Like many other budget-conscious travellers, I always try to book the cheapest flights possible and pray that I can wangle a well-positioned seat for a good view and a little extra legroom. On a recent trip to Abu Dhabi, however, I was treated to business class all the way and now I’m sad to say I may never be satisfied with just a window seat again.
Window seats allow me to pretend I am flying solo, far away from other people and all the cares I left on the ground below. I love to fly, but flying doesn’t always love me. I learnt this the hard way on a long flight back from South Korea in 2015, when my legs ballooned and I felt like the bottom half of the Michelin man. Rushing to make connecting flights on overstuffed sausage feet is a cruel return on your travel investment and I finally understood why the very chatty passenger sitting alongside me on the way to Seoul had so diligently put on his compression socks as soon as we had reached cruising altitude.
This experience taught me to be weary of international air travel, so I hesitated when I was invited on a five-day excursion to Abu Dhabi. A spirit of carpe diem won me over, however; tickets were booked, accommodation confirmed and all that was required of me was show to up at the airport. I dressed for the occasion in loose-fitting clothing and shoes that I could easily remove in lieu of the ‘sexy’ socks, and my medical insurance was up to date in case of an emergency rush to a hospital should disaster strike (exploding feet came to mind).
RELATED ARTICLE: Is Your Passport travel-ready?
Checking in with Etihad Airways, I was delighted to learn we had been booked on business class, although I wasn’t quite sure what this all entailed. A bigger seat? More space? Better food? I floated regally up the walkway onto the Boeing 787 in ‘business class mode’ and dutifully tried to mask my enthusiasm when I was directed by the airline cabin crew to turn left instead of right. Left … Such a simple word with such a grand connotation! I was taken by complete surprise by the cubicles (called studios) that promised space and privacy, so much so that I sat down in the wrong one and a poor gentleman had to interrupt my moment of Zen to claim his rightful place.
I took a while to settle, with bubbles on tap, warm towels on offer and requests for my dinner order (no ‘chicken or beef’, but rather an elegant three-course meal). As we rose to greet the autumn night sky, I became acquainted with ‘Tracy’s Spot’: bottled water, sliding seat, legroom, storage space, pillow, blanket, overnight travel kit, personal TV and cubicle divider. What more could I ask for? I quickly located the socks and put them within easy reach (not quite yet ready to admit I may need them), sat back and prepared for a night of binge watching every movie on the programme.
It seemed I was optimistic about my movie-watching prowess, though, and I only managed to make it through two before a full belly and the subdued cabin lighting seduced me into slumber. There is something surreal about falling asleep amid the stars, knowing that you will wake up on a different continent. Eight hours flew by in a climate-controlled cocoon of excellence before we emerged, greeted by the early morning Emirati sun.
A sigh of relief escaped as I made my way into the airport terminal feeling refreshed and well fed – and sans compression socks! It was a moment of personal triumph that whispered ‘Business Class, Baby, all the way!’ and I realised that Etihad had given me a new appreciation for those who go the extra mile. Our ambitious adventure in one of world’s most sophisticated cities only fuelled this appreciation and when we disembarked four days later at OR Tambo International, I finally understood why you would spend a little extra when you get a lot in return. My suggestion to you: book your next trip to the United Arab Emirates through Big Ambitions!
RELATED ARTICLE: Sky nanny to the rescue
Image: Etihad Airways