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Virgin Australia partner Etihad Airways today begins flying its new Boeing 787-9 between Brisbane and Abu Dhabi, dropping the route's previous Singapore stopover to become a time-saving non-stop service.
Rounding out the trifecta, the Dreamliner also brings first class to the Sunshine State – an upgrade from the two-class A330 which came with business class and economy.
Guests at the pointiest of pointy ends enjoy a fully private suite with closing doors...
... which come in a 1-2-1 layout, allowing business colleagues or couples to chat across the middle seats, or to raise a privacy divider when flying on their lonesome.
Sample the new first class experience from start to finish with this two-minute video:
Not quite that cashed up? Etihad's Boeing 787 also boasts the impressive new Business Studio business class cabin...
... featuring fully-flat beds up to 200cm in length, direct aisle access for every passenger and up to 20% more breathing space than their predecessors on the A330.
Travellers stuck in economy aren't forgotten, with new economy smart seats offering a 'fixed wing' headrest that maximises your space without including your seatmate's shoulder in the equation.
"We can now offer guests the convenience of shorter travel times and two-way connectivity to more than 30 destinations in the GCC, Middle East, Africa and Europe," said James Hogan, Etihad Airways' President and Chief Executive Officer.
"From a guest experience perspective, the unique features of the Dreamliner aircraft have enabled us to customise it with the most innovative and sophisticated cabins. Brisbane travellers will be among the first in the world to experience the unparalleled comfort and luxury of this ground-breaking aircraft."
As a direct flight, the daily EY485 service departs Brisbane at 9:50pm to reach Abu Dhabi at 6am the following morning.
On the return leg as EY484, travellers are wheels-up from Abu Dhabi at 10pm and arrive into Brisbane at 5:50pm the next evening – with the first arrival from June 2, greeted by a water cannon salute.
Etihad previously flew from Brisbane to Abu Dhabi via Singapore, which admittedly gave Queensland passengers a chance to enjoy a Lion City stopover when flying to onwards to the Middle East and Europe.
That Brisbane-Singapore leg could also be sold separately for road warriors bound solely for Asia, but has been axed in favour of the non-stop Brisbane-Abu Dhabi journey on the Dreamliner.
While less than ideal for Asia-bound jetsetters, the direct flight is a marked improvement for business travellers flying Etihad from Brisbane to the airline's web of European destinations such as London, Frankfurt and Zurich.
Yesterday also saw the introduction of Etihad's flagship Airbus A380 on selected flights between Sydney and Abu Dhabi, with Melbourne-Abu Dhabi to get its own superjumbo service at a later date.
Further, Perth is earmarked for the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in 2016 or 2017, but a firm date hasn't been set.
Virgin Australia partnership
From Brisbane, Etihad has codeshare arrangements with Virgin Australia extending onwards to 13 towns and cities throughout Queensland.
Members of Etihad Guest can earn tier miles when flying with VA, with reciprocal arrangements for Virgin Australia Velocity members on board Etihad who can earn points and status credits.
With the loss of the Brisbane-Singapore flight, Velocity members can make use of partner Singapore Airlines to continue earning points and status credits on flights to Singapore whether booked on the Virgin Australia (VA) or Singapore Airlines (SQ) flight code.
Qantas and Emirates also serve between Brisbane and Singapore, which continues to provide flight and award options for customers of Qantas Frequent Flyer and Emirates Skywards.
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