On my journey home from a magical visit to the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort I got lucky and snagged 2 seats on Etihad’s newest Aircraft, the A350-1000. It was a strange journey, with a 2:45 AM departure time and an 8:00 AM arrival, but enjoyable nonetheless!
Needless to say, 15 hours in Etihad’s newest Business Class product will never be a bad time so let me fill you in on all the details when it comes to flying Etihad Airways Business Class on the A350.
Booking Etihad Business Class
|Etihad Airways 151
|AUH to ORD
|15 Hours 10 Minutes
I booked this award flight well in advance of departure, nearly 11 months to be exact; this redemption was booked in November 2022 and we flew it in October 2023. While there can often be good availability for last-minute bookings and closer to the date of flying, booking in advance is one of the best practices for booking award flights as availability tends to be much better.
The cost was 90,000 Aeroplan points per person, compared to a cash cost of $6,800. This meant I was redeeming Aeroplan points at a rate of 7.5 cents per point. Truly an excellent redemption!
A rather unique business class cabin layout, the Etihad Airways A350 sees a 2-cabin layout with no First Class, 15 rows of Business Class, followed by strictly economy seats with no premium economy.
With a 1-2-1 layout, business class passengers may prefer the middle seats when traveling with a companion, else the window seats are a great option. All seats on the A350 business class offer direct aisle access.
After the lackluster lounge experience at Male International before our Etihad Airways Business Class 787 flight, I was excited to see what lounges Etihad had for business class customers at their hub! It was my first time at Abu Dhabi International Airport, and I was surprised at how chaotic the terminal was at nearly midnight.
Thankfully signs were plentiful, but the main business lounge was quite a hike. It took nearly 15 minutes of walking to arrive at the business lounge. I will note that the First Class Spa and Lounge was much more central. I really wanted to see what that First Class Spa was all about. It’s funny how you can start planning your next trip while on your current trip!
The lounge was, unfortunately, extremely underwhelming, loud, packed to the gills, and had sharp, white lights that were not relaxing.
After talking with the lounge check-in staff, they informed us that we would need to pass through US Pre-Clearance before boarding, and there was a smaller lounge available there. NEXUS was a huge time saver in the pre-clearance area. I highly recommend acquiring NEXUS membership, as NEXUS membership fees are covered by many credit cards, if you are flying from Abu Dhabi to the USA.
Once we arrived at the US lounge, it was much more relaxed. There were fewer people and it was a quiet, calm environment.
As expected, Business class passengers received priority boarding. The lounge made an announcement for boarding, which was nice, but I assume at 2:00 AM we were the only flight leaving.
Once I stepped on board, I was welcomed to my seat with a mattress pad, pillow, and amenity kit neatly arranged.
For this 15-hour flight, we chose the middle seats as we wanted to be able to easily communicate to share our experience of what we expected to be an extravagant affair. Being a late-night departure and early-morning arrival, there wouldn’t be much to see out the window anyway.
The seat is a standard reverse herringbone with many similarities to Air Canada Signature Class and others who operate this comfy business class cabin seating arrangement. Etihad Airways dials the luxury feeling up a few notches by adding faux marble finishes, gold accents, and wood veneer around the seat. I’m a sucker for the lamp at the seat as it adds an extra level of “coziness.”
A unique feature that Etihad Airways offers is the wireless charger at every business class seat, which worked well!
The rest of the storage space is typical, two compartments on the “surface” followed by one below that also holds the safety card.
Above the storage is the privacy screen that can be adjusted. Unlike Gulf Air Business Class, this privacy screen did its job as intended.
Directly in front of the seat is the entertainment screen, which was an adequate size, but it didn’t blow me away like the entertainment console on ANA’s The Room Business Class.
The tray table pulls out from under the screen like all reverse herringbone business class seats. The tray table is folded in the center, like usual, and easily extends.
Following other reverse herringbone seat footsteps, the seat controls have shortcut pre-set buttons and fine-tuning through the touch screen.
The most prominent differentiating feature of this business class seat is the door. While it’s not a Qatar Airways QSuites experience, it’s better than not having a door!
For me, the door made its most significant impact when I turned out the lights to get some shuteye. From inside the seat, it was hard to capture an angle that showed the privacy it provided, but it absolutely contributed to making the business class experience feel a bit more private than those products without doors.
Amenities on this flight were provided by Acqua Di Parma and included hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, socks, some cologne, an eye mask, a dental kit, and hand cream. Nothing extravagant but the contents were of excellent quality.
The bedding on Etihad Airway’s ultra-long-haul routes is provided by Armani. It was nice, but not significantly better than what we had on the 787 and that bedding was unbranded.
