Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Departure time: 10:00 am
Seating: Business Class Studio, Seat 11H
Flight time: 5 hours and 55 minutes
The 28-seat cabin is arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, in a pattern alternating between facing forward and backward. The Dreamliner boasts the Business Studio design, one of Etihad’s best offerings for in-air comfort.
Business Class on the Dreamliner ticks off the most coveted features: fully flat beds (for a good night’s sleep) and direct aisle access. Travelling solo, the window is my preferred seat as it offers more privacy, especially the front-facing seats cocooned away from the aisle. Otherwise, the ‘honeymoon’ seats in the centre are perfect for feeling more connected with your travel companion.
In my rear-facing seat with a window, I was happy to have a view of the Swiss Alps and to see the Arabian desert at sunset upon arrival in Abu Dhabi.
I was reminded to check in online in advance via email. I opted to check in at Zürich Airport, where there was no queue, and the process was seamless. This was one of the fastest check-in experiences I’ve had, it went like clockwork from getting out of the taxi to my gate. I put this down to the combination of Etihad’s dedicated Business Class check-in and airport security lanes operating with Swiss precision.
In Zürich, I was directed towards the SWISS Business Lounge E (conveniently only moments from my gate), as it’s a partner airline with Etihad. The spacious, light-filled lounge affords a rare opportunity to sit in the fresh air on the outside terrace — a bonus for aviation enthusiasts. There’s free high-speed internet and quiet places to work. For those feeling peckish, dishes can be cooked to order at the chef station, or opt for more relaxed buffet-style dining. I had a few Swiss chocolates with my coffee. Serve yourself at the fully stocked bar or visit the dedicated Whisky Cub with more than 100 whiskies on display.
Landing in Abu Dhabi before a connecting flight to Sydney, I headed straight for the Etihad Business Lounge to freshen up in the private shower rooms stocked with towels, soaps, and a hair dryer. Buffet dining stations offered an array of dips, salads, fruits, and baked goods. The complimentary lounge Wi-Fi worked well. There’s an open layout with plenty of seating, so I settled into a couch for a comfortable layover in the Abu Dhabi hub.
Once seated onboard, I was greeted with a flute of Duval-Leroy Brut Reserve Champagne. The carefully curated wines lean heavily towards New World wines, with a few Australian drops. Whisky drinkers are well catered for, along with a selection of premium spirits, liqueurs, and international beers.
There are plenty of choices to keep non-drinkers satisfied, including coffee in many forms — cappuccino, macchiato, and espresso — and tea, soft drinks, and fruit juices. Later in the flight, I ordered a Moroccan mint tea served with fresh mint leaves, helping me drift off to sleep.
After asking when I would like to dine, the flight attendant took my order from the three choices of starters and four choices of both mains and desserts. If I wanted something lighter, there were plenty of items to select from on an all-day menu. A drink and warm nuts arrived shortly after take-off.
My aeroplane food philosophy is to stick to the local cuisine of the carrier, so I don’t hesitate with Etihad’s signature starter of Arabic mezze — a selection of hummus, tabouli, olives, and kibbeh, served with pita bread. For my main, I ordered the flavour-packed chicken kabsa on a bed of spice-spiked rice topped with cashews, fried onion, and sultanas. You can’t go wrong with a dish popular throughout the Middle East. There’s a variety of sweet desserts, and I’m tempted by the baklava, but as a last nod to Switzerland, I finished my meal by lingering over a cheese plate — a medley of Gruyère and creamy Brie with grapes, crackers, and fig paste.
There’s plenty of room to stretch out. Seats have a width of 22in (55.8cm), and flatbeds are up to 6ft 8in (203.3cm) — plus a sliding privacy panel, not to be mistaken for the superior Business Suite of the A350s, which has the luxury of a full sliding door.
After a week of skiing, I appreciated the seat’s in-chair massage function. Most importantly, with the touch of a button, I’m fully reclined. The seat was spacious, with ample storage compartments and easy-to-reach power and USB outlets. The electronic window dimmers and an elegant lamp allowed me to set the mood of my personal space, even during a daytime flight.
A stylish wallet with an eye mask, socks, hand sanitiser, toothbrush, toothpaste, Acqua di Parma body lotion, and small eau de cologne, Colonia Futura, a unisex fragrance with citrusy notes. You can request a shaving kit and hairbrush.
Pyjamas or not?
No pyjamas, but the quality duvet-style blanket and silky pillowcase were comfortable enough.
The 18.5in (47cm) touchscreen television is larger than most laptops, making the movie-watching experience enjoyable. The separate handset control is useful if you’re in a reclined position (which I was for most of the flight). The variety of films and television shows isn’t extraordinary in this era of at-home streaming, but with 200-plus movies, as well as TV shows, live TV, radio channels, music albums, games, and up-to-date digital magazines, it was easy to keep entertained. Wi-Fi packages are available on board starting at one hour (100MB limit) for US$6.99.
Quality of headphones
The noise-cancelling headsets provide a quality experience.
Two bathrooms are available in the cabin; they offer basic amenities and were kept exceptionally clean throughout the journey.
The baggage allowance is generous: two cabin bags (max width 56cm, height 36cm and depth 23cm), with a combined weight of up to 12kg, and a personal item of up to 5kg. Checked baggage up to 40kg, but each item must not weigh over 32kg.
Etihad Guest has reciprocal arrangements with more than 20 partner airlines, including Virgin Australia. You can use points for any available seat with Etihad or their airline partners. New members of Etihad Guest receive 500 bonus miles upon joining.
It’s disappointing that business class customers aren’t offered complimentary Wi-Fi.
Etihad is renowned for its award-winning in-flight service, and it delivers. Flight attendants were immaculately dressed, attentive to the needs of passengers, and served with a smile.