Etihad’s Boeing 787 First Class: A Solid Flight, But…

Etihad’s Boeing 787 First Class: A Solid Flight, But…

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Hello from Abu Dhabi! My dad and I are off on a quick round the world trip (he doesn’t know where we’re going), and we kicked that off by flying Etihad’s Boeing 787-9 first class from Washington to Abu Dhabi. I recently flew Etihad’s Airbus A350-1000 business class, and was incredibly impressed.

I was curious to give Etihad a try in first class once again, especially to see how the soft product is. Etihad has gone through quite a transformation over the past several years, and is also bringing back the Airbus A380 in the coming months.

Before I share my thoughts, I think it’s important to emphasize that first class doesn’t really seem like a future priority for Etihad. The carrier only offers first class on a handful of Boeing 787s, plus one Boeing 777 that was meant to be retired. While Etihad is investing heavily in refreshing its business class product, first class doesn’t seem to have a big future at the airline, as no future delivery planes are expected to have first class.

With that in mind, let me share some thoughts on the experience, and then soon I’ll have a full trip report.

Etihad’s 787 first class seats are comfortable

Etihad has eight first class seats on the Boeing 787, spread across two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. Seats alternate between being forward and rear facing, and the cabin is nicely appointed without being overly spacious or cutting edge. I assigned us the two center seats in the second row, which are rear facing.

Etihad Boeing 787 first class cabin
Etihad Boeing 787 first class seats
Etihad Boeing 787 first class seats

In particular, I have to say that I slept really well, which is something I usually struggle to do on planes. I slept for nearly half of the 13 hour flight, which must be some sort of a new record for me.

As much as business class seats have improved over the years, it’s still so much easier to sleep in first class, where you don’t have to squeeze your feet into some footwell, and also don’t have as many people near you making noises, turning lights on and off, etc.

Etihad Boeing 787 first class bed
Etihad Boeing 787 first class privacy door

Etihad’s Boeing 787 entertainment selection is also extensive, with a huge variety of movies, TV shows, and even live TV. Etihad also offers unlimited free Wi-Fi in first class, with no data caps.

Etihad Boeing 787 first class entertainment

Lastly, the bathroom setup is excellent. There are two first class bathrooms at the front of the cabin, both of which are huge. Lavatories were my one complaint about the Etihad A350, as there were just two small lavatories for 42 business class passengers. Suffice it to say that eight passengers sharing two bathrooms is a much better ratio. 😉

Etihad Boeing 787 first class bathroom

My Etihad first class crew was exceptional

I was curious to see how Etihad’s first class service would be, given that the airline has made significant changes over the years, and no longer has an inflight chef in first class. Well, I’m happy to report that the service in first class was phenomenal.

There were two ladies working the cabin (one from Romania and one from Colombia), and they couldn’t have been kinder or more professional. The same is true of the cabin manager.

The crew’s attention to detail was spectacular. For example, when I visited the bathroom after waking up (which doesn’t require walking past the galley, so I didn’t see the flight attendant), I returned to my seat two minutes later to find that my bed had once again been perfectly made.

Despite the full cabin (and some very, very interesting fellow passengers, which I’ll talk about in a separate post), they exceeded my expectations. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but if my two recent Etihad flights are any indication of the new service level at the airline, then Etihad really is in a groove.

Etihad’s first class soft product is good and unchanged

What was the soft product like on this flight? Well, Etihad recently rolled out a collaboration with Armani / Casa, so I was expecting that this would be available on this flight, as it was on my recent business class flight. As it turns out, that collaboration is only for business class, and not for first class.

To my surprise, the first class soft product was the same as years ago. The amenity kit was a collaboration with Acqua Di Parma, and the pajamas were from Emirati brand A Friend Of Mine.

Etihad first class amenity kit
Etihad first class pajamas

Etihad has a dine on demand concept in first class, and I had dinner after takeoff. To start, I had a glass of champagne. At the moment Etihad serves 2002 Duval-Leroy Femme de Champagne Grand Cru Millesime, which was delicious (and pricey). This was served with some nuts, olives, and wasabi peas.

Etihad first class dinner service

My meal started with some caviar, served with traditional garnishes.

Etihad first class dinner service

That was followed by an Arabic mezze.

Etihad first class dinner service

Etihad still has a “lounge and grill” concept, whereby you can mix and match proteins and sides as you’d like. I appreciate the ability to customize. I had mahi mahi with kale and a delicious potato side.

Etihad first class dinner service

Lastly, I had some lemon cheesecake for dessert.

