Etihad Airways Pearl Business Class - Heathrow to Sydney

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: What a difference an upgrade makes – especially when you’re flying to Australia.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: What a difference an upgrade makes – especially when you’re flying to Australia. After a flight of that length I’m usually a wild-haired, wild-eyed harridan desperate to exit the plane, but to be honest, I could have done another couple of hours. When we started our descent into Sydney I was quite comfortable, stretched out on my 6’1” lie-flat bed under a cosy blue-and-white-stripe blanket thick enough to warrant the term duvet, watching my 15” screen, applying my complimentary Kiehl’s moisturizer and being plied with seared swordfish and champagne by the impeccably polite crew.

THE FACTS: The Abu Dhabi to Sydney route is operated by Airbus A340-500, with Pearl class offering 28 flat bed seats in a one-two-one configuration so every one has easy aisle access. Book couples who want to sit right next to one another in seats E and F; D and G seats, though together, are separate enough for lone travelers not to feel they’re in the lap of a stranger. The 49” pitch seats not only recline to 6’1” beds, but also massage you at the touch of a button. There isn’t an amenities pack, but you can mix and match from a tray of socks, eyeshades, ear-plugs, dental kit and Korres lip balm and hand cream. There’s more than enough storage space, and a power socket and USB and Ethernet connectivity for those who want to work, and 650 hours of on-demand entertainment on 15” screens with noise-cancelling headsets for those who want to play. Dining is flexible, with anything from the a la carte menu available any time during the flight. The food is good, with nods to the airline’s Gulf origins with an Arabic mezze, but also plenty of traditional British and Mediterranean flavours including beef casserole and pumpkin ravioli. There’s also a ‘Kitchen Anytime’ menu with a steak sandwich, crisps, cookies, ice cream, and even fresh fruit for the health conscious. Choose from three white, three red, a dessert wine and a champagne, or a wide range of spirits, beers and soft drinks. 

WOW: The service on board is excellent, and this high standard applies in the lounges too. In both Heathrow and Abu Dhabi there are Six Senses spas with free 15 minute treatments and fully stocked shower rooms with services for pressing and polishing passengers’ clothes and shoes while they freshen up. Both have extensive dining choices, a children’s room to keep kids entertained, and free wi-fi and business centres with iMacs.

BACKGROUND: Etihad has one of the youngest but fastest-expanding fleets in the world. With 57 aircraft in 2011, seven more are being delivered through 2012, and a further 95 are on order through to 2020. Frequencies to Bangkok and Brisbane have increased this year – up to three daily and daily respectively – and next year will see new routes to Sao Paulo and Ho Chi Minh City.

HOW MUCH: Heathrow-Sydney fares from £3,965