Etihad Airways came flying into the airline industry with jet’s blazing only 14 years ago. On their Airbus A380-800, business travellers are invited to travel with sophistication and class under the most comfortable circumstances.
From exclusive pre board privileges to a sophisticated in-flight lounge, flying Etihad Business Class is a truly unique experience from start to finish. Take a step on board and explore why Etihad Airways has become the world’s leading airline for eight consecutive years and running.
A First Class Pre-Board Experience
The experience of flying Etihad Business Class begins at check-in. An area where disorganisation is commonplace for travellers who are helplessly waiting to cross to the other side.
To make the process simple, yet efficient, Etihad Business and First class travellers are welcomed to use the “Express Path”. A quick pass through the security checkpoint which brings us to the well-appointed Etihad Premium Lounge in little time.
As the golden doors glided open, I was greeted by a delightful staff offering dates and coffee before my entrance into the lounge. After checking in, a lovely attendant and I headed down the steps and into a modern Middle Eastern inspired main seating area.
Deciding on a light snack, I took to the buffet where there was a spread of Arabic mezze, Australian cheeses, bread and a few others. Not being terribly hungry, I grabbed a bowl of chick pea salad as well as confit salmon and took to a pint at a contemporary-style bar.
The lounge did have a full-service restaurant with appetisers, main courses and the whole nine but for the moment I was set. I enjoyed the feel of the lounge space. It was refined, comfortable and the visual aesthetics of gold, marble and mint were quite soothing.
Besides dining and main areas, the lounge included prayer rooms, business areas, washrooms and a children’s play area for travelling families. I don’t have kids myself but found the dedicated area to be thoughtful for those who do. I could only imagine how stressful it could be to travel with young children and nothing for them to do.
The pre-board experience with Etihad Business Class was efficient, convenient and extremely relaxing. No surprise here for Etihad’s surpassed the ranks of competing business classes with only a mere 14 years of flight.
Etihad Business Class Layout
Etihad’s Business Class, also referred to as The Business Studio on Airbus A380’s, shares the upper deck with First Class. The front of the cabin is home to 9 well-appointed First Class seats as well as “The Residence” suite. Separating the two classes is a comfortable social area exclusive to Etihad’s Airbus 380.
The Business Studios are broken up into two sections separated by a set of restrooms. Rows 8 through 18 make up the first half while row 19 through 26 make up the rest. All rows are configured in the common 1-2-1 for direct access to your seat and maximum privacy. The deck houses 70 business seats, all with a 73” pitch and 20” width.
The social area is home to two semi-circle high back leather seats, a telly and a tasteful bar. Note: you’ll have to grab an FA to pour you drink, there’s no self-service at the bar. The space is inviting, set up with connectivity ports and a selection of books. It tends to stay relatively quiet, but the space is nice if you’re in need of a change of scenery.
Overall, the cabin was classy, sophisticated and inherently relaxing. As I approached my seat, I felt ready for the long haul flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi.
Unique Seating For Maximum Privacy
Although in a 1-2-1 layout, the seats are configured differently from the common reverse herringbone set up. In the Etihad Business Class cabin, the seats alternate front and rear facing for exclusive privacy.
For a quick reference point, all A, E, F and K face forward. C, D, G and H face rear… except rows 25 and 26. This seating style works in your benefit, for the E and F love seats actually offer more privacy. They offer travellers large dividers which provides a feel of complete seclusion when needed.
Due to the alternate facing style, you’ll have “true” window seats and “aisle” window seats. The A’s and K’s will be the true window seats while the C’s and H’s are aisle. While the extra privacy from the love seats would have been nice, I decided on a true window seat ahead of time. Even when I was a kid, I had to be by the window to watch the city fall away beneath us as we headed for the clouds.
For this flight I was glad to find myself in seat 12A, fully equip with an entertainment system, remote and seat adjustments, all touchscreen. The seat has 2 USB ports, a universal outlet, plenty of side storage and electronic window shades. I found the accompanying mood light to be a fun, fashionable touch to the seat. Note, the front face seats have a larger armrest than rear face, creating more space between you and the aisle.
The armrest doubles as a storage compartment where before takeoff you can find your LUXE brand amenities kit. The amenities kit was pretty standard containing the common business class goods. What stood out was the Luxe City Guide (I got Abu Dhabi, very fitting) and Scaramouche + Fandango toiletries. Before takeoff, the FA’s offer hot towels and pyjamas for overnight flights like SYD to AUH.
Seats in The Business Studio are easy to adjust and incredibly comfortable. From your touch screen control centre, you could adjust the recline, cushion firmness, lighting and the “Do Not Disturb”. Each seat offers a massaging, lie-flat bed accompanied by cosy fleece blankets and a decent pillow. They aren’t massive Singapore Airlines beds, but they are certainly comfortable for getting ample shut eye on your flight.
Where You Should Sit
With 70 Business Studios on the upper deck, there isn’t very many seats to avoid. The precise seating configuration doesn’t make one seat significantly better than the other. As we stated before, the centre love seats have significant dividers that bring plenty of privacy to what it normally exposed.
While the cabin is quiet, if you fear losing out on sleep because of light chatter, avoid rows 8-9. Due to their proximity to the lounge, you may succumb to the conversations of other passengers. However, the Etihad Business Class lounge tends to not be a party on their flights. Don’t dread the trip if you book late and end up in these rows.
Outside of those rows, note that rows 17-19 and 26 are located near service areas as well if you normally steer clear of those seat locations.
Etihad’s Dine On Demand
A notable feature to flying with Etihad Airways is their dine on demand policy. Whatever you want, whenever you want it.
Woke up hungry while everyone’s asleep? No worries, with an all-day menu you’re able to order food even if you sleep through main service. The on-board Food and Beverage Manager was a nice touch as well. The woman was friendly, knowledgeable and able to pair exclusive wines with each dish.
For starters I went for the Arabic Mezze Plate which consisted of a little salad, pita, dolma, hummus and few other fixings. I still had my welcome champagne so I chose to finish that rather than order the recommended glass of white.
The main course consisted of Lamb Biryani with a side of Mediterranean ratatouille, paired with a dry New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Dessert was sticky date and toffee pudding with crushed pistachios. Overall, the food and service was good yet it nothing to write home about.
Generous Amounts Of Entertainment
Etihad’s Business Class offers a modern, 18.5” telly with interactive entertainment system. I think it was something along the lines of 3,000 different movies, shows, music and more to choose from. Essentially limitless regardless of how long your flight is.
You could watch two different programmes at once (if that’s your thing), embrace your cultural self with a selection of foreign films, or tune into live stations like BBC or sports networks.
In the end, the experience of flying business class with Etihad Airways definitely met the expectations. It’s no surprise they’ve won “World’s Leading Airline” by the World Travel Awards 8 years in a row. With impeccable hospitality, a classy cabin and luxurious seat comforts, Etihad Business Class is an experience that shouldn’t be missed when flying from Sydney to Abu Dhabi.