Plane: An Etihad Airways A380.
Class: Business Class.
Price: Their best Business Class airfares for Auckland to Abu Dhabi return is $6415. That's a sale price and it's available until February 28.
Luggage: Two checked bags up to 32kg. But as my connecting flight from Auckland with Air New Zealand was a Works fare and only allowed for one checked bag of 23kg, I packed light.
Check-in: I tried to check in via Etihad's website but it wouldn't work, so I downloaded the smartphone app before travelling, which worked perfectly.
Airport experience: Sydney airport has great shopping and food options, but as I was lucky enough to have a business class fare, I hotfooted it to the luxury of the lounge, where I was very well looked after.
I was welcomed by a beautiful Etihad ground crew member (who I'm pretty sure also features in the airline's ads) with the offer of a fat Arabian date, which were also available in the lounge, along with Arabian coffee. There was a cold buffet selection, including delicious Middle Eastern treats, plus an a la carte menu if you wanted to eat dinner before getting on the plane. In hindsight I should have made use of this option so I could go straight to sleep on the plane. There was free-flowing alcohol available too, even though Abu Dhabi is a dry country.
Flight time: 14 hours 55 minutes.
On time: Yes.
Seat: 22A - a Business suite. Etihad's A380 business class seats are divine - plenty of privacy in your own spacious pod. There are two storage lockers along the window side, plus a cubby underneath the large TV screen. As well as a side table and a fold-away dining table, there's a separate desk space so you can store your laptops, books, toiletries, etc, if you don't want to pack them away in your lockers. The seats are fully lie-flat, and comfortable at that. One of my travelling companions was 6'5", and he said the bed was long enough to accommodate him.
On a side note, during a visit to the Etihad Innovation Centre in Abu Dhabi, I got to see simulators of First Class cabins on the 777, and Apartments and the Residence on the A380. The Residence - as seen in Etihad's commercials featuring Nicole Kidman - is INSANE. It consists of a living room, bathroom with shower, plus separate bedroom, fully private, and served by a butler. One day, in my dreams.
Entertainment: The A380 has large touch-screen display TVs, but the movie selection wasn't great. Not many new releases, and not a huge amount to choose from. As Etihad is the national carrier for conservative Abu Dhabi, there were some interesting censoring decisions in some of the films I watched, including the very tame Absolutely Fabulous movie. But perhaps that was just because it was such a bad film the censor thought they were dong viewers a favour? But with the censorship rules in mind, it seemed counterintuitive to include three episodes of Game of Thrones. Surely a censored episode of that would end up just being the opening and closing credits?
I also had problems with my noise-cancelling headphones - I tried two pairs but there must have been a problem with the jack, because if I moved around too much I'd get terrible crackling and feedback into the headphones. Quite annoying. Lucky my main source of entertainment was a nine-hour sleep.
Food and drink: An incredible selection, and available on demand throughout the flight.
After take off we were offered drinks and warm mixed nuts. Then a dinner menu with three different entree options, four mains, and three desserts. I'd pre-ordered a vegetarian meal, so received an Arabian mezze selection to start, followed by a pumpkin and bean curry on rice. This seems to be a standard airline vegetarian offering, but Etihad's was far superior to ones I've experienced on other airlines. The only issue I had was that because of quite bad turbulence after take off, food service had to be suspended for an hour so it was really late by the time I ate. But that's no one's fault other than the weather.
Fellow passengers: The Business Class cabin was only half full, so it was very quiet and peaceful. Adding to the sense of privacy was the fact that on Etihad's A380's Business and First Class are on the top deck of the plane. Economy takes up the whole lower deck, and enters the plane through a different airbridge. Yes, the class system is alive and well.
Toilets: Spacious and clean, with a range of toiletries.
Would I fly again: Yes, please, whenever possible. And it would be lovely if Etihad decided to start flying out of Auckland too ...