By Rhiannon Taylor, December 2016

The Six Sense Spa experience in the First Class Lounge & Spa in Abu Dhabi. Image supplied.

The Six Sense Spa experience in the First Class Lounge & Spa in Abu Dhabi. Image supplied.

Etihad Style & Shave at the First Class Lounge & Spa in Abu Dhabi. Image supplied.

Etihad Style & Shave at the First Class Lounge & Spa in Abu Dhabi. Image supplied.

The Melbourne cocktail - signature to the Etihad Melbourne Lounge. Image supplied.

The Melbourne cocktail - signature to the Etihad Melbourne Lounge. Image supplied.


AIRCRAFT: Airbus A380-800.

SEAT:  Business Class, 10A, window.

JOURNEY: MEL - AUH return.

LOYALTY SCHEME: You can earn points and status credits if you are an Etihad Guest member. Alternatively, you can earn points and status credits with their Australian partner, Virgin Australia.

FLIGHT TIME: 14 hours.

BAGGAGE: 2 checked bags up to 32kg each plus 2 carry-on items up to 12kg in total.

TRANSFERS: Upon booking a Business Class fare (or higher) an Etihad concierge will arrange a luxury vehicle transfer in your departure and arrival cities. Travel is seamless from leaving home in Australia to checking-in to your hotel in Abu Dhabi, with bags, addresses and passengers taken care of. This service is also included on return to your home destination.

CHECK-IN: In Melbourne the Business Class check-in line operates with no wait time and you are also given an express pass for customs. In Abu Dhabi check-in feels non existent. Your bags are managed by an attendant as soon as you arrive curbside at the airport. Gliding in to the check-in area, which is more akin to a hotel lobby, you're handed your tickets, ushered through security and straight in to the lounge The check-in process totals less than 5 minutes from the car to sipping on a cocktail.

THE LOUNGE: The Etihad First and Business Lounge in Melbourne has an open plan layout with clever arabian-inspired lattice dividers to effectively utilise the space. A slick bar overlooks the runway and it is the hub of the lounge. Serving up artisan cocktails, Etihad has created a menu designed around the destinations it flies to. Consulting across the menu are London-based based beverage experts, Fluid Movement and Etihad makes all syrups and garnishes (such as their fairy floss) in-house.

You can dine either via the buffet or through an à la carte menu. A modern and fresh menu draws on Arabic influences and a four-course dining experience features a traditional mezze selection, thai salad, curry and a date tart.

In Abu Dhabi, if you're flying first class or are a Platinum Eithad Guest member you get access to the illusive and recently opened (May 2016) First Lounge and Spa. Here, guests can enjoy the Etihad Shave and Style - where you can have your hair cut, get a blow-out or a shave by expert beauticians. Following your pampering there's a spa, managed by premium spa brand Six Senses, that gives you a therapy treatment of choice - neck massage perhaps? There's a small gym and luxe showers and dressing rooms, stocked with Aqua di Parma products for a pre-boarding freshen up. Complete with a Savoy-trained butler your pre-flight treatment really does let the fact that you're in an airport slip your mind.

THE SEAT: Etihad has designed their seats with a hotel guest in mind. Drawing inspiration for their aircraft details from some of the chicest lobbies and hotel suites from around the globe, stepping on board the A380 is a different experience comparatively to other airlines offering a luxury product. The galley area is covered with Arabian-style shades, hiding clutter and giving the illusion of hotel mini-bar and as soon as you are seated there seems to be a space for everything (laptop, headphones, shoes).

The seat is 22 inches wide and converts in to a fully flat bed when you're ready. What's really useful is the control system that allows you to change the pressure of the mattress from plush to hard. Each seat has aisle access and if you're traveling with a partner the middle seats have a partition that can be controlled up or down.

DINING: Uniquely, Etihad has a service where you can "dine anytime". The menu offers simple, fresh dishes that are on offer whenever you feel the urge to eat - particularly handy if you've over indulged in the lounge prior and aren't quite hungry when boarding the plane. Steak sandwiches, lentil soup and mezze plates are wholesome, unfussy and restaurant-quality. There's an international wine list with great selects from Australia right through to South Africa and if you're after something refreshing the non-alcoholic signature lemon and mint juice is excellent.

ENTERTAINMENT: The seat's touchscreen is responsive, although its easier to operate via the remote as the screen is at the end of the bed. There's a great selection of new release movies and the headphones are noise-cancelling. You can even invite a fellow passenger to watch a program and have it play simultaneously so you're both up to the same point. Each seat comes with a chic amenity kit that contain a LUXE city guide - there are several to collect (London, Abu Dhabi, Sydney) with a new collection being released shortly. The kits are also filled with the usual sleep mask and toothbrush, with body products by Scaramouche + Fandango. If you're wanting to move around the aircraft there's a lounge on the A380's upper deck which is a plush, slick area to chill out and relax. There's champagne on hand and this area is aptly named The Lobby. Wifi is available for emails and general browsing and while the prices on this service are reasonable, we'd love it if it was included in the fare price.

SERVICE: Service is mostly flawless in every department. From assisting with bags, to serving food, the staff take initiative and remember your preferences and likes or dislikes. Drinks are refilled without being asked and if you don't like your meal they will change it without question. They also present themselves with finesse and are incredibly well-spoken, reminiscent of a classic flying service.

VERDICT: Etihad refers to it's airline experience as "Flying Reimagined" and it is no surprise as they have thought outside the box when it comes to a business class seat. Flexibility when dining, similar to room service and attention to detail such as mattress softness and cool travel guides are matched with unparalleled luxury such as a full service spa and artisan cocktails in the lounge. It makes the journey an experience in itself.


I flew courtesy of Etihad Airways.