Review: Etihad Business Class 787 Washington To Abu Dhabi

Filed Under: Etihad

I’ve reviewed Etihad’s longhaul first class product a bunch of times, and have reviewed Etihad’s business class product several times as well, though have never reviewed their longhaul business class. So I was looking forward to checking out Etihad’s new Business Studio, which is available exclusively on their A380s and 787s. I was especially curious to see how it compares to Emirates’ A380 business class, which I reviewed earlier this year.

Etihad 130
Washington (IAD) – Abu Dhabi (AUH)
Tuesday, May 9
Depart: 10:10PM
Arrive: 7:10PM (+1 day)
Duration: 13hr
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 11A (Business Class)

I was the first passenger to board through door L2, where I was greeted by the friendly crew and pointed right towards my seat.

Etihad’s 787 business class cabin is pretty intimate — it has a total of just 28 seats. There’s a mini-cabin in front of the main entrance (behind first class) with eight seats, and then the main business class cabin (behind the second set of doors) has 20 seats.

Etihad 787 business class cabin

Etihad’s business class product is in a 1-2-1 configuration, though it’s a proprietary product, and is different than what’s offered by any other airline. I’d say it’s probably closest to the staggered configuration you’d find on many airlines, though it’s modified in a good way.

Etihad 787 business class cabin

While the cabin is in a 1-2-1 configuration, seats alternate between being closer to the aisle and being closer to the window — the seats closer to the aisle face backwards, while the seats closer to the windows face forwards.

The seats closer to the aisle are perfectly fine, though lack privacy.

Etihad 787 business class seat

The best business class seats on the plane are the “true” window seats, in rows six, seven, nine, and eleven. That’s because these seats have a lot of privacy. I had assigned myself seat 11A, located in the last row of business class. Since I was the first to board, I also snagged a picture of the economy cabin, which looked about as good as economy gets on a 787.

Etihad 787 economy class cabin

In the center section, seats alternate between being closer to one another and further apart from one another. The seats further apart from one another in the center section are rear facing, and I’d only select these if you’re traveling alone and can’t snag a seat by the window. These seats also lack privacy.

Etihad 787 Business Studio seats

Couples may like the forward facing center seats that are close together, as you can easily talk with your seatmate, and the seats are also more removed from the aisle.

Etihad 787 Business Studio seats

Etihad 787 Business Studio seats

Anyway, back to my seat, 11A. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect of Etihad’s new seat, though I was impressed. Not only is the seat functionally designed, but it’s stunning, down to the lighting fixture next to the seat.

Etihad 787 business class seat

Etihad 787 business class seat

The seat had an ottoman and TV screen in the console in front of it.

Etihad 787 business class seat

One of my concerns about this seat was the foot cubby. Often these staggered configurations have really tight foot cubbies that are uncomfortable and restrictive in bed mode. Well, I was thrilled to see just how big this cubby was, as there was plenty of room to lie down comfortably.

Etihad business class seat legroom

On the aisle-side of my seat was a counter and storage compartment. The compartment could be opened to reveal a large storage area.

Etihad business class seat storage

Across from that and in front of the seat was a large exposed counter space, which is also where the entertainment and seat controls were located.

Etihad business class seat console

Etihad business class seat entertainment & seat controls

All the seat functions were super easy to control, and in general I’m a fan of this design.

Etihad business class seat controls

Below the controls were basic manual seat controls.

Etihad business class seat controls

Then beneath the seat was a power outlet.

Etihad business class seat power outlet

The tray table consisted of a single surface that could be folded out from behind the seat and entertainment controllers. It’s a massive, sturdy table.

Etihad business class seat tray table

My one frustration with the seat was the lack of individual air nozzles — why oh why do some airlines not have these?!

Already waiting at my seat on boarding was a pillow and blanket, both of which were fairly basic. I think Etihad could do better when it comes to their bedding.

