While many Sydneysiders will naturally gravitate to Etihad's newer Airbus A380s, the airline continues to fly its twin-aisle Boeing 777s on selected Sydney flights, and on all services to Melbourne which now run double-daily.
Granted, Etihad's new A380 and Boeing 787 Business Studios are notch above the business class seats you'll get on the Boeing 777s, but that didn't preclude us from enjoying the inflight meals and getting a good night's sleep between Abu Dhabi and Sydney.
- Frequent flyer program: Etihad Guest. Aussie travellers can also earn Virgin Australia Velocity frequent flyer points and status credits when flying with Etihad.
- Chauffeured transfers: Complimentary for business class passengers at either end of the journey if booked at least 24 hours in advance.
- Priority check-in: Private terminal entrance and check-in area in Abu Dhabi for business and first class passengers and Gold/Platinum frequent flyers.
- Priority boarding: Dedicated lanes for business and first class guests plus Gold and Platinum frequent flyers.
- Checked baggage allowance: 2x32kg bags, plus 1x32kg bag for Gold and Platinum frequent flyers and 1x23kg bag for Silver-grade travellers.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x111cm bags at a combined total weight of up to 12kg.
- Priority security screening, passport control (Abu Dhabi): Yes, dedicated checkpoints following the private check-in area.
- Priority processing on returning to Australia: Yes, via Express Path in Sydney (invitations provided before landing).
Business class passengers can stop by the Etihad Premium Lounge in Abu Dhabi, located after passport control and initial security screening. Inside you'll find all-day dining facilities, the obligatory AC and USB power points, and of course, a well-stocked bar:
Business class passengers may also enjoy a complimentary 15-minute treatment or massage at the in-lounge Six Senses Spa, and can access barber and nail salon services at an extra fee.
In either case, make that your first stop to secure a suitable appointment time before enjoying the lounge's other amenities.
Similar to what you'd find aboard Etihad's Airbus A330s, its Boeing 777s also offer direct aisle access to every business class guest and fully-flat beds stretching to 185cms long and just under 51cm wide... ... which come in an alternating layout, in that one row of window seats is positioned closer towards the window itself while the next row is closer to the aisle – or in the centre, alternating between the middle and the aisle – to make room for each passenger's legs while the seats are in 'bed mode'.
There's a sturdy tray table that doubles as a working and entertainment space – perfect to support a laptop during the day or a tablet with movies after turning in for the evening... ... an ottoman that can be utilised during take-off and landing, later forming the tail end of your fully-flat bed... ... a side pocket with space for your supplied amenity kit and a USB port for easy charging of your smartphone, plus connectors allowing you to output your own device to the aircraft's entertainment system... ... a second USB power outlet and also a multi-country AC slot that accepts Aussie-style pins without an adapter, adjacent to the literature pocket... ... and of course, a remote control for the screen and a control panel to adjust the seat position and built-in massager. As to exactly where you sit, our top picks are 7A and 7K – these seats are at the front of the main business class cabin and are directly behind a bulkhead wall, giving you a little bench space on which to plonk your bag when retrieving your items or packing things away... ... and while there's a galley on the other side of that wall, this author was able to sleep for roughly seven hours – and could have easily made that eight.
That said, there's also a business class mini-cabin of just two rows nestled directly behind first class that's often a little quieter, and may be a better fit for light sleepers.
Otherwise, hunt down any of the A or K seats (such as 9A): these are on their lonesome and are positioned closer towards the window, which means you can't be bumped by people in the aisle as can happen in the C, D, G and H seats.
Even with a late evening departure, passengers can enjoy a full dinner after take-off or can opt for a quick dessert, a nightcap or can head straight to sleep.
We opted for the full dining experience, beginning the meal with a cream of mushroom soup topped with herb sour cream aside country-style bread with butter, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The bread was fresh and the soup tasty and light – a perfect course to follow a heavier dinner on the ground if you're peckish, while other choices included a traditional Arabic mezze and a seafood dish – and if you like garlic bread, you won't be disappointed. That's followed by a choice of four mains. We opted for the Arabic spiced and braised lamb with roasted vegetables, cracked wheat, nuts and a yoghurt sauce... ... which was tender, well-complemented to the sides and sauces and went down a treat. To pair with your meals are three white wines, three red wines and a Champagne (on our flight: Besserat de Bellefon 'Grande Tradition' Brut NV). We opted for a glass of the 2007 Château le Castelot Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, a dry but velvety Bordeaux wine with smoky tones and hints of cherry, raspberry and figs. Dessert provides options such as pudding, parfait, fresh fruit and ice cream, although a cheese plate (with crackers on the side) was more than sufficient.
As you'd expect following an overnight flight, breakfast is available after you wake – but with the time difference between cities and the flight's arrival time in Sydney of around 6pm local time, you have two options.
There's the 'standard' breakfast menu offering pastries, smoothies, yoghurt and eggs, or heartier choices such as a pulled barbecue beef sandwich if you woke earlier in the flight.
We opted for that simple yoghurt and granola with no complaints, and a latte...
Cookies, Arabic baklava and other snacks are available throughout the flight, as are the breakfast and sandwich options if you wake early or are still living in a different time zone.
Entertainment & Service
Business class guests can enjoy over 100 movies, 300 TV shows, 16 radio channels, live satellite television including CNN and Sport24 and a selection of games and audio CDs via E-BOX: Etihad's entertainment system.
This particular aircraft also had Etihad's Wi-Fly Internet service available, allowing business travellers to send time-critical emails or keep in touch with the office while in the air.
Read our full review: Etihad inflight Internet
Cabin crew addressed passengers by name and promptly arrived whenever the call bell was pressed, delivering pyjamas, slippers and laying a soft mattress over the bed for a good night's sleep.
All that's missing from the experience is an inflight bar – known as The Lobby on Etihad's larger A380 aircraft, which also fly to Sydney – but if your inflight schedule centres around dining and a proper sleep, you'll be more than satisfied.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Abu Dhabi as a guest of Etihad.
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