Flying daily to Brisbane and in partnership with Virgin Australia, Etihad Airways zips passengers to Abu Dhabi and then beyond across Europe, Africa and the Middle East in comfort and style.
In place of the Airbus A330s previously flown to Brisbane, Etihad's Boeing 787s are a huge step forward with the airline's latest Business Studio business class seats and the ability to fly non-stop on the full 14-hour journey, waving goodbye to the obligatory Singapore detour experienced by Brisbane-based travellers of yesteryear.
Australian Business Traveller jumps aboard the Dreamliner to experience Etihad's Business Studios first-hand, and in two words, we're impressed.
- Frequent flyer program: Etihad Guest. Alternatively, Virgin Australia Velocity members can earn points and status credits on Etihad flights.
- Chauffeured transfers: Complimentary for business class passengers at either end of the journey if booked at least 24 hours in advance. Last-minute bookings can also be made on arrival in Abu Dhabi in the Arrivals Lounge.
- Priority check-in: Dedicated business class counters with roving concierge staff offering assistance and destination information.
- Priority boarding: Strictly enforced.
- Checked baggage allowance: 2x32kg bags, plus 1x32kg bag for Gold and Platinum frequent flyers and 1x23kg bag for Silver-level travellers.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x115cm bags at a combined total weight of up to 12kg.
- Priority airport services: Access to Express Path in Brisbane and Fast Track lines at Abu Dhabi passport control.
If you've flown with Etihad in the past, you might be familiar with the drab and dated Air New Zealand lounge at Brisbane Airport... ... but take a flight these days and you'll be directed to the all-new, spacious and modern Air New Zealand facility... ... complete with private shower suites to freshen up before the long flight to Abu Dhabi, along with tarmac views, plenty of comfy seating and a dining area:
Read our full review: Air New Zealand lounge, Brisbane Airport
With a flight perfectly-timed for a good night's sleep, getting some rest is easy with a fully-flat bed extending up to 204cm, complete with a mattress pad on all Australian flights plus a pillow, blanket, pyjamas and slippers: But in a seat this well-designed, staying awake is equally as pleasant: beginning with direct aisle access from each and every 22-inch wide seat, a cocktail table perfect for both beverages and books... ... a fixed footrest which travellers with longer legs can use during take-off and landing and all others after scooting the seat forward a tad... ... and digital controls to tweak your seat – or your bed – between soft and firm, or anything in between: Add to that: four different lighting choices to create the perfect mood in your Business Studio, ranging from dimmable reading and table lights through to artistic lighting and general mood lighting around the space: Speaking of space, there's plenty of it – boosted by a side console with storage both on top and within, including ideal spaces for your water bottle, headphones, amenity kit, pens/jewellery, reading material and even your tablet... ... with our Microsoft Surface 3 fitting comfortably behind the inflight mag.
While Brisbane's Air New Zealand lounge offers some tasty meal options, we'd saved our appetite for the on-board meals and were glad we did.
Cabin crew begin the service with a drink before take-off and another soon after, with the Champagne Lallier Grande Réserve NV going nicely with warmed nuts... ... followed by our 'usual' on Middle Eastern airlines: the Arabic mezze, tastily served with a selection of hot and cold appetisers... ... a glass of the 2014 Marie-Louise Parisot Saint-Véran Chardonnay (Burgundy, France) and a generous side of breads including pita, garlic bread and warmed rolls with butter and an olive oil/vinaigrette mix for dipping. Other options included a rare seared tuna with citrus salad, shiso leaves and ponzu dressing and a carrot and coriander soup with double cream.
Then it's a choice between four main courses:
- Grass-fed fillet of beef served with morel mushroom sauce, seasonable vegetables, roast potatoes and red onion jam
- Vietnamese barramundi, sambal wrapped in banana leaf served with coconut rice and stir-fried vegetables
- Trio of Arabic koftas: beef, lamb and chicken with tomato basil sauce, sayadiah rice, asparagus spears, pumpkin and grilled peppers
- Roasted vegetable terrine with coriander pesto cream sauce and sun-dried tomato
We're always of the belief that you can't go wrong with an Arabic course on Etihad, opting for the trio of koftas which validated our point: Following is a pleasing cheese course with red seedless grapes and crackers to the side... ... and then dessert from the choices below, however we ended our meal with the cheese and nightcap of Amarula Cream (similar to Baileys Irish Cream), poured on the rocks.
- Um Ali: flaky pastry baked with rosewater scented cream served warm with crème anglaise
- Citrus cheesecake with lemon-orange segments and cinnamon glaze
- Seasonal fresh fruit
- A selection of ice cream flavours
That said, there's no need to dine when the airline says you should – a separate 'all day' menu provides a selection of dishes that you can order at any time throughout the flight.
Conveniently, that's also where you'll find all of the breakfast options, allowing you to eat as soon as you wake rather than closer to landing, with hot courses as well for a midnight meal:
- Lamb and rosemary pie with sweet potato mash and lamb jus
- Steak sandwich with red onion compote, melted cheese, veal rashers, mayonnaise and rocket leaves
- Baked egg with cheddar cheese, chicken sausage, potato cake, grilled tomato and sautéed mushrooms
- Cranberry and raspberry fruit smoothie
- Passionfruit yoghurt with granola
- A range of breakfast cereals with full-cream or low-fat milk
After a solid eight-hour sleep, breakfast began with a latte – best-consumed after stirring thoroughly... ... and the small but tasty yoghurt and fruit smoothie which satisfies our hunger. If Abu Dhabi is your final destination, a business class ticket also gets you into the Etihad Airways Arrivals Lounge just beyond UAE passport control where you can enjoy a light breakfast, along with a shower and a straight razor shave, after maximising your sleep in the air.
Entertainment & Service
Etihad's 18.5-inch inflight entertainment screen of course serves up a variety of movies and TV shows, but with some intuitive features along the way.
For starters, you'll find the names of the flight's cabin and food & beverage managers here – plus the chef's name if you're in first class and your butler's name when flying in The Residence on the A380... ... handy information like the local time and weather at your destination, your flight number and remaining flight time plus scrolling news and one-touch shortcuts to each area of the system: We're impressed that the design of the Business Studio considers even the smallest details, as utilising the coat hook closer to landing doesn't impede our view of the entertainment screen... ... and when we felt the bass was lacking in our headphones, there was an option to crank it up: The crew stop by to deliver an Etihad LUXE amenity kit with socks and an eyeshade; a 'care pack' with cotton pads, ear buds and an emery board; ear plugs; facial hydrating cream and lip balm; and a dental pack with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Also included is a Sydney city guide, but for travellers who've just departed Australia, guides to Abu Dhabi or major destinations like London or Paris would prove much more useful if one is to be included.
Throughout the flight the crew display the usual high standards of service we've come to expect of Etihad business class, addressing each passenger by name, faultlessly remembering every request and offering a tasting of each wine before delivering a full pour.
Compared to the Airbus A330s which used to ply the Brisbane-Abu Dhabi route with a necessary detour via Singapore, this is a considerable step forward, and one that's hard to top.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Abu Dhabi as a guest of Etihad Airways.
Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT