Introduction: The Flight Of A Lifetime
Review: Turkish Airlines Lounge Washington Dulles Airport
Review: Etihad Lounge Washington Dulles Airport
Review: Etihad Business Class 787 Washington To Abu Dhabi
Review: Shangri-La Abu Dhabi
Review: Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi
Review: Etihad Residence Lounge Abu Dhabi Airport
Review: Etihad Residence A380 Abu Dhabi To Sydney
Review: Hyatt Regency Sydney
Review: Virgin Australia Lounge Sydney Airport
Review: Virgin Australia Business Class 737 Sydney To Melbourne
Review: Etihad Lounge Melbourne Airport
Review: Virgin Australia Business Class 777 Melbourne To Los Angeles
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.
Washington (IAD) – Abu Dhabi (AUH)
Tuesday, May 9
Arrive: 7:10PM (+1 day)
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The seat had an ottoman and TV screen in the console in front of it.
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.
On the aisle-side of my seat was a counter and storage compartment. The compartment could be opened to reveal a large storage area.
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.
All the seat functions were super easy to control, and in general I’m a fan of this design.
Below the controls were basic manual seat controls.
Then beneath the seat was a 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
The amenity kit was solid, and had earplugs, a toothbrush and toothpaste, socks, etc.
There was also a face cream and lip balm.
Waiting in the storage compartment by my seat was a bottle of 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.
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.
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.
I first checked out the airshow, of course.
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 also has live TV, which is sometimes fun to watch.
I was most excited about Etihad’s onboard wifi. Wifi on Etihad is among the best of any airline — not only is it reasonably priced, but it’s generally quite fast.
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
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.
About 15 minutes later I was served a tray with the appetizer. I ordered the mezze, which was basic but good.
I was also offered a personal “loaf” of bread, which was delicious, though I only had a bite.
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.
After that I asked for a cheese course. There were only two types of cheese, but at least they were both good.
Lastly, for dessert I had the dark chocolate mousse cake, which was phenomenal.
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.
At this point we were a bit over 90 minutes into the flight, just over the Atlantic near Halifax.
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.
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.
I powered up my laptop and worked for several hours, so I ordered a couple more americanos to stay awake.
About two hours out I was asked if I wanted breakfast, so I went ahead and ordered.
I had the greek yogurt to start, which consisted of quinoa granola with berry compote. I also ordered a fruit smoothie.
Also on the tray was a selection of bread, including several types of toast and a sweet roll.
For the main course I had scrambled eggs with potato rosti, which was delicious.
I’m always fascinated by the airshow flying near Iran, Iraq, etc., so I kept an eye on that over breakfast.
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.
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.
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.
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 wifi, 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!