Etihad, Pearl Business Class
THE FLIGHT: London Heathrow’s Terminal 4 to Abu Dhabi travelling in Pearl Business class
THE CHECK-IN: With no queues at the business class check-in, the formalities, including directions to Etihad’s business class lounge, were quickly completed. Not so at security, where I waited 50 minutes.
THE LOUNGE: I only had time for a sandwich and a glass of wine from the beautifully presented buffet in the spacious Etihad business class lounge where there's also shower facilities, wifi and a business centre.
THE SEAT:The cabin was configured 1-2-1 and I settled into seat 9K. There were 40 lie-flat seats with a pitch of 73 inches, with a wraparound shell providing privacy. Each seat had direct aisle access, stowage space and in-seat power sockets. The impressive set-up was completed by an on-demand entertainment system, with 16-inch personal LCD TVs providing a mammoth 675 hours of films, news, TV shows and music.
THE SERVICE: I was welcomed aboard with a glass of Lanson Black Label Champagne, given a blanket, offered a choice of national newspapers and shown to my seat by a friendly member of the cabin crew. We took off bang on the button, with the courteous and personal service continuing throughout the flight. My lunch comprised an Arab mezze and a selection of four main courses, my ravioli with mozzarella, roasted tomato ragout, basil and parmesan proving an excellent choice. There were three white and three red wines to choose from, the New Zealand Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc an appropriate accompaniment to my ravioli and the seasonal fruits, cheese and filter coffee that followed. Quite sufficient to satisfy my appetite without resorting to the Kitchen Anytime snacks menu that is available throughout the flight.
THE VERDICT: Now in its tenth or so year of operation, Etihad has been voted World’s Leading Airline at the World Travel Awards for half of them. Its fifth consecutive win came last December, when the business class cabin crew were also voted tops in the Middle East. After my flight, I can see why.
THE DETAILS: Etihad flies from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi thrice-daily, and from Manchester twice-daily. Return fares from Heathrow are from £449 in economy, £1,859 in business class and £4,591 in first class. See www.etihad.com
Reviewed by Colin Ellson (2014)