With Abu Dhabi fast emerging as the Middle East’s cultural capital, there’s even more reason to choose Etihad Airways as the airline to take you to Europe. Just as rejuvenating as a stopover in this fascinating city is to make your journey in the stylish comfort of Etihad Airways Business Class.
Route: Abu Dhabi to London
Flight Duration: 7 hours, 10 minutes
Checked baggage: Two pieces up to 32kg
Class: Business Class
My Business Class journey with Etihad Airways began in Abu Dhabi. As I stepped from the midday heat into the plush, cool interior of Business Class check-in, I was in my element. Not only was the change in climate very welcome, the line-up of eight attentive and immaculately-clad porters as well as the luxurious black, gold and silver decor made me feel as though I’d just entered a very exclusive club. So far, so good.
The check-in staff members were polite and professional, but not gushingly over-friendly. I liked this; it was sophisticated. In fact, the whole check-in process was a no-nonsense affair and before I knew it, my fellow travellers and I were through the gates and into the Lounge.
Etihad Airways Premium Lounge in Abu Dhabi is supremely comfortable – yet businesslike at the same time. It’s the perfect way to begin your Business Class experience, and is open 24 hours a day. After a hosted walk-through, introducing us to all the features of the lounge, my travelling companions and I settled into the plush chairs and ordered a round of drinks. We helped ourselves to the inviting array of food on offer, choosing from gourmet cheeses and pastries to hot, traditional Middle Eastern fare.
General chit chat revealed the highlight of the Lounge tour to be the Six Senses Spa: the air is so good, you’ll want to eat it. Fresh, spicy, citrusy... I don’t know the secret ingredients but on our ‘walk-through’ I couldn’t get enough of it, taking in huge lungfuls of the stuff which I hoped, somehow, would last me the through the entire plane journey. Our round-table discussion left no doubt – a visit to the spa would be a fantastic thing to do. The Six Senses Spa is complimentary for passengers travelling First Class with Etihad Airways, while Business Class passengers pay a small fee to use the Spa.
Here’s what we also discovered: Within the Premium Lounge there are two areas for doing business. The lounge chairs have handy powerpoint terminals within easy reach, but if reclining in a comfortable chair is not how you do your best work, Etihad Airways offer a bar-like area where you can sit up to a desk.
There’s a cosy den with several private TV pods for catching up on the news, a family room where the kids can play, a hot buffet of international foods, coffee stations, shower rooms, a smoking room, a concierge service, a prayer room – even a hair salon, at the end of the Lounge.
There are two Etihad Airways Premium Lounges at Abu Dhabi, in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, with the Business Centre and Six Senses Spa only located in Terminal 3.
Aboard the Etihad Airways A380 flight from Abu Dhabi to London, Business Class seats (or ‘Studios’ as they’re called by Etihad) were arranged in a one-two-one configuration, giving every passenger access to an aisle with good degree of personal space.
As a hopeless sufferer of motion sickness, I was mildly alarmed to find out that my seat was facing backwards. This didn’t prove to be a problem, however, and after the initial takeoff I can honestly say that the direction of my seat seemed to make little difference. (Besides, by this stage I was too busy poring over the menu – more on that later.)
I had two windows to myself, and was able to extend my legs fully into the nook below the TV while seated. Reclining the seat fully extended it right up to this nook, to form a comfy, fully flat bed. Along the armrest was a privacy screen that could be pulled across, really adding to that cocooned feeling. Shortly after take-off I was offered to make my selection from the drinks menu (Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut Champagne, why thank you) and before long, the automatic ‘blinds down’ moment told me it was time to settle in for the ride. The deluxe, dark brown quilted blanket – plush on one side – was just what I needed.
The inflight entertainment aboard all Etihad Airways Business Class flights is known as E-BOX. And, like the box office we’re all familiar with, there were loads of movies to choose from – over 140 to be exact. E-BOX also offered me the choice of TV, Live TV, albums and radio stations to listen to, games to play, news and weather, as well as an eLibrary. Just to be thorough, I flicked through Elle Decor on the eLibrary and it was just about as good as reading the real thing. Children travelling Business Class won’t find themselves short of entertainment either, with Explorers kids’ programming available too. You can keep your personal devices charged with two USB ports as well as power ports available in your Studio.
It’s really the service that lets you know you’re in Business Class. From the slick and efficient check-in, I was impressed all the way. Inflight, I felt like I had my own personal waiter. The cabin crew were courteous, helpful and friendly, and managed to be always available without coming across as intrusive.
Food and beverage
Having never travelled with Etihad prior to this trip, I was keen to explore the menu and discover what uniquely middle eastern delights might be on offer. While I was tempted by the beef tenderloin with roast potatoes, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and shiitake mushroom sauces, I opted to try something new: Chicken Mansaf – chicken in spiced yoghurt sauce served on markook bread and aromatic rice. It was delicious. For entree, I had the Arabic Mezze, which was also very tasty. When it came to dessert, I threw adventure out the window and opted for the (heavenly) vanilla bean ice cream. Everything was served restaurant-style, with china, linen and crystal, and a 24-hour Dine Anytime menu of snacks and light meals is also offered.
Aboard the A380, Etihad Airways includes a shared bar area for Upper Deck guests known as The Lobby. Once we’d sipped our first drinks in our seats, my travelling companions and I made our way to this comfortable, communal area where we enjoyed some excellent G&Ts prior to the meal. It was great to have the space to talk together before then settled in for the remainder of the flight.
Due to our midday departure, I was awake for most of my Etihad Airways flight to London, which gave me ample opportunity to really enjoy the fine comfort of Business Class. For anyone who wants their flight to be just as much a part of their holiday experience as the final destination itself, I would certainly recommend flying Business Class with Etihad Airways. The service was fantastic, the meals were of a very high standard and the environment is deluxe. What’s more, anyone who is a Velocity member can accrue or redeem points flying with Etihad Airways because of their partnership with Virgin, so that’s always a bonus.