Myriad choices at the heady height of luxury
If you’d like a taste of how the other half live, fly first class, writes Neale Maynard
AT 12,000m above the Indian Ocean ( and 50 exclusive metres ahead of where I usually sit), I was faced with several difficult choices.
Would lunch be the cajun woodfired prawns with black bean cakes, coriander and sour cream, or the cedar-smoked vine-ripened tomato lamb fillet with goat’s cheese, walnut dressing, spiced green tomato and apple chutney?
Or the Algerian vegetable and chickpea soup with dukkah puff pastry, or the French onion with chive and goat’s cheese dumplings and gruyere croutons? And these were just the entree choices.
Gourmet considerations aside, there were several more important decisions to be made. Should I watch a movie, or TV on the 22-inch screen almost 2m away at the opposite end of my Etihad Diamond first-class suite?
And with more than 600 choices on the E-Box in-flight entertainment system, what should I choose?
Or should I take a nap, closing the ornate Arabian-style metal lattice doors to my suite for absolute privacy?
But a nap would mean changing into my sleep suit ( allowing me to arrive uncrumpled after a 14-hour flight) and I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to snooze, or perhaps be social and invite a travelling companion around for lunch. And was the sleep suit appropriate attire when one is having company in first class?
Or should I grab my suit jacket from its mini wardrobe in the suite’s side wall and try to look as if I belonged in a very special space in the sky?
I pondered all this as I sat in a seat that took comfort to new heights – it had an LCD control screen to operate the recline and sleeper functions and even had a built-in massage system.
And if the luxurious seat leather was supplied by the people who do the interior trim for Ferraris, then the service was simply Rolls-Royce.
Nothing was too much trouble, the crew were utterly determined to deliver a memorable flying experience on the 14-hour 45-minute flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi and the in-flight food and beverage manager was determined to ensure that my meal choices were matched by appropriate wines. And what wines.
Of course, while I felt rather exclusive sitting in a spot reserved for the lucky few, I wasn’t exactly a premium pioneer.
First-class travel has a long and rather glorious history.
In the 1930s, flying remained very much a novelty and long-haul trips were rare. Qantas flying boats of the era, while much slower than today’s