Flight test: Etihad Coral economy class

THE ROUTE

Abu Dhabi - Sydney

THE PLANE

Boeing 777 - 300ER

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Etihad Guest, which has full reciprocity with Virgin Australia's Velocity, enabling members of both to earn status credits and frequent flyer points.

UP THE BACK OR POINTY END?

Coral economy class, and right at the back of the bus in seat 43D. Checking in online, it seemed empty and the place to be. However, it becomes a full flight. I was lucky to score an aisle seat.

TIME IN THE AIR

Advertisement

13 hours, 50 minutes. We arrive 20 minutes early.

THE SEAT STUFF

On the 777, the seat configuration is 3-4-3. Seat width is a fairly standard 43.4cm and pitch 81cm.

BAGGAGE

A generous 30kg (7kg more than other European carriers via Asia) and 7kg carry-on bag. If travelling with a falcon, they are also permitted in-cabin.

COMFORT FACTOR

Being vertically challenged, I appreciate the footrests, which means my feet don't struggle to reach the floor.

THE SERVICE

Having checked in online, I beat the long economy queue in Frankfurt by heading straight to bag drop. Airborne from Abu Dhabi to Sydney, however, things fall apart. Halfway through the flight I request headphones. And twice more from the same attendant. Forty minutes later, I surrender and hunt them down myself. Likewise, so parched at one point, and unable to catch a staff member, I consider drinking my contact lens solution. I'm offered a bottle of water, which never materialises. Having travelled on other Etihad flights where service has been faultless (which is why I chose to fly them again), I'm putting this down to the full flight.

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT

Loved the huge 30cm, tilting touch screen. This E-Box seat-back entertainment system has 90 movies in all, and 180 TV programs in various languages. There are also outlets to charge devices; I exhaust the recent blockbusters and turn on the iPad, which I charge with the in-seat power outlet.

FEEDING TIME

For dinner, I chose the pan-fried chicken breast with sweet potato and pumpkin mash with lime sauce, and it's delicious. The hot paninis served between the two meals twice are a nice surprise. But 13 hours is a long flight. When hunger strikes mid-flight, I'm informed the sweet popcorn snack is served in an hour. I beg. They relent.

ONE MORE THING

Upon descent, the cabin lights glow in disco colours. It's pretty cool and I'd dance if the seatbelt sign wasn't on. For non-coffee drinkers, they serve hot chocolate (a rarity in economy).

THE VERDICT

In peak traffic season (European summer) I was lucky to get a seat, any seat. Sitting in the second-last row of a full plane is never going to be the best experience. I would definitely fly Etihad again; I know they've done better in the past.

Tested by Flip Byrnes, who travelled at her own expense.