Etihad business class pillow & blanket

While the seat itself was private, you do have a direct view of your three row “mates.” Fortunately I had a great couple from Nepal seated across from me (who are readers — hi!), and they were lovely.

Etihad 787 Business Studio seats

Okay, so the seat impressed me, but what about the service?

Well, literally within a minute of getting to my seat I was greeted by Joo, the Korean flight attendant who would be taking care of me. She was fantastic, and absolutely made this flight. I find that Etihad has inconsistent service at times, so sometimes you’ll get an incredible flight attendant, and other times you won’t. It quickly became apparent that I had won the flight attendant lottery with Joo.

She first welcomed me aboard and familiarized me with the seat, and then asked if she could get me something to drink. I requested some champagne, which was promptly served in a nice champagne flute with a warm towel. I was even offered a refill of my champagne.

Etihad business class pre-departure champagne and warm towel

The menu was waiting at my seat on boarding, and within about 15 minutes of when boarding began, Joo asked if she could take my order. In my experience Etihad often tends to run out of food, so I usually preface my order by saying “if you have the _____, that would be great,” or whatever. After I said that the first time, Joo said “you’re the first person I’m taking meal orders from, so you get whatever you want.”

Etihad business class menu

As we waited for the rest of the cabin to board I had a look at the other amenities at the seat. There were a pair of Etihad headphones, which were reasonably high quality, though I still used my Bose headphones.

Etihad business class headphones

The amenity kit was solid, and had earplugs, a toothbrush and toothpaste, socks, etc.

Etihad business class amenity kit

There was also a face cream and lip balm.

Etihad business class amenity kit contents

Waiting in the storage compartment by my seat was a bottle of water.

Etihad business class bottled water

Towards the end of boarding Joo came around to offer pajamas and slippers. It’s nice that Etihad offers these in business class, and I actually quite liked the design as well.

Etihad business class pajamas

Before takeoff I checked out the lavatory. There are two of these located between business class cabins, and while they weren’t huge, they were nicely designed. I was very impressed by how spotless the crew kept the lavatories. Even towards the end of the flight they were clean as could be, often even with the toilet paper ends folded into triangles.

Etihad business class lavatory

Etihad business class lavatory toiletries

At 9:55PM the captain (I couldn’t quite figure out where he was from based on his accent) made his welcome aboard announcement, on behalf of his co-captain and the two senior first officers. He informed us of our flight time of 12hr42min, which is a bit longer than usual, and also of our final cruising altitude of 39,000 feet.

At 10PM the door closed, and five minutes later we began our pushback, at which point the pre-flight prayer and safety video were screened.

Our taxi to the runway took about 15 minutes, and by 10:20PM we were cleared for takeoff. Just 10 minutes later the seatbelt sign was turned off.

As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment selection available through E-Box.

Etihad entertainment system

Etihad entertainment system

I first checked out the airshow, of course.

Airshow enroute to Abu Dhabi

Airshow enroute to Abu Dhabi

Then I checked out the movies and TV shows. Etihad’s entertainment selection is top notch, as they have dozens of movies and TV shows. Emirates’ is certainly a bit better, but other than that, there aren’t really any airlines that beat Etihad in this regard.

Etihad entertainment system

Etihad entertainment system

Etihad entertainment system

Etihad also has live TV, which is sometimes fun to watch.

Etihad entertainment system

I was most excited about Etihad’s onboard Wi-Fi. Wifi on Etihad is among the best of any airline — not only is it reasonably priced, but it’s generally quite fast.

Etihad wifi

Etihad charges based on time rather than data usage, as follows:

  • 2 hour pass: $11.95
  • 4 hour pass: $17.95
  • Flight pass: $21.95

Etihad wifi

The meal service started just 30 minutes after takeoff, which was impressive. Etihad has a dine on demand program, and I asked to dine shortly after takeoff. The menu read as follows:

Meanwhile the beverage list read as follows:

To start I had another glass of champagne, along with warm mixed nuts. Specifically, Etihad serves Billecart-Salmon Brut.

