Review: Etihad First Class 787 Washington To Abu Dhabi

Filed Under: Etihad

I landed at Washington Dulles Airport from my connection around 6PM, so I had over four hours until my flight to Abu Dhabi.

Washington Dulles Airport

Upon arrival I headed to the Etihad Lounge, which only opened around 6:30PM. There my passport was checked and I was issued boarding passes all the way to Ahmedabad.

Etihad Lounge Washington Dulles entrance

I reviewed the Etihad Lounge Washington Dulles just last year and nothing major has changed, so I won’t be writing a full review this time around.

Etihad Lounge Washington Dulles

Etihad Lounge Washington Dulles

Etihad continues to offer a significantly scaled back food & beverage selection. Below are all the food and drinks that were available in the lounge.

Etihad Lounge Washington Dulles drinks

Etihad Lounge Washington Dulles drinks

Etihad Lounge Washington Dulles food

Etihad Lounge Washington Dulles food

The one awesome feature is that you can board your flight directly from the lounge, assuming the flight leaves from gate A16 (which it usually does). This means you can skip the gate area altogether. Boarding started at 9:10PM, a full hour before departure.

Etihad boarding directly from lounge at Washington Dulles

Etihad 130
Washington (IAD) – Abu Dhabi (AUH)
Thursday, October 25
Depart: 10:10PM
Arrive: 7:10PM (+1 day)
Duration: 13hr
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 2K (First Class)

I boarded through the second set of doors, where I was greeted by the cabin manager and pointed left towards first class (though unlike on most airlines, I wasn’t escorted to my seat). First there were two rows of business class — I reviewed business class on this exact route last year, so you can check out that review if you’re interested.

Etihad 787 business class cabin

Then I was in the first class cabin, which consisted of just eight seats, spread across two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. Etihad is one of only a few airlines to have first class on the 787, so it’s cool that they have that (though only some of their 787-9s do, and none of their 787-10s will).

What’s interesting is that the seats alternate between being forward facing and rear facing. In the first row, the window seats are rear facing while the center seats are forward facing, while in the second row, the window seats are forward facing while the center seats are rear facing.

Etihad 787 first class cabin

Etihad 787 first class aisle

For those in the center seats, there’s a divider that can be lowered if you’re traveling with someone, or raised if you’re traveling alone.

Etihad first class center seats

I had assigned myself seat 2K, the window seat on the right side in the second row.

Etihad 787 first class seat

Etihad first class seat 787

Etihad 787 first class seat

The seat had the same general color pattern as Etihad uses in their A380 first class, though the cabin was significantly less spacious.

Etihad first class seat 787

The seat had a large ottoman, which was longer than just about any airplane ottoman I’ve ever seen.

Etihad first class seat ottoman

The 787 first class cabin doesn’t have any overhead bins in order to create a more spacious feeling for the cabin, though there’s a large storage compartment underneath the ottoman. I’d say the compartment is almost big enough to store a full size carry-on, though I ended up putting my weekender bag there, and then the crew put my full size carry-on in the closet.

Etihad first class seat ottoman storage

Each seat also has a narrow wardrobe where you can hang a coat or garment bag.

Etihad 787 first class seat closet

To the left of the seat are a couple of USB outlets, and then a storage compartment. There are also some basic seat controls.

Etihad first class seat controls & storage

Above that are the entertainment controls as well as a touchscreen monitor to control seat functions. The entertainment controller’s cord was broken, so it couldn’t be retracted at all.

Etihad first class seat broken entertainment controller cord

Etihad first class seat controls

To the right of the seat was another small storage compartment (big enough for a phone), as well as a small minibar.

Etihad first class seat storage & minibar

The minibar had a Coke, Sprite, and two bottles of still water.

Etihad first class minibar contents

The Middle Eastern carriers love the minibar gimmick. I’ve always found this a bit funny, since you get a limited selection of room temperature drinks, when really the crew should be able to serve you whatever you want whenever you want. I’m a sucker for gimmicks, but not this kind. 😉

Then to the right of the seat and further up was the tray table. Etihad has one of those massive tray tables on the 787, which weighs a ton, and is a pain to both release and store. I always feel bad for the crews, since I feel like they really struggle with this.

Etihad first class tray table

Etihad first class tray table

Then at the very front right of the seat was a 110v outlet.

Etihad first class power outlets

While the seat doesn’t have an overhead air nozzle, there is an individual air nozzle to the left of the seat by the door, which I appreciate.

