Having recently experienced Etihad’s outstanding first class apartment on the Airbus A380, I had high expectations of their business studio product. While I already had a chance to view the entire Etihad A380 during last year’s Dubai airshow, I was still excited to try out the product on a nice long flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi; the only downside of course being that the entire flight would be during the night.
Check-in and all other departure formalities were completed with ease. It was nice to see that Etihad had recently opened a dedicated lounge in Sydney. While it might not be as grand and glamorous as Etihad’s New York JFK lounge, it is certainly a step above the Air New Zealand lounge which was previously used. Although slightly on the small side (particularly when the flight is full), the lounge does offer a few unique and welcome additions not often seen in business class lounges. This included the option of a la carte dining, with a rather extensive menu, as well as a well stocked bar and plentiful waitstaff to assist.
Since I was planning on having dinner on-board, I only decided to sample a few small dishes in the lounge. The clear highlights were the seared scallops and the vanilla meringue.
One nifty feature of the lounge was that the staff will check your passport upon entry, meaning there is no need to provide your passport again during boarding — no fumbling around with passports and boarding passes at the gate.
I still get a great feeling when boarding the upper deck of the A380 — it never gets old. Sadly, this time I would not be turning left at the top but right. Even so, it was a great feeling to be flying on the Etihad A380 once again (if just for the cool-yet-slightly-creepy boarding music). The business cabin decor and design is once again an example of class and sophistication, which I have only seen on Etihad since the launch of their Facets of Abu Dhabi design concept.
The business cabin comprises of 70 fully-flat “business studio” seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. My only criticism of the layout is that some seats are rearward facing. Not only does this diminish the premium experience, but the rear-facing seats actually have a slightly reduced pitch. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to have selected a forward-facing window seat, but be warned the window seats and all other forward-facing seats tend to get snapped up quickly, so best to select your seat directly at the time of booking.
Following another low and slow departure from Sydney, which is almost a trademark of the A380 on any ultra-long-haul flight (my flight was 14:40), the inflight service commenced. Etihad is one of a few airlines that offers an anytime dining concept, even in the business class cabin.
Unfortunately, my first choice of steak was no longer available, but I needn’t have worried, as the Vietnamese-style Barramundi was simply stunning — moist and full of flavor. For dessert I also went for an equally light option of the fruit platter which was nice and fresh.
Following the dinner service, I finished watching Spectre (great movie btw) and decided to turn in for the night. Once again Etihad impressed me as they now provide pajamas in business class, but only on the ultra-long-hauls. This is something that only a handful of airlines provide these days, but it does make a world of difference.
I managed a solid 7-8 hours of sleep. I must say that the seat is very comfortable in the sleep position, and is much wider than Etihad’s previous business product (still on its 777 and A330/A340 fleet).
After waking up, I still had about three hours to go before landing in Abu Dhabi. I was excited to keep enjoying the product — and of course more food!
For breakfast I selected the Etihad steak sandwich, along with the energizer smoothie and fruit platter. This was the perfect start to the day, albeit a somewhat unorthodox breakfast option. But I could not go on a flight with Etihad without having the signature steak sandwich at least once — it is somewhat of a tradition for me now.
I took a bit more time to explore the in-flight entertainment (IFE) and I must say that the airshow feature is one of the best I have seen out there. There is a head-up display mode, as well as various other bits and pieces of information such as the pitch and roll rate of the aircraft and the vertical speed indicator. It is packed full of many unique features which any AvGeek is sure to appreciate.
Prior to descent the crew distributed fast-track forms for immigration in Abu Dhabi and invited us to use the Etihad arrivals lounge. Since I was transiting onto another flight, I unfortunately did not get a chance to experience the lounge.
We arrived in Abu Dhabi 30 minutes ahead of schedule, which meant we were one the of the first arrivals of the day. I was happy since I was through transit security very quickly and one of the first in line for a much needed shower at the premium lounge.
The business studio really is flying reimagined. It delivers a superior experience to even some of today’s first class products, let alone the current business class offerings. It is a rare example of an airline willing to spend a little more to deliver a truly outstanding product, while at the same time not diminishing the premium experience with mindless cutbacks to various products that enhance the passenger experience (such as offering pajamas in business class.). Once again, it is a clear example of Etihad delivering on the words of its CEO James Hogan; that Etihad is the best airline in the world, not the biggest.