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Flying to Africa from North America can be a brutal two-day exercise, but I had a luxurious experience. If there is a transit that begs for comfort and indulgence, this is it: Etihad Airlines.
When booking my flight, I surveyed all the choices and landed on a relatively new player, but one breaking records and exploring new concepts at the speed of flight: Etihad Airlines, the flag carrier for the United Arab Emirates. Not only is it the fastest growing airline in the history of commercial aviation, it is also about to make all other First Class offerings feel quotidian and wanting.
Wondering what happened to that golden age of travel? Etihad is bringing it back, and raising the bar. While most airlines are becoming ascetics in their offerings, even considering charging for in-flight bathroom visits, Etihad is going the other direction, sky-high. With a completely flat bed, the inbuilt massager on low, the noise-cancelling headphones fitted, and stars in the ceiling, I sleep most of the way to Johannesburg. Nobody can be uncheered on Etihad. On such a flight, the time is too swift, feathered with flying hours; it is flight that dissolves the qualms of earth-bound life. Like a good book, I don’t want this flight to end.
There is an ancient and deeply revered Arab concept called diyafa, which means hospitality that is so good and generous it rides the clouds. Etihad has taken this sensibility to the 21st century and created the most hospitable experience in the skies—it is so warm and welcoming and exceptional, you never want to go home again.