Here’s my experience of flying Business Class on Etihad Airways. It’s a different league of luxury and hospitality altogether! By Siddharth Singh
I’ve always been anxious about long haul flights. A Lancet survey detailed how repeated jet lag could result in cognitive decline, mood disorders, even heart disease. Team that with the risk of deep vein thrombosis and viral infections when airborne, and suddenly, the prospect of flying across continents is not as attractive. Over the years I’ve gauged an airline’s success not only by how I’m treated onboard but also a more ineffable residual impact after landing. Is my jet lag a total killer? Do I feel well enough to go out the same evening?
This summer, I flew on the Etihad A380 to Rome via Abu Dhabi and emerged astonished. Etihad has prized itself over a certain kind of hospitality and grace that few other airlines offer: I experienced this first-hand. Arriving late for my flight, I was comforted by Etihad’s ground staff, who told me, “It’s okay, you’re on business. Two hours is more than enough for you to check in for your flight.” Not only did Business Class access help me bypass the serpentine lines at Mumbai’s international airport immigration, but I also repaired in the lounge (surrounded by fine art and an excellent selection of wine).
Once aboard, I was ready to pass out. I was not in any mood to dine, but I was delighted to learn I could call in my meal at any time during the flight. This gesture reminded me of an anecdote an A-list Bollywood star recounted to me about flying Etihad from Mumbai to New York (where it’s possible to clear immigration in Abu Dhabi itself and avoid the queues in America). When asked what he wanted for his meal, the star jokingly replied he wished to have chicken biryani before he turned in. On waking, thousands of feet in the air, a fresh, steaming bowl of biryani appeared before his eyes. Chef on board? Check. Hot meals? Check!
As I was on the Rome leg of my journey, I found the airplane awfully quiet. I wondered if the parents on board had availed of Etihad’s au pair service, The Flying Nanny, which allows them to rest and for kids to remain entertained. Etihad also allows and encourages travellers to bid online for an upgrade. Oh, and as for my jet lag? On landing in Rome, I went smack dab from the airport to a bar in Campo de’ Fiori. If the measure of an airline is how you are on arrival, well, Etihad is certainly winning this race.