Our son Luke's work schedule meant that Aannsha and I found ourselves at Brisbane airport with an hour to kill before the Etihad check in counter opened, which was in hindsight a good thing, as it allowed us to regain our composure and for Aannsha to refresh her slightly smudged eye liner.
At 7.30pm the Etihad ground staff opened the check in and as we were first in line we were eager for a quick check in so that we could make the most of the business class lounge area before our flight at 10.30pm.
It didn't go quite as smoothly as we imagined. We are both dual UK and Australian citizens and we were flying on our UK passports for easier entry into our final destination of Spain. However there seemed to be some sort of problem with Aannsha's UK passport. It seems that Aannsha's old UK passport was in 'the system' but it was in her first marriage surname and didn't include the first name Aannsha. Therefore 'the system' was getting itself into a tizzy trying to reconcile her new UK passport which has the first name Aannsha and the surname Jones.
Thankfully the check in lady was very polite and professional and after checking our Australian passports, thanking us for our patience, making several phone calls to some unseen supervisor and waiting for 'the system' to refresh 3 times, eventually it all got sorted. So firmly clutching our boarding passes we wandered off to find the business lounge.
Our decision to book business class seats was done for several reasons. Firstly we know from past experience how physically gruelling a 35 hour plane trip is in economy, secondly we got a much better price for the sale of our house than we imagined and thirdly flying business class was going to be a once in a lifetime treat to ourselves.
In Brisbane airport Etihad Airways has a sharing agreement to use the Air New Zealand lounge. At the lounge entrance we showed our boarding passes and were pleasantly welcomed in. There were maybe 8 or 10 people in there already and we had no problem finding a table and a couple of comfy chairs, which gave us a view of the runway so we could watch the planes coming and going. At each table there's also an electrical outlet for plugging in mains powered devices and a couple of USB ports for charging phones or tablets. Very handy.
I am guessing that the food selection varies based on the time of day and by the time we were there the selection was mediocre. Limited to fresh sandwiches, fruits, various chilled desserts, breads and biscuits. There was also a self serve bar with a good selection of beers, wines and spirits, plus tea and coffee making facilities. I poured a large vodka orange for myself and a gin and tonic for Aannsha and for the next hour and a half we snacked on the foods, topped up our drinks as needed and recharged our phones.
As business class ticket holders you get priority boarding and I have to admit that I had a huge grin on my face as we entered the airplane and turned left instead of right. Our plane for this leg of the journey was a Boeing 787-9 V2 with 2 classes of service, split into 28 flat bed Pearl Business seats and 271 standard Coral Economy Class seats. The business class seats offer a 6 ft 1 inch full flat bed, direct aisle access from every seat, a 15-inch LCD screen, noise-cancelling headsets, in-seat power sockets, audio/Ethernet connectivity, in-seat massage, luxury comforters and pillows. And I can tell you all that comfort makes a huge difference as to how you physically feel when you get off the plane at the other end. Is it expensive? Yes. Would I do it all the time? Yes if I had the money.
The level of service was exceptional, a lady took my jacket to hang up somewhere, another lady offered me a glass of champagne and a hot towel and then a man in a white maitre d' jacket came and took my order for my 3 course dinner, which included a selection of wonderful wines from around the world all chosen to complement whatever you ordered.
A white linen tablecloth is laid on the larger than normal seat table before your food is served on china plates with silver cutlery and little silver salt and pepper shakers. Your wine glass is kept topped up and after dinner drinks are offered.
After dinner I watched a movie and then got up to go to the bathroom, by the time I returned to my seat, as if by magic a thin mattress had been laid, my pillow and comforter where laid out and turned down. The only thing missing was a chocolate on the pillow and I'm sure if I'd asked I would have got one too.
Sleeping flat on a bed on a plane is wonderful, it makes the long haul flights much more bearable. I'm not a good sleeper and I'm usually done after about 5 hours anyway, so I woke up and began to watch another movie, the guy in the white maitre d' jacket appeared instantly and asked if I wanted any food from the 'all day menu'. I ordered the lamb & rosemary pie with sweet potato mash and lamb jus, with a side of chips. Oh wow, so freakin' yummy, all washed down with a few beers. I could get to like this lifestyle!
The first leg of our journey had a flight time of 14 hours and 20 minutes and we landed in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, 6 minutes ahead of schedule at 6.39am. After clearing passport control I was ready for breakfast and a beer in the Etihad business lounge.
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