United Arab Emirates

The Etihad way

There are two ways to do things, the easy way and the Etihad way. By the Etihad way I mean being tucked into crisp white sheets by a gorgeous hostie after a gourmet meal and an hour or so of drinking at the bar in first class with your fellow pyjama wearing passengers miles from the hoi poloi.

The Etihad experience in business and first class is truly the ultimate pointy end experience.

It begins when the chauffeur of your complimentary Mercedes S class limousine service calls from outside your house to let you know your ride to the airport has arrived.

No need to trouble loved ones for a lift to the airport or heaven forbid, ride in a taxi with a driver

determined to find every red light as you rip your hair out, then pay the extortionate bribe to leave your car at the airport or a special taxi “levy” or bribe.

So already my stress levels are way down.

Then its straight through check in and customs is a breeze thanks to the special express lane for high flyers.

Still on the tarmac after being one of the last on the plane, Arabic coffee and dates are served.

I’ve already grabbed a French champagne and OJ but I figure it’s time to steep myself in the heady flavors of the Middle East (my first destination is Oman).

The Arab nibbles and coffee are served by a dark eyed luscious Levantine lass.

After breathing in the coffee, eating the dates, I’m surprised to look outside and see the waves of Botany Bay, so quickly have I acclimatised myself.

Then after take off the food service begins: cauliflower and seafood chowder. I opt for the Epernay champagne for that one.

For my main course it comes down to either the Northern Territory barramundi, or the Arabic lamb dish I order tender lamb cooked on a bed of rice.

Arab side dished of yoghurt and garlic, a parsley concoction and a tomato based relish served by yet another houri.

The Arabian lamb kaska, which has been cooked to perfection, simply melts in my mouth.

Working my way through the wine list I settle on the Mandrone di Lo Tenute del Poliziano cab sav sangiovese blend 2004 from Tuscany.

It seems this superhero wine and the lamb were meant for each other in the food and wine justice league.

Time for a movie. I pass on the new releases and settle on Avatar, because I haven’t seen it before. Its message of “Isn’t violence terrible, now settle back and enjoy all these explosions and gore’’ seems an odd juxtaposition to say the least.

The new release is not spoiled by seeing it on a 2 inch postage stamp glued to the back of someone’s hea

d as it is in most business classes. Instead there is a huge 23-inch screen “the biggest in the sky”, fantastic audio and it’s pretty well as good as seeing it at the movies.

There are only 12 seats in first class and the seats rotate so you can have dinner with the person behind you.

On the flight I’m on, a couple does just that.

It’s a return to a more refined era in flying.

In the meantime my mobile an laptop are charging, ready for the next day’s horrors, when I must face life without a Levantine hand maiden to do all the heavy lifting for me.

After the movie I move up to the lounge, where a fellow passenger and I indulge in that ancient male rite of dissolving the world’s problems in drink.

We are interrupted occasionally by hand maidens bring us nibbles of club sandwiches and ossetra caviar.

When the pilot speaks it is in the clipped British accent of one of “”the few”. It puts me in mind of Michael Caine in the Battle of Britain.

A long time later. A long long time, I float down the scented corridor to find that my seat is now a large (2m long) bed – perfectly flat mind, and subtle things have been done to the area to give me more privacy. There are crisp white sheets to crawl into in my Etihad Diamond  (first class) issue PJs. All that’s missing is a peck on the cheek as the stewardess smoothes the covers over me.

I refrain from asking for one.

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