Review: Etihad Pearl Class MEL-AUH

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I was beyond excited to get on this flight, for a number of reasons. It was the capstone to an amazing trip, afforded us a day in Abu Dhabi, and I had two Lufthansa flights (my first!) to look forward to after the day passed.

I hoped that somehow, some way, mayyybeeee, we’d get upgraded to Diamond Class. I knew the cabin was full when I booked, but stuff happens, and I had hope. I asked at checkin at AUH (which was smooth as silk and the agent was textbook perfect) about the upgrade, but there weren’t any. But I didn’t care. We were invited into the (name of lounge) and waited there until the flight left off at THREE A.M. This was the earliest/latest flight I’ve ever taken so I was curious about how they’d worked out the timing of the meals and what amenities would be offered. The lounge was fantastic, but by the time 2am rolled around, I was veritably nodding off.

First impressions

We boarded the flight and quickly found our seats. Walking through the Diamond Class cabin was rough, though. Those suites are gorgeous, opulent, spacious… everything that everyone says about them. The colors used on the plane are wonderful neutrals with black and white splashes here and there (i.e. the famous black and white striped pillows). As soon as I saw those pillows in the seat, I could already feel the comfort setting in. And it felt NICE.

Seat in Etihad Pearl Business Class

Seat 7F in Etihad Pearl Business Class

2014-01-05 22.32.28

Shot of the business class cabin

Shot of the business class cabin

 

Lots of leg room!

Lots of leg room!

Already at the seat were bottles of water, amenity kits, pillows and blankets, and a dinner menu. I thought I might surely pass out and miss all the services, but there was no way I’d let myself do that. I was amped to be on this aircraft.

Water at the seats

Water at the seats

 

I caught up on my beauty tips

I caught up on my beauty tips

 

Etihad amenity kit

Etihad amenity kit

 

Note about the amenity kit

Note about the amenity kit

 

Amenity kits contents

Amenity kit contents

 

Amenity kits contents

Amenity kit contents

 

Amenity kit contents

Amenity kit contents

 

Amenity kit contents

Amenity kit contents

 

The FAs came around and offered champagne. We toasted to a great flight on a gorgeous aircraft and soon took off for AUH.

Cheers! (Pre-departure champagne)

Cheers! (Pre-departure champagne)

 

The start of a great flight

The start of a great flight

 

Food

The menu was full of great dinner choices. So much so that it was hard to pick. Nevertheless, I chose the lamb shank and so did my partner. We they set the plates down our eyes nearly popped out of our heads. They gave us a huge piece of lamb, bone-in. It smelled great and was super tender.

Here are the menus:

Etihad meal options

Etihad dinner options

 

Etihad breakfast and snacks

Etihad breakfast, snacks, and drinks

 

The wine list

The wine list

 

aaa

Adult beverage list 🙂

 

Things kicked off with a hot towel, nuts, and a wonderful red wine.

Hot towel

Hot towel

 

Nuts and red wine

Nuts and red wine

 

Then came the starters and main course. The service was timed perfectly.

Etihad dinner

Arabic mezze starters

 

Lamb shank

Lamb shank

 

The sides were good, too. It doesn’t look like a lot in the pic, but it was a TON of food.

I forgot to take a picture of the dessert… whoops. But I got the Um Ali and it was fantastic!!!

I was very impressed with the meal service and options on this flight. I also had a green tea and a very light breakfast. The cabin was very dim and the pics didn’t turn out. After the huge dinner, though, I promptly passed out for about eight hours.

The seat

This was by far the most comfortable seat I’ve experienced in the air (so far). Yup, I’d rank this above all my infamous experiences in LAN Premium Business. It was long and wide, and reclined to a fully flat position. It also had a massage function, which I kept on for quite a while during the beginning of the flight.

In flat mode, the feet went into a wide cubby, which didn’t bug me one bit. There was plenty of space in the seat to turn over and lay on my side. When the lights were dimmed, the “stars” came out in the cabin ceiling and overhead storage, which was a really cool touch.

The "stars" came out!

The “stars” came out!

 

They looked even cooler after the cabin was dimmed

They looked even cooler after the cabin was dimmed

 

The bedding was soft and a good amount of thickness, and that iconic pillow was a good amount of firmness. After the huge lamb shank and (dessert), I had a Bailey’s as a nightcap, and passed out for nearly eight hours. When I woke up again, we were approaching Saudi Arabia and I could hear the tinkling of silverware. Time for breakfast.

In-Flight Entertainment

The IFE was really decent. They didn’t have a TON of movies, but did have a few quality picks within each genre. I ended up queening out to Evita, then discovered Lisa Kudrow’s “Web Therapy” for the first time. Why has no one told me about “Web Therapy” before? I was able to catch two episodes with “Buenos Aires” still stuck in my head and… color me addicted.

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The TV screen was quite large

 

The ground experience

As soon as we landed, we got through security and customs and followed the signs to a complimentary chauffeur  to our hotel for a 21-hour layover. Please note that this service must be pre-arranged through Etihad by calling. When you get to the desk, they will already have your info and car waiting outside. The service was extremely easy, and was a great finish to a relaxing long-haul flight. Here’s a quick shot of the service desk:

Etihad desk for pre-arranged car service

Etihad desk for pre-arranged car service

 

And then once we arrived, the sun rose over the desert.

Sunrise in Abu Dhabi

Sunrise in Abu Dhabi

 

How I did it

I booked this flight with 45,000 American miles, which I thought was a steal. To fly from Australia to the Middle East in business is only 45,000 miles. For Diamond Class, if it had been available, would’ve been (NUMBER OF MILES). And that was it, pretty straightforward redemption. I searched for space using Etihad’s great search tool. When I found two seats on the day I wanted, I called American and booked two seats using my miles. The phone booking fee was NOT waived. It IS waived if you are Executive Platinum with AA. However, I checked the price of the ticket, and a seat in Pearl Class on this flight would’ve been ($$$$). So I was beyond happy to pay the modest $25 booking fee.

This, and other routes that fly from Australia to the Middle East are all 45,000 miles for business, which is a gem in the American award chart. Let’s hope it sticks around after the merger.

This seat would NOT be available on an Explorer Award because Etihad is only a partner and not a member on Oneworld. However, Melbourne-Doha on Qatar would totally be a legitimate routing and could be a “back door” to get to Australia from Europe instead of flying through the usual west coast gates (LAX, SFO, YVR) or Hawaii.

Overall

Amazing, amazing, amazing. I’d book this exact route and itinerary again in a heartbeat. The ONLY thing I’d change is booking into Diamond Class. And at 45,000 for Business/Pearl Class or (number of miles) for First/Diamond Class, a total steal. Perfect service, a beautiful bird, and an overall wonderful flight.

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post. The opinions of the commenters are not necessarily the opinions of this site.

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