Waiting at my seat upon boarding was a pillow and blanket. They have additional bedding when it’s time to sleep, but these are meant for just getting comfortable while relaxing. I love the pattern and thickness of the pillow, as well as how soft the blanket is. I wish Etihad would sell these online, because I’d buy them in a heartbeat.

Etihad first class pillow & blanket

Also waiting at my seat were some headphones. Etihad’s headphones are all right — they’re not the worst out there, but the sound quality isn’t great, and they’re not that comfortable.

Etihad first class headphones

A moment after settling in I was greeted by Mira, the Romanian flight attendant who would be taking care of me. I ordered a glass of champagne, which she brought to me on a tray, along with a warm towel, a Wi-Fi code, and some dates.

Etihad first class pre-departure drink tray

The champagne being served was Charles Heidsieck 2006. The crew provided me with two refills during boarding.

Etihad first class champagne

Etihad complimentary first class wifi

Don’t mind if I do!

Etihad first class suite 787

A few minutes later the Filipino inflight chef brought me the menu and wine list. Usually I find Filipinos to be among the most hospitable out there, though this guy just wasn’t. He wasn’t rude, or anything, but was just void of personality, and not as professional or attentive as some of the other chefs I’ve had on Etihad.

Usually the onboard chef addresses you by name, goes through the menu with you, explains there’s dine on demand, etc. He did none of that. Instead he presented me with the menu and then five minutes later returned and said “do you know what you want?”

Etihad first class menu & wine list

A few minutes later Mira returned with some pajamas as well as the amenity kit. Etihad recently introduced both new pajamas and amenity kits, and I quite like them.

The pajamas, by “A Friend Of Mine,” feel high quality, and come with slippers.

Etihad first class pajamas

Etihad first class description

Etihad first class slippers

The amenity kit is also an improvement over the old one, and features Acqua di Parma products.

Etihad first class amenity kit

Etihad first class amenity kit contents

About 30 minutes after boarding the crew came through the cabin with Arabic coffee.

Etihad first class Arabic coffee

First class ended up having seven of eight seats taken. Best I could tell, three “local” passengers who were traveling together were upgraded last minute, as before that the cabin only showed being half full. All the other passengers seemed to be American.

At around 10PM the local captain added his welcome onboard, and informed us of our flight time of 12hr35min, and our cruising altitude of 37,000 feet. He said we were just waiting on same paperwork, and then should be pushing back, taxing, and taking off into the northwest.

Around that time the door closed, and a moment later we began our pushback. At this point they played the prayer and safety video. Since this is the “year of Zayed,” they also have the crew read a rather ridiculous announcement over the PA praising him, talking about all the great things he did, etc. It just seems a bit out of place and insincere, especially when it’s read like a script, rather than a video.

As we taxied out the cabin manager, David from India, came around to welcome each first class passenger onboard.

We started our taxi at 10:10PM, and were cleared for takeoff by 10:25PM. Then five minutes later the seatbelt sign was turned off.

As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment selection. Etihad has an excellent entertainment system, with a huge number of movies and TV shows.

Etihad entertainment selection

Etihad entertainment selection

Etihad entertainment selection

I also checked out the map for our flight.

Moving map for flight to Abu Dhabi

Moving map for flight to Abu Dhabi

Etihad offers inflight wifi, though rather annoyingly a while back they switched from just charging a single fee for the entire flight regardless of data usage, to charging based on data usage.

Etihad Wi-Fi system

Etihad Wi-Fi pricing

Since I had a pass for free Wi-Fi I went to the “more ways to connect” section and entered my voucher code. Unfortunately first class passengers only get 90MB of free data, which I consumed in no time.

Etihad Wi-Fi log-in process

I ended up buying two more 180MB passes later in the flight since I worked for several hours. I sure do miss Etihad’s old Wi-Fi pricing.

The crew was quick to get started with the service after takeoff. The dine on demand menu for the flight read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

15 minutes after takeoff I was brought a tray with champagne, wasabi peas, mixed nuts, and olives.

Etihad first class dinner — champagne & snacks

30 minutes after takeoff my table was set for the dinner service. I’ve gotta say, Etihad does have beautiful presentation.

Etihad first class dinner — table setting

To start I ordered the spinach and lentil Arabic soup, which was super spicy, and very good. At this point I also switched from champagne to sauvignon blanc.

Etihad first class dinner — spinach and lentil Arabic soup

Next up I had the mezze. I’d say it’s fairly basic as far as mezzes go, but was still good.

Etihad first class dinner — Arabic mezze

Next up I was offered a lemon sorbet palate cleanser.

