High Flyer - Luxury Travel Magazine
|By: Hilary Doling, Issue 32 - 2007|
|(Etihad Airways, Pearl and Diamond Class – Sydney to Abu Dhabi)|
|WE SKY-TEST ETIHAD AIRWAYS’ NEW SERVICE OUT OF SYDNEY. |
Class: Pearl Class/Diamond Class
Route: Sydney to Abu Dhabi
We continue our series on the First & Business Class facilities on some of the most popular airlines flying out of Australia. This is your guide to the best of what is on offer at the pointy end of the plane.
This edition: Etihad
Etihad Airways launched its Australian services with a fanfare earlier this year claiming to offer ‘new levels of luxury in the air’. There is no class-consciousness on Etihad, instead the different seating styles are referred to as ‘zones’ and adorned with names like Diamond, Pearl and Coral. Being in ‘Coral’ class sounds so much better than ‘economy’ doesn’t it? In a short time the airline has taken off in a big way down-under, so do the zones live up to the promise of their names? We take to the air in Diamond Zone (First) and Pearl Zone (Business).
Diamond: The cabin feels light and airy, decorated in shades of gold and cream. The separate ‘suites’ - nothing so simple as a mere seat here - offer privacy without making you feel closed in. Great touches in the suites such as a makeup mirror and personal mini bar. There is a spacious lounge area away from the seats perfect for taking a stroll mid-flight.
|Pearl: This zone is decked out in soothing tones of blue and grey. Good seating configuration allowing for single seats on the outside and cosy two-bed/seat consoles in the middle, great for couples or those flying with children. Much better than traditional rows or the top-to-toe used in some other flatbed business classes.|
Diamond: Huge, incredibly comfortable seats with state of the art lumber support and an impressive range of positions including a button that moves it forward and back; there is an easy transformation from seat to a wide and long (203cm) bed, and a versatile headrest. This is a dream machine, the Rolls Royce of flatbeds. Watch the massage button, if you hit it by mistake the result is disconcerting.
|Pearl: A completely flat bed, none of this ergonomic sloping, so top marks. Transforms from seat to bed without you having to get up or finding your seat belt suddenly round your knees. Moves forward and back in the sitting position so you can get close to your tray table for meals, or up close and personal with your screen. In-seat Massage facility.|
Diamond & Pearl both have USB and RCA sockets, and coat hanging space.
Diamond: The 58cm LCD TV screens are larger than the ones most people have in their living room and certainly the largest in-seat TVs on any airline. There is 350 hours of on-demand entertainment from blockbusters to sitcoms, enough for even the longest haul. Best of all as the plane takes off it stars in its own movie, as a camera underneath the fuselage shows you the runway and disappearing ground.
|Pearl: The screen (at 38cm the biggest Business Class screen in the air) is set into the end of the seating console rather than having to be swung out; this works much better as it doesn’t get in the way of the food tray or have to be moved when you get up to stretch legs. The on-demand entertainment is the same as in Diamond.|
|The Check In|
|They roll out the gold carpet for both Diamond and Pearl Zones, so there is minimal queuing - but there is no avoiding check in. |
Diamond: Makes you feel as special as First Class should. If this is Diamond then the facilities and service are a 105-carat Koh-I-Nor.
|Pearl: The flight attendants were good at anticipating needs before you asked, helpful and friendly.|
|In the Diamond Zone thick, sweet Arabian coffee poured with a flourish and served with dates is a nice touch when you first take your seat. There is a fine wine section too. For once the table, laid with linen and silver-plated cutlery is actually big enough, (rare on a plane), and moves easily into an eating position. Better still at the touch of button your chair zooms forward to meet it - very high-tech. Snacks are available on demand. In both zones there is a good mix of Arabian and International fare. |
|In Sydney, Etihad Airlines share the Qantas Business Class Lounge (even those flying Diamond do not get into the new Qantas First lounge). In Abu Dhabi, the Diamond/Pearl lounge, decorated in shades of silver and grey is situated near passport control. It has complimentary Internet services, although not all the machines connect at the same speed, the newer looking machines nearer the café area work fastest. There is the usual buffet but waiters serve drinks, tea and coffee. (Note the exotic decoration at Abu Dhabi Airport itself is with a domed ceiling covered in intricate mosaic.) |
|Etihad chauffeurs will pick up passengers (within 50kilometres of Sydney), Diamond Zone passengers in a BMW7 series or Mercedes S class, and Pearl passengers in a Holden Caprice.|
|With the current competitive prices on offer from Etihad it is difficult to book a seat on Diamond or Pearl, particularly all the way to Europe.|
|Etihad fly from Sydney and Brisbane to Abu Dhabi and on to Europe. Destinations now include London Heathrow, Manchester and Dublin. Pearl Zone flights from Sydney to Abu Dhabi start from $6,012 (excluding tax) and from Sydney to London start from $7,312 (excluding tax). Visit Etihad Airways, www.etihadairways.com |