Stephanie Holmes flies EY450 from the UAE to Australia.
Etihad Airways Boeing 777-300.
Price: Return fares (with codeshare over the Tasman) start from around $6500 in a sale ending tomorrow.
Luggage: Two checked bags up to 32kg, plus 7kg of hand luggage.
Check-in: I checked in using Etihad's great smartphone app, which was fast and effortless. At Abu Dhabi airport, the Business Class check-in is in a private area, away from Economy Class check-in. The lovely Serbian ground crew member who checked me in was not only beautiful and friendly, she also told me she dreamed of coming to New Zealand, and asked me lots of questions about the scenery and what to do here.
Hopefully we'll see her soon.
Airport experience: Abu Dhabi's Business Class lounge is much larger than Sydney's (naturally, seeing as Etihad is the national carrier), but consequently that meant the service felt less attentive and more impersonal. But there was everything you'd expect from a Business Class lounge — great food and drink options, comfortable seating and free Wi-Fi — as well as a nail spa, treatment spa and barber.
Flight time: 12 hours 56 minutes.
On time: About 20 minutes late taking off, because it was a busy time of day with lots of departing planes and we had to join a holding pattern on the tarmac.
Seat: 11A — a Business Class window seat. The 777 Business Class cabin doesn't feel as private as the A380, which I experienced on the way over. And, after getting so spoilt on the A380, the 777 feels a little dated. There is less storage space, the TV screen is smaller, plus it's a single-deck plane, rather than A380's double-decker, so you're only separated from Economy Class by a curtain. Which meant I could hear babies crying just beyond that curtain. But that's just nitpicking really, as it still is an excellent experience.
Entertainment: The E-Box system has 148 English-language movies and 220 foreign language movies, plus a selection of TV shows and music. You can watch live TV, including sports and news channels. The airline's ambassador, Nicole Kidman, appears frequently in a pre-roll clip before movies.
Food and drink: Etihad offers an excellent service in Business Class, with food and drink available on demand throughout the entire flight, and the standard of the food is great. I enjoyed an Arabic mezze entree, including hummus, olives, stuffed vine leaves and pickled vegetables; followed by a pre-ordered vegetarian main which was pumpkin in a tomato sauce, rice and green beans. Nicola, the South African flight attendant looking after our row, was wonderful — friendly, helpful and efficient. I ran into a few issues when trying to order breakfast, however. Nicola must have been on her break and the woman taking her spot brought me last night's leftover vegetarian dinner rather than the vegetarian breakfast I'd ordered. I pressed my call button so I could try to get it replaced, but it either wasn't working or she ignored me for a full 15 minutes. Good job it wasn't an emergency.
Fellow passengers: A mix of Aussies returning home, and rich Emiratis who can afford not only to fly Business Class for themselves, but bring their children too.
Toilets: Smaller than the A380, but still clean and well-serviced.
Would I fly again: Absolutely. Etihad wasn't named the World's Leading Airline 2016 at December's World Travel Awards for nothing.