Etihad first class dinner service

Etihad first class is great but unmemorable

Let me of course acknowledge that I’m incredibly lucky to often be able to fly in first class (thanks primarily to miles & points). Nonetheless, I try to be objective in comparing first class experiences, since they’re not all created equal.

So, what do I make of the Etihad first class experience? It’s funny, because when I walked off the plane, I said “wow, that was an excellent flight.” And it absolutely was. The service couldn’t have been better, I was comfortable, I slept well, and I enjoyed the food.

However, in the scheme of the top first class products, I would say that Etihad’s first class isn’t particularly memorable. That’s true in terms of both hard and soft product (though as mentioned, service was top notch):

  • There are much more spacious first class products out there, and that includes Etihad’s A380 first class, which is making a comeback soon; there’s simply no comparison between the two hard products
  • There are more impressive first class soft products out there; just to compare this to Etihad’s biggest competitor, Emirates’ soft product is a bit more extravagant, from the unlimited caviar, to the much more impressive Arabic mezze, just to give a couple of examples

Bottom line

I had an excellent flight in Etihad’s Boeing 787 first class. The seats were comfortable, the entertainment and Wi-Fi were great, the crew couldn’t have been friendlier, and the food was good.

While it was a great experience, it wasn’t as over-the-top as some of the other first class experiences out there. For example, it goes without saying that the seats weren’t as impressive as you’d find in Etihad’s A380 first class, which is returning soon.

The only thing that really surprised me about the experience is that the new Armani / Casa amenities weren’t available in first class, as these are allegedly exclusively for business class. That seems a bit odd to me.

What do you make of Etihad’s 787 first class?

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  1. Parnel Guest

    I flew iad-auh return in F as loved it. The cabin is so much nicer than EK, the service outstanding. However yes I think the meals were better on EK. But reward tickets are a deal on Etihad so can wait for my next flight in a few months.

  2. John Evans Guest

    I flew their '1st class', last Oct from Abu Dhabi, to Dulles Washington.
    Having flown 1st class suite Emirates 380 a month before, Brisbane to Dubai, which was amazing, Etihad was far below their standard.
    I also had to pay a taxi, from Dubai to Abu Dhabi ( because I booked through an agent),instead of a Mercedes limo in Brisbane ( No charge).
    The 'bathroom ', was dark& gloomy, instead of Emirates...

    I flew their '1st class', last Oct from Abu Dhabi, to Dulles Washington.
    Having flown 1st class suite Emirates 380 a month before, Brisbane to Dubai, which was amazing, Etihad was far below their standard.
    I also had to pay a taxi, from Dubai to Abu Dhabi ( because I booked through an agent),instead of a Mercedes limo in Brisbane ( No charge).
    The 'bathroom ', was dark& gloomy, instead of Emirates gold& light!!
    The price was about the same, but ,the lack of quality, made it, an expensive bad joke!
    I will never fly etihad, anything ,again !!

  3. ChrisGVA Guest

    It's look much better than the 14USD wine served in LH First class that I do last month from Tokyo, most white and red around 14 to 20USD value on Wine searcher, only one exception the Italian Barolo.

    I discover that for a full F in 747-8, LH only cather 3 meals of each choice. So the most appealing
    food is quickly no more available for the other passengers...

    LH First class, no more thank you.
    But Etihad look appealing, if I need to compare...

  4. Thibault Guest

    What a sad-looking mezze plate! Unless that was meant to be an hors d’œuvre instead of a starter, it’s shockingly disappointing for F both in quantity and presentation!

    I’d almost opt for the mezze in Emirates J over this…

  5. Randy Diamond

    Back in 2016, a group of us (6 Flyertalker's) were able to get 6 F rewards on the IAD-AUH (6 out of 8). Recognize the seats. Most memorable for me was the IAD lounge (no longer) and the personal refrigerator at the seat (although others have it too). Good table service in the lounge. Great service on the flight. We paired up to dine, very large tray table - and large comfortable foot rest to...

    Back in 2016, a group of us (6 Flyertalker's) were able to get 6 F rewards on the IAD-AUH (6 out of 8). Recognize the seats. Most memorable for me was the IAD lounge (no longer) and the personal refrigerator at the seat (although others have it too). Good table service in the lounge. Great service on the flight. We paired up to dine, very large tray table - and large comfortable foot rest to sit for 2 to dine. With partition down - like a table for 4. (must better for 2 to dine, then QF A380 F seat).

    Also at the time - Eithad provided limo service - even for F reward passengers. Picked up at home to IAD, then we had 3 in AUH we had 3 Audi's cars drive us to Dubai. The limo would drive you anywhere in UAE.