Etihad first class dinner — palate cleanser

Rather than customizing my own main course from the grill menu (as I usually do), I ordered the seabass with potato gnocchi, peas, and lemon butter cream sauce, which sounded good to me. It tasted every bit as good as it looks.

Etihad first class dinner — seabass

Lastly for dessert I had the vanilla sponge with berries and mascarpone.

Etihad first class dinner — vanilla sponge

At the conclusion of the meal I was offered a warm towel and box of chocolates.

Etihad first class — warm towel & chocolates

The entire meal service was done about 90 minutes after takeoff, which is a speedy service. In fairness, I was the only passenger who had dinner, while everyone else went straight to sleep. Overall I thought the food was solid, though in my opinion Etihad doesn’t do that much to differentiate between meals in first and business class (in terms of quality, though the customizability in first class is better).

Service was efficient, and Mira was friendly, but I can’t say the service overall felt that “first class.”

At the conclusion of the meal I asked to have my bed made, and while that was done went to one of the two lavatories at the front of the cabin. The lavatory was significantly more spacious than the usual 787 bathroom, and I also liked the design.

Etihad first class lavatory

Etihad first class lavatory

The bathroom had some basic amenities.

Etihad first class lavatory amenities

When I returned to my seat my bed was made. The bed was spacious and mostly comfortable, though too hard for my liking. I will say that I was expecting the suite to be narrower since the 787 isn’t that wide of a plane, so I was impressed that the 787 first class seat felt at least as wide as the 777 first class suite.

Etihad first class bed

Etihad first class bed

The suite doors on the 787 are controlled manually, so you just pull them together when you want privacy.

Etihad suite door closed

I ended up going to bed with just under 11 hours remaining to Abu Dhabi, as we were just northwest of Halifax.

Moving map enroute to Abu Dhabi

Moving map enroute to Abu Dhabi

I woke up with just under six hours remaining to Abu Dhabi, as we were over Northern Europe.

Moving map enroute to Abu Dhabi

Moving map enroute to Abu Dhabi

Once I woke up I powered up my laptop and ordered a cappuccino, which was served with a couple of cookies.

Etihad first class cappuccino

The 787 has window dimmers rather than shades, so at this point I undimmed them for a second to look outside, as it was quite a beautiful day above the clouds.

View enroute to Abu Dhabi

About two hours later we were much further southeast, just passing Bucharest, and I ordered an Americano and some baklava.

Moving map enroute to Abu Dhabi

Moving map enroute to Abu Dhabi

Etihad first class coffee & baklava

I worked for a bit on my laptop, and about 2hr30min from arrival in Abu Dhabi decided to order breakfast. I ordered a fruit plate to start, along with a coconut, pineapple, and ginger energizer. I was also offered a selection of bread.

Etihad first class breakfast — fresh fruit and pastries

For the main course I ordered scrambled eggs well done. I appreciate that Etihad prepares these onboard, so they can nicely customize them.

Etihad first class breakfast — eggs to order

By the time my meal was done the sun was starting to set, so I sure didn’t get to enjoy a whole lot of that day.

Sunset enroute to Abu Dhabi

About 50 minutes before landing the captain provided updated arrival information, informing us that we’d be landing at 7PM on runway 31. One thing I find annoying about Etihad is how early they prepare the cabin for landing, as the crew already prepared the cabin for landing then, meaning seats had to be upright, carry-ons stowed, etc.

As I’ve often said, the UAE is good at marketing, so on approach they played this video, which I love:

About 15 minutes before landing the first class crew had already locked the lavatories even though the seatbelt sign wasn’t even on yet. I tried to go to the lavatory and was told it was too late, so I returned to my seat. The chef them came and got me, and said I could go, but that I have to be quick.

We ended up touching down in Abu Dhabi at 6:50PM, and 10 minutes later were at our (remote) arrival stand. Then it was time for a layover, which was both bad and awesome.

Etihad 787 first class bottom line

All things considered I liked the Etihad 787 first class cabin. No, it doesn’t compare to the A380, but for a 787 it’s nice, and roughly on par with the Oman Air 787.

As far as the soft product goes, I liked the amenity kit and pajamas, and found the food quality to be mostly good.

The service was fine, with the flight attendant being pretty good, while the inflight chef wasn’t as good.

Then I don’t like that Etihad charges for Wi-Fi based on data usage now, and also thought the bed was on the hard side.

Overall the flight was better than I was expecting, given all of Etihad’s cost cutting. The product wasn’t much different than over a year ago, though perhaps there was some small feeling of morale being low among employees.

As far as comparing 787 first class products go, I’d say Oman Air is my favorite, followed by Etihad, followed by British Airways.

