Winston Aldworth flies EY486 from the United Arab Emirates to Australia.
The plane: A Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, the same flash machine that's recently being turning heads in Air New Zealand livery. As much as I'm a fan of the koru, Etihad's design motif — a series of warm-toned triangular mosaic patterns which their designers call "Facets of Abu Dhabi" — looks seriously cool on these machines. The middle eastern carrier only brought the Dreamliner on to this route in June (they started the route two years ago with an A330).
In the cabin, the decor and lighting are in keeping with the "Facets of Abu Dhabi" tone. It's stylish and cool, and does a decent job of creating a simple non-planelike space. I'm calling it: This is the most attractive aircraft interior I can recall seeing.
Etihad is on track to have the largest Dreamliner fleet in the world, with 41 787-9s on firm order, and options on 30 of the longer 787-10s.
Class: Business class.
Price: You can get Auckland to Abu Dhabi, Business Class return for $7711. There would be a codeshare flight across the Tasman.
Flight time: The 10hr 10min flight is scheduled to depart at 10.20pm and land in Perth at 1.10pm. We were told soon after boarding that there would be an 85-minute delay due to "congestion in Omani airspace" and didn't get into the air until 11.39pm. We landed in Perth just 36 minutes behind schedule.
My seat: I was in 8D, which faced to the rear of the cabin - my first time flying backwards, so to speak. The novelty of it gave me a bit of a thrill at take off when the G-forces push you forward into your seatbelt — a slightly unusual sensation. I recommend it for all plane nerds.
Fellow passengers: I chatted to a woman seated across from me. She was part of a large group from Perth who take annual trips together.
How full: All 28 business class seats were full, as were 240 of the 271 in Economy.
Entertainment: There are, apparently, 750 hours worth of entertainment on the system, but with a 10.20pm scheduled departure, this flight is a rock-solid sleep machine. Oddly, I found myself listening to a bit of Bob Dylan over dinner.
The service: Friendly and on to it. I chatted to a young woman who had worked on an Etihad flight I'd taken a week earlier from Abu Dhabi to Dar es Salam. Etihad offers the Flying Nannies service for passengers travelling with kids. The nannies are trained by the Norland College in the UK. Cool idea.
Food and drink: Superb. Best of the lot was the strawberry, mint and coconut drink served when I woke.
The toilets: The business class loo seemed about the same size as those further back in Economy. Clean throughout.
Luggage: Business travellers get two 32kg cases in the hold. Economy gets one 32kg bag. Generous numbers.
The airport experience: Etihad's Premium Lounge in Abu Dhabi is superb, as it ought to be. Cracking sushi and strong white Russians. I only had time for a shower, but if you're there for longer, book in for a massage. A perfect pre-flight booster.
Would I fly this again? Love to.