Friday, 25 September 2015

From zero to 122 aircraft in 12 years: Etihad is flying high

Just 12 years ago no one had heard of Etihad Airways. There was no Etihad Stadium in Melbourne; Manchester City was just another struggling football team and no one in their right mind thought of heading to Europe via Abu Dhabi. 

Fast forward to 2015 and I am asleep; very comfortably asleep, in my lie-flat bed en route to Europe. Flying with Etihad is now routine for many of us, the brand a globally respected one. 


The airline operates more than 1,000 flights per week to over 120 passenger and cargo destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas, with a fleet of over 120 Airbus and Boeing aircraft. 

The flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, it is based at Abu Dhabi International Airport, now one of the most modern in the world. 

So how did Etihad become so successful so quickly? 

On a recent trip to Europe (on a paid-for ticket), I was fortunate enough to be able to sample business class, as well as economy. Etihad has three classes; Diamond First Class, Pearl Business Class and Coral Economy Class.

There is no doubt that Etihad treats its high-end customers immensely well; the lounges that I sampled in Sydney, Paris and Abu Dhabi were all outstanding with excellent food, helpful staff and pleasing ambiance. 

The business class seats are extremely comfortable and private, even on the older Boeing planes. The Airbus is a leap ahead again. 

The business class meals are outstanding; my meal of an Arabic mezze plate, Vietnamese-style barramundi with wrapped in a banana leaf and served with coconut rice and stir-fried vegetables was as good as in most restaurants, better than some. A good selection of desserts, too. 

The choice of wines is excellent, with the Louis Jadot Bourgogne Blanc, Champagne Jacquart bubbly and Le Fleur Laroze Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (a merlot), all doing their duty.

I liked the possibility of dining at any time, too. Who doesn't like the option of a pulled beef sandwich when they are feeling peckish? 

Even in economy where I got a seat right near the toilets (the luck of the draw and maybe a payback for the earlier upgrade), the food was good and authentic (lamb mansaf with basmati rice and green bean saloona) and the service attentive. The wine choice, however, is "red" or "white". 

You can pay for wifi anywhere on the plane and there is a very good selection of in-seat entertainment. Seat pitch is only so-so in economy, however, and uncomfortable for anyone above average size, although I did like the comfy pillows. 

The opposite is true in The Residence on Airbus A380s, a private first-class area that can accommodate one or two people. It is the only three-room suite on a commercial jet, and features a living room, bedroom and bathroom. Anyone fancy treating me so I can test it out?


For full details and fares contact a travel agent or visit www.etihad.com/au


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