If you’ve flown Etihad’s 787 first class, what was your experience like?

  1. I’ve flown 1st class on this route a few times, most recently in January this year as part of RTW18. I’ve always had a great flight. This one’s Chef was completely different, very friendly (I could have taken him home :-)). I had the best steak ever! Hope to snag an award seat for next May’s RTW19 2.0 (IAD AUH SYD SIN NRT IAD)

  2. Wait, when you say “local”, (a) why do you put it in “” and (b) is that your way of saying “not white”? Yeesh. I can work with your random “” placement in your reviews (I’m surprised you didn’t “” “divider” between the seats when you usually “” “shield”), but to contrast “local” with American…

  3. @ Kai — I put local in quotes because they weren’t local to the Etihad 787 or to Washington, but rather to the UAE. It’s very common in the UAE to refer to Emiratis as “locals” and everyone else as a foreigner. That’s the extent of what I meant.

  4. Lucky, I was waiting for this review and was not dissapointed.
    As I’ve said before, your reviews are consistently higher quality than those of other blogs, and are a pleasure to read.

    Thanks for taking the time to do them.

  5. Great review Lucky, thank you.

    The a la carte menu looks quite basic. Seems more business than first class to me.

    As an aside, I travelled in business class on the Oman Air 787-9 today. Made me think of your recent review! Sadly no access to the first class lounge for me!

  6. The cost cutting looks evident to me. I would have had more respect if the Champagne were the Charles Heidsieck Blancs des Millenaires, which I had on Lufthansa back in May. There is nothing special about the menu either.

  7. That’s an old-fashioned, almost fuddy – menu meat/fish + potato + veg. I would have been very disappointed with that limited choice. At the least there should be a non-vegetarian pasta, something with rice and something spicy. Truly dull menu.

  8. Hi.. I always read your review but honestly, I came from Abu Dhabi to Washington in Busines class 2 days ago on 787, the seat was good, the toilets were below average and the service was awful. The steward and the hostess never came back to ask if I needed anything unless I called them. The seat in front of me was completely filled with curtains and when I asked why he said it was reserved for the crew to rest. Frankly, I did not feel it was different or unique from the economy class except for the seat. Food presentation was below average. I asked for a drink and they never asked me if I wanted more. Furthermore, the staff disappeared and were slow to respond when I requested assistance. All in all, for a AED20,000+ ticket, you expect a little bit of hospitality.

  9. I always read your review but honestly, I came from Abu Dhabi to Washington in Busines class 2 days ago on 787, the seat was good, the toilets were below average and the service was awful. The steward and the hostess never came back to ask if I needed anything unless I called them. The seat in front of me was completely filled with curtains and when I asked why he said it was reserved for the crew to rest. Frankly, I did not feel it was different or unique from the economy class except for the seat. Food presentation was below average. I asked for a drink and they never asked me if I wanted more. Furthermore, the staff disappeared and were slow to respond when I requested assistance. All in all, for a AED20,000+ ticket, you expect a little bit of hospitality.

  10. So I have not read the full review yet, but in regards to the lounge, you first state that nothing major has changed, but then you state that they have significantly scaled back. That seems like a major change!

  11. HI, How did you make the booking points or cash? Any good point redemptions options you recommend? Thanks for the great review.

  12. Another great read thanks Ben. Made me think though. ( some ) pay thousands of $$$$ for this first class experience . Find your own seat, broken equipment, ( mostly ) pay for your own wifi, average service from average crew and one of the highlights is the IFE which you can get sat at the back. Not what I would be looking for for the price. Come on Etihad, raise your game.

  13. “………………..After flying Etihad 787 first class from Washington to Abu Dhabi, I had access to Etihad’s first class lounge before my connecting flight. My connection was about four hours. I’ve reviewed Etihad’s first class lounge before, so this time I wanted to try something a bit new.”

    Since Ben won’t reply, does anyone know if ticketed First and connecting to Business, will Etihad allow access to the First Class lounge at ABU?

    Always a mystery.

  14. @ lucky Why have you edited the Mercedes S transfer not being available? Along with the discussion that was here previously. Editing an article and discussion which is pertinent is a big no no my friend …

  15. Lucky,

    I’m flying EK F in a few weeks and I’m really excited. I have never had caviar before and I’m worried about making a fool out of myself! Can you explain what all the accompaniments are as well as proper etiquette.


  16. It’s nice that you have edited your original review to remove some of the heavily racist overtones. Feel free to delete this comment as well.

  17. I see boingo on the wifi list, is the boingo offered with amex cards eligible here? Are you not holding any of those cards?

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *