Hinch Travel

Abu Dhabi Doo!

Abu Dhabi Photo Courtesy of: http://www.cosmesurge.com/

It was in Abu Dhabi that they got me. Sounds like the start of a James Bond adventure but I’d already had my 007 moment on this trip (I tweeted about it).

A pretty Eurasian woman  lightly  touched my arm and asked  me if I’d like to follow her and have a  back and foot massage.

It was in the Etihad lounge at Abu Dhabi Airport and I had an hour to fill between Melbourne and London connecting flights.

How long has this been going on?

Like many Melburnians I’d been more likely to associate Etihad with a stadium and the footy season than luxurious travel. Not any more.

I’ll admit I was travelling at the very pointy end of the aircraft  but the ticket was paid for and it’s worth sharing some of the experiences in case you ( or your company ) want to spoil you a little on that marathon journey  that Qantas used to euphemistically call the  city-hopping ‘ kangaroo route’.

Now Australia to Europe is well served with one-stop only flights through Singapore, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. And at the luxury end you have fierce competition from Emirates, Qantas, Etihad and Virgin. Can only be a bonus for pampered passengers in First and Business Class.

On Etihad you have your own mini-cabin. There are only 12 such roomettes on board. Luxury ‘pods’. Doesn’t do them justice to call them seats because each has sliding lattice doors for privacy, various massage settings, and turns into a two-metre bed with a big, thick blanket. Then there are the ‘jarmies. Black with a zip and pockets. I took mine home. Wore them every night in wintry England.

I liked the way the pretty flight attendant delicately suggested the larger size  ‘would be more comfortable’. Bit of a blow when the New Year’s resolution diet had already knocked five kilos off the Hinch frame.

Not that the in-flight menu would help in that department.  There’s a clue in the ‘fold-out table’. This is a big wooden mother made out of what looks and feels like mahogany.

My wining and dining habits on planes have changed drastically. I used to belong to the school of ‘eat and drink everything they put in front of you and stay 3000 feet above the plane’. Not any more.

I well remember a Varig flight from New York to Rio when chasing Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs. In First Class, (well, Fairfax was paying) they served vodka from an ice-encased bottle to go with a samovar of Beluga caviar served with a tureen spoon.

And, in First Class on Qantas on the New York –Sydney run (Fairfax still paying), they also served caviar but with chopped onion and chopped egg to make it go further. You learned quickly to ask for no egg or onion so they’d take pity on you and boost the meagre portion of caviar.

On Etihad, out of Melbourne, I was surprised to see some overweight businessmen tucking into a steak (yep, they have a chef on board)  even though it was midnight and, with luck,  you could bed down for seven hours sleep. Even without Stilnox or an Aussie athletes’ party.

On flights over and back within ten days I did manage to sample a lot of the food though. Dates and sweet coffee to welcome you on board.  A plate of hot and cold ‘Arabic mezze’ – dips, olives, smoked salmon. A stunning mint cappuccino plus pea and mint soup and a fillet of firm, meaty fish called harmour. A bit like a good piece of wild barramundi. Served with fresh asparagus, mushrooms and chat potatoes.

Bigger eaters could order steaks from the grill or lamb shanks, roast chicken, beef. Pretty impressive. Plus sandwiches or snacks at any time.

And (to hell with the diet at 35,000 feet) a dessert of crème caramel, mango macchiato, vanilla ice cream and spiced poach fruits.

But it was that tap on the arm in Abu Dhabi that got me. Etihad is a class act.

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