Etihad business class meal service — mixed nuts and champagne

About 15 minutes later I was served a tray with the appetizer. I ordered the mezze, which was basic but good.

Etihad business class meal service — Arabic mezze

I was also offered a personal “loaf” of bread, which was delicious, though I only had a bite.

Etihad business class meal service — bread

For the main course I ordered the aloo gobi masala. While it’s a simple enough dish, it was phenomenal, and I find that Indian food generally tastes pretty good at altitude.

Etihad business class meal service — aloo gobi masala

After that I asked for a cheese course. There were only two types of cheese, but at least they were both good.

Etihad business class meal service — cheese course

Lastly, for dessert I had the dark chocolate mousse cake, which was phenomenal.

Etihad business class meal service — dark chocolate mousse cake

The entire meal was done about 90 minutes after takeoff. Service throughout the meal was impeccable, and I’d say that’s largely thanks to how great Joo was. However, the service concept feels a lot more personalized overall thanks to the dine on demand concept, etc.

In terms of the food itself, I thought it was solid and above average, though not memorable or amazing.

Throughout dinner I watched some episodes of The Big Bang Theory that I hadn’t seen before.

Etihad entertainment selection

At this point we were a bit over 90 minutes into the flight, just over the Atlantic near Halifax.

Airshow enroute to Abu Dhabi

I decided to recline my seat into bed mode. I’m not sure if Etihad offers a proper turndown service, but if they do, it was never offered. Nonetheless I slept extremely well for about six hours, which is more than I was expecting to sleep. I woke up with just over five hours left to Abu Dhabi, as we were passing Prague.

Airshow enroute to Abu Dhabi

Airshow enroute to Abu Dhabi

Airshow enroute to Abu Dhabi

Etihad’s business class seat was great for sleeping. It was private and spacious, and one of the all around best seats out there, in my opinion. However, I feel like I should add two disclaimers. First of all, the seat itself was a bit hard. Some have mentioned that there may be a mattress sheet, or something, which might help, but I didn’t get that. Second of all, while the foot cubby was plenty big, the seat itself was on the narrow side, so if you’re someone who likes to bend your knees while sleeping, the seat might not be ideal. Still, this is an all around great seat.

Within about 10 minutes of waking up, one of the other lovely flight attendants (from South Africa) came by my seat to ask how my rest was, and to see if I wanted anything. I asked for a cappuccino and some baklava, which were excellent. Etihad has some of the best cappuccinos in the sky, and the baklava and madeleines I was offered were excellent as well.

Etihad business class cappuccino & sweets

I powered up my laptop and worked for several hours, so I ordered a couple more americanos to stay awake.

Etihad business class americano 

About two hours out I was asked if I wanted breakfast, so I went ahead and ordered.

Airshow enroute to Abu Dhabi

I had the greek yogurt to start, which consisted of quinoa granola with berry compote. I also ordered a fruit smoothie.

Etihad business class breakfast — greek yogurt

Etihad business class breakfast — quinoa granola with berry compote

Also on the tray was a selection of bread, including several types of toast and a sweet roll.

Etihad business class breakfast — bread selection

For the main course I had scrambled eggs with potato rosti, which was delicious.

Etihad business class breakfast — scrambled eggs with potato rosti 

I’m always fascinated by the airshow flying near Iran, Iraq, etc., so I kept an eye on that over breakfast.

Airshow enroute to Abu Dhabi

At this point the cabin was starting to get a bit lighter, so I decided to get rid of the dimming feature on my window shade (which is something that’s available exclusively on the 787) and take a look at the beautiful 787 wing as the sun slowly began to set.

787 wing flex

At 6:30PM local time the captain informed us that we’d be landing in about 45 minutes, and thanked us for flying with Etihad. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later we began our descent.

