It was Christmas night in Abu Dhabi, and a surprise Business Class upgrade at the gate (thanks to my Platinum Velocity Status and an overbooked aircraft) was nothing less than a Christmas miracle. It’s nothing short of a dream for a 14 hour flight – among the longest in the world. My first time flying in any class other than Economy with Etihad Airways, here’s a look at the experience in the Business Class Flatbed aboard the wide-body Boeing 777 to Toronto, Canada.
Airline: Etihad Airways
Route: Abu Dhabi to Toronto, Canada (EY141)
Class: Business (Flatbed)
Seat: 10G (Aisle middle 1-2-1)
On Time? Hour late departure and arrived 40 minutes late. About 13 hours and 40 minutes spent in air.
The Departure Airport – Abu Dhabi (In Transit)
I was in transit at Abu Dhabi, following a 7 hour (and a bit) flight from Kuala Lumpur. If you’re not lucky enough to be on an aircraft which has a spot alongside the terminal with an aerobridge, expect a lengthy taxi and then a bus to the terminal. But once you get to the Terminal, everything is clearly labelled in Arabic and English and getting out of the terminal – or to another terminal – couldn’t be easier.
Should you have a stop-over (during which, why not visit the new Louvre museum), customs is a breeze and checking back in for Business Class passengers is made a truly pain-free experience. Unheard of in most airport, there’s also an arrivals lounge after customs which will be handy for Business Class customers who want a shower after they land. It’s worth a note, too, that you clear US customs before boarding, if you happen to be travelling to the US – so make sure you give yourself a bit of extra time for that on return. Of course this isn’t relevant in this instance!
Business Class passengers will have access to the Abu Dhabi Business Class Lounges in Terminals 1 & 3, or for an additional fee, the First Class Lounge & Spa in Terminal 3. The latter is also available to Etihad Guest Platinum passengers, and Virgin Australia Velocity Platinum members – of which I am.
Since I only had a 4 hour stopover in the middle of the night, there was nothing to do but rest in the First Class Lounge. With a longer stopovers, a visit to town would surely be encouraged. The lounge and spa is certainly worthy of your complete attention during that stopover, however. Your first port of call should be the Six Senses Spa – make a booking for a free 15 minute massage – or alternatively get yourself a manicure or a quick shave. And of course enjoy your time in their massive showers. I highly recommend a shower first, and then the massage.
Once you’re done there, enjoy an a-la-carte menu, with 24 hour on demand meal service. I enjoyed a steak and salad, and some Christmas pudding – because why not? After you’re finished your meal, take a seat at the bar or in the relaxation room. Or perhaps the cigar room is more your style? Either way, you’re going to want to grab something from their incredible array of whiskeys and other spirits. Just make sure you can walk yourself to the aircraft.
Comfort: The Business Class Flatbed Seat
If you’re travelling by yourself and end up with a middle seat you have a 50/50 chance of being close to the person next to you, or separated from them. So, if you want total privacy, a seat against the window may be best for you. However walking through the cabin it seemed they had endeavoured to only place couples close together.
The seat itself came with a doona and a pillow – no cover for the seat as on some flat beds, nor any pyjamas. But it’s an incredibly comfortable seat, with intricate seat movement options as you take it from fully upright (during which time you have a seat rest you can stretch out onto), to fully flat bed. The chair even had a massage function!
You’ll also find multiple lights to utilise and a number of other features that allow for storage and ways to make your journey a more comfortable one. The seat belt can be loosened extensively so it’s not a pain – and has been specifically built with your comfort and safety in mind. It even has an airbag in it (which seems to be a relatively new addition to airline Business trimmings).
Guests will enjoy a champagne or juice on arrival, and a hot towel SERVED ON A PLATE. This was a luxury I’d never before experienced in Business Class… it’s the little things isn’t it?
The menu is served on demand, and they take your first order before you take off. You can choose whether or not you want to eat right away, or later. Your meals are served on a large pull out table, with a sheet laid down for you and full plate and cutlery.
As it was Christmas, they were serving a special turkey with stuffing and vegetables – so of course I had to have that, with some soup, salad, bread and a number of other trimmings. If you wanted anything else during the flight, you just had to ask. The quality of the food was high by any comparison, though the menu was more limited than I expected.
Two hours before landing, I ordered the primary breakfast option on the menu – scrambled eggs with mushrooms and rye bread, which looked like it could have been served in a cafe. Though you definitely needed to ask for butter. Served with a warm croissant, juice and Dilmah tea – there’s a large selection of teas, and the Jasmine Green is highly recommended.
One of the advantages of Business, beyond the comfort of the seat and the meal service, is that the entertainment can be enjoyed from gate to gate. In Economy you often have to wait until you’re in the air, and it’s turned off before landing. The “Ebox” kicked off on the massive 15.4-inch HD touch-screen TV well before takeoff, due to an hour-plus of delays on ground and a lengthy taxi. Business Guests also enjoy noise cancelling headsets.
The selection in Business is, as far as I’m aware, no different between Economy and Business – you just enjoy the product on a larger, better screen. The movie selection is expansive, though I have to say their TV selection was a bit haphazard – a couple of episodes mid-season of a series here and there… sometimes not even in the order they aired. It worked against the trend of some airlines to focus on “box sets” of your favourite TV shows. Though you will find a few of them there, and there’s more than enough entertainment to enjoy across the 14 hours… much of which you’ll hopefully spend sleeping in your comfortable bed (I certainly did!)
In Flight Experience
The overall flight was a smooth and comfortable one; stars were lit up on the room after take off, which was the sort of little addition to the atmosphere of Business Class that makes it such an enviable experience.
And while you don’t get pyjamas, you are treated to a Stylish, limited edition Luxe Amenities bag with socks, eye wear, ear plugs, dental kit, lip balm and facial lotion from Scaramouche and Fandango. Plus every Luxe Amenities bag comes complete with a special guide to one of the cities on Etihad’s network. I got Melbourne!
My experience on ground could not have been more pleasurable, however in the air, I did find staff to be a bit abrupt and sometimes quite slow to come see you when you’d pressed the call bell. Once I waited about 20 minutes just asking for a water. I’d say maybe it had something to do with it being Christmas, but honestly I’ve always found the staff at Etihad to be hit and miss. I think it’s more due to the passengers; for some reason, Etihad particularly deal with a lot of rude passengers, which will put any staff member in a less-than-patient mood, especially across a 14 hour service. But overall, it was good service, with excellent food and all the trimmings of the Business Class experience.
While my experience with the staff left some things to be desired, the Business Class experience was among the best I’ve ever had. The seat was spectacular and the comfort of the aircraft unparalleled on the Boeing 777. And having access to the First Class lounge and spa before take off really serves as the icing on the cake.
To book with Etihad, visit their official website.
The author paid for his own fare.