Flight test: Etihad Airways pearl class

Airline Etihad Airways.

Route Sydney to Amman via Abu Dhabi.

Aircraft Sydney-Abu Dhabi on Airbus A340-600. Abu Dhabi-Amman on A320-200.

Class Pearl (business) 19D and Coral (economy) 20F.

Seat pitch and width 88 inches between rows of seats in pearl class; 20 inches between armrests, reclining into a dead-flat 72.8 inch bed.

Seat configuration Staggered seating means unimpeded access for all 32 seats in pearl class, privacy for singles and couples can hold hands. If solo, the pick are the tucked-away window seats.

Luggage 30 kilograms checked-in, two carry-on pieces in pearl class; 20 kilograms, one carry-on piece in coral class.

Scheduled flight time Sydney to Abu Dhabi in 14hr 25min, a 1hr 40min airport wait, then to Amman in 3hr. Performance is spot on and connections are seamless, which means you'll be in the heart of the Middle East in about 19 hours.

Lounge access The pearl class lounge in Abu Dhabi terminal 3 is comfortable and clubby: dark wood, mint-green leather sofas, a library. A complimentary express massage in the Six Senses spa is a treat, the children's room looks like a hoot and there's a good selection of Arabian mezze.


Service Professional and attentive. A personal introduction to all by the cabin manager, Alison, is a nice touch.

Comfort I like the seat's three massage options and the mood lighting, in which light colour and intensity is adjusted to the time and duration of the journey.

Food All dishes on the a la carte menu and the lighter "kitchen anytime" menu are available any time. This is a terrific innovation since my last Etihad flight a few years ago. The Arab-inspired meals are highlights: think chermoula beef salad and chicken and quince tagine. I like the good, strong coffee and the masala chai non-vintage tea, from a menu of 10 teas.

Entertainment Huge choice of diversions shown on 38-centimetre screens on the long-haul flight. The full range is offered on in-seat screens in coral class on the short leg to Amman.

Console Every business and economy seat has an in-flight phone, two USB ports and an RCA socket for laptop connection.

Flight frequency Etihad Airways flies Sydney to Abu Dhabi 11 times a week, seven from Melbourne and three from Brisbane.

Online etihadairways.com.

Tested by Helen Anderson, who flew courtesy of Etihad Airways.