It was a dusty evening in Abu Dhabi, so we didn’t get much in the way of a sunset. Instead the day just slowly transitioned into a dusty night.

View approaching Abu Dhabi

We had a smooth touchdown in Abu Dhabi at 7:20PM. From there the taxi to our arrival stand took over 15 minutes, and we arrived shortly after 7:35PM. I can’t wait for Abu Dhabi’s new terminal to open, because always getting a remote stand is a sour way to end a great flight.

On the plus side, arriving at a remote stand does mean you get a great view of the plane as you descend onto the tarmac.

Etihad 787 upon arrival in Abu Dhabi

Etihad 787 upon arrival in Abu Dhabi

It was 7:55PM before we arrived in the terminal, given the distance from the remote stand.

Etihad 787 Business Studio bottom line

I was very pleasantly surprised by Etihad’s 787 business class product on many levels. For one, the hard product is fantastic, in my opinion one of the three best business class seats out there. Furthermore, the service on this flight was exceptional. Service on Etihad can be inconsistent, so I wouldn’t take this as a given, but I definitely lucked out on this flight. Joo and her colleagues were not only friendly, but also polished and efficient.

There are lots of other things that make Etihad’s 787 business class product great — a dine on demand menu, pajamas, excellent entertainment, fast and reasonably priced Wi-Fi, etc.

The only area where Etihad could improve a bit is with food. Don’t get me wrong, the food was good, but it wasn’t memorable in the same way you’ll find on airlines like Austrian, for example.

All around this was one of my favorite business class flights ever. Well done, Etihad, on a very well rounded product!

  1. Really helpful review, thanks.

    It would be useful to know with these reviews roughly what proportion of that airline’s fleet offers this product rather than something much inferior.

    But… “Scottish Gin”? WTF? Presumably we’ll be seeing “English whisky” next…

  2. Not sure how you can even remotely compare this seat with the Emirates A380 seat.
    The Etihad business studio seat on the 787 is 22 inches wide
    The Emirates business class seat is 18.5 inches wide, for comparison the economy seat is 18 inches….

  3. Which one would you choose then in business class – Emirates A380, Etihad A380/B787 or Qatar A350?

  4. “[Economy] looked about as good as [it] gets on a 787”.

    Except that it’s 3-3-3, which isn’t as good as it gets.

  5. I know you were comparing to the standard 787 products but the ‘as good as it gets’ 787 award has to go to JAL.

  6. @ Paul — Scottish gin can actually be wonderful! I am a very big fan of Edinburgh Gin; it’s one of my favorites, and I’ve visited their small-batch distillery. Makes for a lovely G&T with a garnish of orange rind instead of lime, to better pair with the botanicals used in the gin.

    Ben, now that you’ve flown the flagship business class products of each of the ME3, it would be really cool if you could do a comparison post about the three!

  7. Ben, just out of interest, can I ask why you have a preference to always sit at the rear of the business class cabin? Would it not be a pain if you had crying babies directly behind you at the front of the economy cabin?

    I’m a platinum member with Etihad and fly often in business class. Like the menu offerings in the first class lounge in Abu Dhabi, the food on board has really gone downhill of late. It is such a shame to see all these cost cutting measures hit their premium passengers. In Etihad’s own lounges across their network, I believe there is no longer an a la carte menu, just a reduced and limited buffet. I will be burning my miles and trying different airlines as and when I can after ten plus years of loyalty to Etihad.

  8. @vitaliU -for me the emirates A380 business class is the best. Emirates has the best entertainment system and also their catering is top higher than even CX, ET,BA,MH,

  9. It really surprises me that wifi is not complimentary in Business or First. Just seems to be nickle and diming. I have noticed this to be fairly standard across the industry.

  10. @PeteJ My guess is these wifi systems aren’t truly “owned” by the airlines but are licensed like cell towers, so the company running the system takes a cut of cash revenue, and desires passengers to pay over the airline reimbursing (at likely a volume discount)

  11. Well written report. How do you compare the business class on the 787s with the business class seats on the 77Ls, on Etihad?

