Flight: EY455, Sydney-Abu Dhabi
Loyalty Scheme: Etihad Guest (a partner of Virgin Australia Velocity program)
Duration: 14 hours and 45 minutes
Etihad for some has come as a overnight success but it may surprise some travellers that Abu Dhabi’s home carrier is actually thirteen years old (still young when compared to airlines like Qantas and British Airways).
I have flown with Etihad numerous times; from First right down the back in Economy. The experiences were varied but the general feeling of quality is there. That said my preferred Etihad aircraft and best journeys have come from its A380. Having flown Business Class once in the A380 compared to its 777 (which I had flown a handful of times) I was keen to see if lightening could strike twice in terms of great service and product.
Business Class, 10D. The Residence, First and Business Class cabins share the upper level of the aircraft. There are 70 flat business bed seats, all with a 73” pitch and 20” width, laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration. I sat in 10D alongside my travel companion who was in 10G, in forward facing seats. The seats allowed privacy but were also close enough to properly converse over a meal as opposed to the rear facing seats which make flying with a companion difficult due to the space between each seat.
There are two IFE touchscreens, with the secondary screen providing information about your flight or entertainment info. The primary 17” screen showcases Etihad’s E-BOX entertainment in all its colourful and audible glory, offering a decent movie and audio selection. In addition, Etihad offers inflight wi-fi but I did not trial it as the initial cost was around $25 (this is for the duration of the flight) and I had movies to catch up on.
The Bread and Butter (Food and drink)
One of Etihad’s strengths is its food and drink menu and service. The airline offers a dine on demand service but I’m more a traditional flyer and like to enjoy the three-course meal service option.
Naturally I choose the Arabic Mezze for entrée and by far it surpasses the taste, variety and presentation of both Qatar and Emirates. For main I decide on the Beef Fillet and it is served deliciously medium rare. Dessert doesn’t disappoint with the Caramel Apple Pudding going down a treat.
Later in the flight after getting some sleep some sleep (3 hours after watching my way through catch up cinema sessions) I ordered some breakfast. I took the warm option of poached eggs with spinach and tomatoes, coupled with warm pastries and a cappuccino. The result was delicious and a real pick me up when my body really did need someone to lift me up from my half sleepy slumber.
Drink selection throughout the flight were of a strong quality with French, German and even Australian wines popping up on the menu.
The only downside was the disparity in the service. Whilst my meals and service were prompt and attentive, my companion found that his meal service was spaced out too long, struggled to get attention of staff and even had an incorrect order come out. Again, each experience is different but it is interesting to see a different side to the experience I was enjoying.
The bar wedged between first and business class is a nice little break out spacer but underwhelming in comparison to Emirates and Qatar. I don’t know if it is the ambiance, the lack of space and lack of staff for that matter but it was not as unique and welcoming as it could have been. A missed opportunity considering how the other Middle Eastern airlines have utilised similar spaces on their aircraft. I found it often a struggle to get a drink in that bar with staff hard to get attention from.
That said the LUXE branded amenities kits are a nice touch and offer some lovely goodies to have you looking refreshed throughout the flight.
The Etihad Business Class Studio is definitely class leading and a refined, understated product (thankfully not massive on bling). The food and drink service is a key ingredient that sells the airline well but the service at times can be patchy. I have flown with Etihad on this aircraft and seat a couple of times now and the experiences have been varied. Never poor but it does flag inconsistencies in service.
The bar/ breakout area is also a tad disappointing compared to its competitors but with the lack of space it is hard to see how they can best utilise this area.
That said the business class seat is comfortable, the inflight entertainment is strong and the general experience well worth the money. I would indeed be flying this barge again in the future.
Have you experienced the class of Etihad Business Class Studio? Did the service and product take off for you or was it grounded from the start? Love to hear your feedback on this.