After dinner, I made up my bed, which was straightforward. The mattress topper went on quickly, and the duvet was large enough to be comfy.
I closed my suite door and was happy with the level of privacy that was available while getting some rest.
There was a lot of turbulence, but I slept soundly despite that. I think the door played a part in providing some “security,” for lack of a better term. The seat felt narrow, but once I lowered the aisle armrest, that problem was solved. The cabin temperature was pretty perfect for sleeping as well. While Lufthansa First Class has the most comfortable bed I’ve experienced on a plane, it’s always too hot in their cabins.
The meal service on this flight was dine-on-demand style, and it was the first time I had experienced this style of service. While we were still on the ground, attendants went through the cabin to take selections for the meal service after take-off.
As I wanted to adjust to Chicago time, I opted for the Chicken Foga as soon as it could be delivered to me. The full menu for my flight is below.
Before take-off, a welcome drink was served, with choices between juice and champagne. I chose the champagne to pair with the warm nuts that had been passed out.
An extra luxurious part of this dining experience was the white tablecloths. With every meal or snack, flight attendants replaced the existing one with a fresh one.
The chicken foga was a perfectly good dish, and I was pleased with my meal choice.
With 8 hours left, I pressed my call button to order the steak sandwich and an IPA. It took about 5 minutes for an attendant to come over and my selections were met with a warm agreement of “excellent choice.” I was told it would be about 15 minutes for my snack. In reality, it took about 30 minutes.
The steak sandwich was tasty, but it was a bit tough in places compared to the steak I had on Etihad Airways 787.
After the sandwich, I ordered the cheesecake, which had a solid flavor but was not exquisite. I accompanied the cheesecake with a Bellini, which came pre-mixed in a champagne bottle. It was a nice aperitif!
After working for a few hours, I indulged in a guilty pleasure with the last installment of Fast and Furious. Despite having an automotive passion, I can’t say these are my favorite movies.
I ordered the samosas and more champagne to soak in all my guilt and was told it would be about 20 minutes. In reality, it showed up in about 7 minutes, which was a pleasant surprise after the slow service for the sandwich. The samosas had great flavor and I recommend them as the best snack.
With about two hours to go, I ordered the pancakes for breakfast. I was told they would have to check and see if they were available. I didn’t get confirmation, but my call button went out, so I assumed they had the pancakes. Eventually, they were delivered to me and while the pancakes looked great, they were a bit dry.
I realized how much I was enjoying the Zero-G seat position as I ate breakfast. I think this is an overlooked feature that becomes important on longer flights. Importantly, this seating position isn’t available on Etihad’s 787 or one of my favorite products, The Room.
The egg omelette that my wife ordered was much superior and definitely what I would recommend for breakfast.
Etihad Airways does a great job with its entertainment system they label the E-Box. There’s a large selection of movies and TV shows, but my favorite part was the Bluetooth connectivity!
There was a huge amount of static coming from the headphones they supplied at my seat, being able to pair my own headset was a huge relief. I also thought the headphone rest was in a great position.
On Etihad Airways’ Business Class on the 787 that we flew just before this, I felt that the handheld entertainment console remote had issues with the gyroscope inside. I’m glad to report that this remote performed much better, but I still preferred the position of the handset on their 787.
Deep within the E-Box menus was an option to order food and beverages but it appears it hasn’t been fully integrated. While it’s not a problem to press the call button, I feel like this feature would save the flight attendants time.
Here’s a quick glance as to what was available for entertainment during the flight.
Etihad Airways is one of the few airlines that partner with Boingo for their in-flight WiFi service, meaning if you have a World Elite Mastercard credit card, you get free access to the WiFi!
Alternatively, you can pay for access for $20 USD which I think is a reasonable price for the whole flight. For example, Swiss Airlines charges 3x this price for a flight that’s half as long.
If you have an Etihad Guest account, you can access the Chat feature for free, which is a nice perk. I wrote about this in my article, Top 10 Miles and Points Mistakes to Avoid, creating loyalty accounts in advance costs you nothing (except some time) and can have tangible benefits like free chatting!
The WiFi was not fast, but it allowed me to catch up on a few things, and write some articles. I was even able to (slowly) upload images to a shared drive.
Etihad Airways has still got the it factor, most definitely. But had this flight been at a “normal” time I would have enjoyed it more. In hindsight, that late-night departure gave us the maximum time in the Maldives, but I would have been happy to have an overnight connection in Abu Dhabi and take off mid-morning.
It was neat to try two different Etihad Airways business class products in a single trip, and I would fly this product again in a heartbeat. I think a solo traveler sitting in a window seat would enjoy the A350 more than a couple in the middle seats. For a couple traveling together, the middle seats on Etihad Airways business class on the 787 are a much better fit.
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