  12. Now that your profile is rising, I’m curious how often you get recognized by readers or viewers during travel…..Is that common? And do you welcome people saying hello at airports or in the sky or do you find that awkward?

  13. I just wanna leave a fixer comment for someone that can fix this on the site, but Dantworp’s Condor trip report isn’t categorized as a airline trip report. Ik its here on the site but it isnt there.

  14. Is this the only 787 with true F?

    I know KE has F on 787s, but it’s the exact same seat as J. There might be slightly different soft F service, but it’s still just J with nicer silverware and more expensive champagne.

    So this is the first time I remember seeing F on a seatmap on any 787. There don’t seem to be any pictures, though, as Lucky wasn’t in the mini cabin.

  15. @ Owen — China Southern, British Airways, and Xiamen Air also have first class on their 787s.

  16. @Owen

    The EY 787 first cabin is actually pretty nice, though it has the backward/forward setup – e.g., 1A faces backwards, 2A faces forward, and the row 1 middles face forward, the row 2 middles face backward, and 1K faces backward, and 2K faces forward. There’s plenty of space (about the same as EK first), but storage is lacking (I could fit my rollaboard suitcase under the ottoman, however the flight attendant had to take my carry-on for takeoff and landing).

  17. @Paul Scottish gin makes perfect sense – you can use the same stills as Whisky, and Gin takes about 1/100th of the time to manufacture, so it has become a profitable past-time for any idle stills.

  18. Lucky, I am genuinely confused by your use of hyperbole. You have described your main course dinner and your dessert as both being “phenomenal”. In the paragraph after you have had your dinner you wrote: “In terms of the food itself, I thought it was solid and above average, though not memorable or amazing.” The meaning of the word phenomenal is “remarkable or exceptional, yet you suggest it is not memorable? To have two phenomenal courses and then describe the meal as being not memorable is I would suggest oxymoronic!

  19. Hi Lucky – Nice trip report. I am curious if you physically felt any different upon landing in Abu Dhabi. The 787 is supposed to make passengers feel more refreshed due to higher cabin pressures and rapidly circulating air.

  20. My last EY flight – this route, actually – was a year ago and wifi was free in biz class. Wonder when this changed?

  21. A little late on this.

    Flew this plane in F SIN-AUH and found it excellent. And in F there are actually individual air nozzles, although in kind of an odd spot (to the left almost at head level on the seat).
    We had an incredible crew too which really helped. We connected to AUH-JFK on A380 and were not nearly as impressed, partially because the crew was mediocre at best, but really I think that other than the novelty of F apartments and shower, I think I actually prefer the 787-9 F suite. (I think it has the longest bed I have ever seen, I am 6’4″ and had no need to bend my legs, which isn’t true on most seats including F apartments).
    One other note, the F menu is nearly identical with the exception of a few additions (Steak Frites, Royal Salute 21yr instead of Chivas 18yr) – I believe the rest of wine and beverage list are identical. It does seem like the F plating is done a little better, and EY’s china and stemware really impresses.

  22. Good review .. was wondering how did you manage to smuggle your laptop on board past security ? The date of your flight is after the electronic onboard ban had taken place.

  23. @ Sam — The electronics ban only applies on flights to the US, and not flights from the US. So this flight wasn’t impacted by that.

  24. Hendricks is Scottish gin.

    Great report. The seats do look very good, while allowing for reasonable density.

  25. Hi Ben,

    Etihad just changed the inflight internet service from the costing model you described to a model where you can purchase a pass up to 180 stunning megabytes for something around 20 US$ (at least that´s what I experienced on both legs from MUC via AUH to BNE). So that´s a massive step back especially for business travellers since the synchronisation of an Outlook mailbox can easily burn the full volume and then you need to purchase another 180mb.