    Very memorable flight.

    1. Bill n DC Diamond

      Cool. I like the Etihad B787-9 First Class. Great way to fly home on my Round the World trips. Next up March, 2024 DCA EWR SFO CHC SYD DOH (QR First) AUH IAD

  6. mofly Guest

    Hi Ben, Did you book with Miles? Was it easy to come across availability? I

    1. GeorgeBrown12 Member

      Second this question. Did I miss that post?

  7. Omar Guest

    I also flew this route a few months ago and it was above average but service was not perfect as in your case. That said, being able to get 2 F seats on a route such as this for a reasonable mileage cost is a good deal. I did notice a lot of people got last minute upgrades to F on my flight (seems like some people got free op ups etc) so don't get your hopes up if the flight looks empty.

  8. Clem Diamond

    I flew this exact same route in these exact same seats and I suspect the flight attendant might be maybe the same (she was from Romania too). It was my first time in Etihad F, and I thought it was supremely comfortable. I love the cabin style (far more than Emirates), seats and bed were extremely comfortable, food was delicious and service was upscale yet friendly.
    We flew back FRA to JFK in the...

    I flew this exact same route in these exact same seats and I suspect the flight attendant might be maybe the same (she was from Romania too). It was my first time in Etihad F, and I thought it was supremely comfortable. I love the cabin style (far more than Emirates), seats and bed were extremely comfortable, food was delicious and service was upscale yet friendly.
    We flew back FRA to JFK in the new Singapore Suites so of course compared to that, it's very subdued, but I still absolutely loved it and would happily fly that again.
    We also did have some interesting fellow travelers, including an extremely annoying "influencer" whose friends who were sitting in J kept coming and going before take off with their camera and filming (wish the crew had put a stop to that and I was very worried that it would continue during the flight but thankfully they didn't come back until landing).

    1. Clem Diamond

      Meant I flew this very recently*

  9. TravelinWilly Diamond

    I love the EY 7987 first cabins.

    My only complai

  10. SR103 Guest

    I recently flew (two weeks ago) business class on IAD-AUH and it does not the new Armani/CASA bedding or plating. MY AUH-ORD a week before on the A350 did.

    Therefore I think EY still has to roll the Armani/CASA products on the 787. My connecting intra Gulf flights had the new plates but not the new pillows. I guess its still a mixed bag for now.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ SR103 -- Interesting, I was told that it was rolled out throughout the system as of late April, but maybe that wasn't the case?

    2. SR103 Guest

      @ Ben Schlappig -- I mean it was the last day of April when I flew, so maybe I was on one of the last flights with the non Armani/CASA products.

    3. John Guest

      It was available on JFK and ORD flights before May and since May it is available on all flights.

  11. Andrew Guest

    Ha, we just did this flight a few weeks ago and I ended up sleeping 8 hours. The bed was so comfortable.

    1. Saeed Guest

      Hi Lucky,

      Etihad only operates one B777 with first class (A6-ETS) which mostly flies between Abu Dhabi and Paris only. It will be replaced by the A350-1000 later this year.

    2. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Saeed -- Didn't realize it was just one 777. Updated the post to reflect that, thanks!

  12. Lee Guest

    Regarding just the seat, it looks like so many other first class seats . . . and, dare I say . . . perhaps less spacious than those on AA and BA.

    1. Andrew Guest

      Not even close. Way more spacious than AA. The pictures don’t do it Justin.

    2. Bob Guest

      Way more spacious than AA and BA
      And BA F is nothing more than mediocre J in every other aspect.

    3. Glenn Guest

      Somewhat harsh. I think BA First is the best Business Class in the sky, better than Q Suites.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Bob Guest

Way more spacious than AA and BA And BA F is nothing more than mediocre J in every other aspect.

2
Andrew Guest

Not even close. Way more spacious than AA. The pictures don’t do it Justin.

2
Randy Diamond

Back in 2016, a group of us (6 Flyertalker's) were able to get 6 F rewards on the IAD-AUH (6 out of 8). Recognize the seats. Most memorable for me was the IAD lounge (no longer) and the personal refrigerator at the seat (although others have it too). Good table service in the lounge. Great service on the flight. We paired up to dine, very large tray table - and large comfortable foot rest to sit for 2 to dine. With partition down - like a table for 4. (must better for 2 to dine, then QF A380 F seat). Also at the time - Eithad provided limo service - even for F reward passengers. Picked up at home to IAD, then we had 3 in AUH we had 3 Audi's cars drive us to Dubai. The limo would drive you anywhere in UAE. Very memorable flight.

1
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