Etihad continues to rule the sky with ground-breaking features for its First and Business Class cabins. Life Inspired checked out the young airlines’ hallmark service.
A warm welcome at a dedicated check-in counter marks the start of a Business Class journey with Etihad, on an evening flight from Kuala Lumpur to London. A treat, courtesy of my sister, for my mother’s 77th birthday, we board this multiple award-winning airline with great expectations.
The United Arab Emirates’ national airline is famed for its rapid expansion and high standards of hospitality that have won numerous accolades, the latest of which is the CAPA Airline of the Year, a prominent aviation industry recognition for leadership. And still the Abu Dhabi based airlines continues surprising its loyal guests with innovative features.
With priority boarding and access to fast-track security lanes, no queues are necessary. We're swiftly ushered to our seats by a friendly Malaysian cabin manager named Michelle, who takes note of my mother’s dietary needs, alongside a dedicated F&B manager serving on-board.
Champagne and wine are poured as guests board. From Champagne Besserat De Bellefon to the premium G.H. Mumm’s Cuvée R. Lalou on some flights, Etihad’s bubbles beat many other airline menus.
We're flying on Etihad’s second-generation cabins that are comfortable and stylish, and fitted in an elegant brown, black and beige palette reminiscent of desert dunes. A staggered configuration affords plenty of personal space and legroom. Those travelling together can opt to have a central partition between their seats lowered, or enjoy privacy with a window seat.
The cleverly configured seats, with luscious Poltrana Frau leather headrests, offer precious nooks as storage space for handbags, newspapers, a spectacle case or a bottle of San Pellegrino. A small ottoman fits the feet while stretched out. The seat’s gentle contours enfold my private shell where the luxury of space is thoroughly enjoyed. There’s also a tiny coat hanger and handy universal power point available.
A reading light and a wall light offer ample illumination, so there’s no fumbling in the dark. What savvy business class travellers demand the most is, of course, a fully flat bed which Etihad offers in style. The bed is complete with a large pillow and a reversible silk and fleece duvet that's so comfortable over a long flight.
Etihad amenities come in a lovely woven bag created through its partnership with Sougha, a social enterprise dedicated to preserving Emirati traditions by promoting local artisans. Inside are a moisturiser and lip balm from Greek skincare brand Korres, along with socks and an eye-shade.
I discover later that the international cabin crew, led by Michelle, have taken complete care of my mother’s needs as I snooze through the night. Impeccably attired in their signature uniforms with red leather gloves, the service is efficient, warm and personalised.
Arriving at Abu Dhabi International Airport, we're whisked away by a guest services team to Etihad’s newly refurbished luxury lounge at its home base in Terminal 3. Premium but also crowded before its renovation, the stylish new lounge now offers a wealth of space, seats and facilities.
Buffet tables are laden with freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, croissants, cold cuts and hot food. Rows of gleaming new Apple Macs beckon, alongside ample choices of international TV channels, novels and magazines to while the hours. A family room filled with books, toys and TVs come with trained nannies to help relieve jet-lagged parents.
Most guests make a beeline for the exclusive Six Senses Spa, offering 15 minutes of pampering including rejuvenating neck massages, hot stone treatments and facials to freshen up before and after a flight. While guests enjoy invigorating rain showers, attendants quickly press outfits and shine shoes. This is certainly a lounge where nobody minds a long layover.
With several hours in Abu Dhabi, we grab the opportunity for some sightseeing, and return to a dedicated check-in hall for First and Business class travellers as porters help with our bags. Personal chauffeurs with limousines are part and parcel of each Etihad business class passenger’s booking (at selected destinations) so that guests arrive and depart in style.
A roomier cabin awaits us on Etihad’s new Airbus for our journey from Abu Dhabi to Heathrow. Suitably hungry after our city tour, we settle down for a splendid three-course dining experience in the air.
Etihad’s business class signature is its Kitchen Anytime option, allowing guests the freedom to decide when they’d like a meal. The food is remarkably delicious – certainly no odd looking green sauce or only “chicken or fish” options!
Over crisp white linen neatly laid across our little tray tables, we nibble on warm country styled breads, served in a stylised steel basket with butter, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We select the Arabic Mezze for starters and enjoy delicate leaf wraps, savoury hummus and crispy meat balls, and a sesame seared tuna served with pickled salads.
A succulent grilled beef tenderloin with baked potato wedges, broccoli polonaise and Café de Paris butter is served for mains, alongside a pan fried chicken breast served with cheddar potato cake and steamed vegetables with forest fruit sauce.
Desserts include banana chocolate parfaits, or warm sticky toffee and date pudding. The on-board chef surprises us with a lovely dessert platter comprising an array of dainty cakes, biscuits and ice creams nestled in woven sugar baskets, perfect with hot green tea with Moroccan mint.
After dinner, the cabin lights dim as guests curl up comfortably beneath the soft duvets. For a final touch, spread across the ceiling are soft, twinkling lights stimulating a sky full of stars for a dreamy snooze. The remarkable attention to detail is certainly befitting a five-star experience on board an Etihad Pearl Business Class cabin.
¦ This article was originally published in Life Inspired, out every second and fourth Sunday of the month, and distributed exclusively with The Sunday Star to selected areas in the Klang Valley. The next issue will be out on Feb 8.