efficient, charming. The full flight makes it hard for the crew to display individual attention, but no complaints.
Good job the boys stocked up on Maccas at the airport because it's two hours into the flight (about 6pm) before we're served. Many of our fellow passengers have ordered special meals, so they're served first. Our choice is chicken in mushroom sauce with mashed potato and vegetables or lamb kofta and rice, followed by a jam pastry. Two hours before landing (about 10pm UAE time) we're served lunch. The chicken pasta has run out, but the shepherd's pie is surprisingly good. Is alcohol served (one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to Middle East airlines). Yes: my bloody mary was very good.
ONE MORE THING
Did you know that it's exactly 12,796 kilometres from Tamworth, the country music capital of Australia, to Mecca? The interactive flight map shows you how far away Mecca is at each point of the journey – and in which direction you should be praying if you're a Muslim.
FOUR OUT OF FIVE
The flight, one of the least expensive ways of getting from Sydney to London with an interesting stopover during the pre-Christmas peak season when I'd booked, was worth every dollar. The deduction is for the delayed arrival of my son's bag (which, let's face it, can happen to any airline).
Steve Meacham travelled at his own expense.