    …seriously, why such a giant step backwards? I understand that cost-cutting is a hot topic for Etihad right now but reconfiguring the internet access equipment back to standards which might have been up-to-date 10 years ago isn´t really customer appealing from my point of view.

  26. Hi Ben,

    I am flying London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi to Narita, Japan at the end of this month.

    I have business class for all flights there and back but was thinking of putting in a bid for the upgrade from Abu Dhabi to Narita (11 hours). The trip to/from Abu Dhabi is A380 and then Abu Dhabi to/from Narita is 787-9.

    I know that it is 50/50 with a bid for the upgrades but is First class on the 787-9 that much better than the business class offering? Would it be a better “experience” to go for the upgrade bid on the A380 instead? (I know that the suite on the A380 is much bigger but it is only a 7.5 hour flight).

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions you can provide.


  27. I think you may have been a bit unlucky with the food, as Etihad was rated by Skytrax as having the 3rd best onboard food of any business class, ahead of Austrian (these are the 2017 skytrax awards, btw). Anyway, great review, glad you enjoyed the flight!

  28. I would agree with this review. The business class cabin is well designed and comfortable. I agree that the bedding is basic; I dislike the synthetic pillow case and would prefer a cotton case. I arrived on the Abu Dhabi to Washington flight just yesterday and found the food service poor. We departed at 10:50 AM, we served a beverage followed by lunch around 12:30. There was only one meal served in the entire thirteen plus hour flight. About 8 hours later I asked if we were gettting another meal. The atttendant indicated that only one meal is served. I ordered a cheese plate ( it is much smaller than I experienced before) and later ordered a cup of coffee. The flight attendants rarely came through the cabin; I had to go to the galley to get some water. The flights were very nice, just not visible. I was told that Etihad is concerned about food waste and there were cutting back the amount if food served. I believe that the cut back in food and beverage service is a result of budget cuts, as the airline faces financial challenges. This is a false economy I believe. I was very hungry upon arrival at my destination!

  29. Ben nice review as always.
    I should add ONE for you, Ben. Etihad should provide MATTRESS like JAL. That will be awesome.

  30. Excellent reviews. I have been a travel consultant for the past 30 years and recently retired.
    i have flown Etihad business class 3 times and will again be flying with them again end of May 2018.
    Disappointing they have cut down on the Limo complimentary for business class passengers
    except for in Abu Dhabi but not on Z class Fares which my ticket is in May.
    Generally I have always been satisfied with Etihad but my continual gripe is why is the cabin temperature is so warm ( difficult for sleeping ) and as you say no air vents in business class( not sure re economy class )

  31. Had a very bad experience in Etihad business class on my recent trip from Milan. Business class seats were overbooked and I was downgraded to economy. Staff refused to book me into a different airline and the alternative was to go on the same flight the next day! They offered a refund but did not make it easy for me as I have to contact my travel agent upon my return who will then have to contact Etihad’s global travel centre! Overbooked seats aside, the crew were chatting loudly throughout the flight and I could even hear them from my seat. The selection of movies were much less compared to other airlines, and I was not impressed with the condition of the cabin. I’m never flying with Etihad again!

  32. As Vand said- they use the same kit for whisky as gin. Basically a lot of hedge fund/ new start up cash went into new distilleries or old ones that were Previously mothballed . It takes 5 years minimum to get malt and most these days enter at 12. What to make in meantime for cash flow whilst that smashing malt matures and the angels take their share-Gin. That’s the reason for the sudden flood on the market. Plus botanicals are different in Scotland- varied and range from subtle to powerful.

  33. My main issue with the Etihad 787 business seat is that the seat is simply too low. Also it isn’t the most ergonomically comfortable design as to match the curve of the cubicle it is rounded off ridiculously in one side. This also affects the comfort in the lie flat position as there is no support on the side in the middle because of this weird curvature in the cushion shape.

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