After an absolutely spectacular outbound flight in the First Class Apartments I was really curious to see how the business class product would pan out. Given that I would be heading straight to the office from this flight, my priorities were a little different than on the outbound. Basically I just wanted to get to sleep in comfort and enjoy some privacy and quiet. I wasn’t looking for tons of attention and I was already stuffed from the food at the lounge and on the flight from MLE.
We boarded on time for our 2:35am departure. A horribly late time of day, especially when you have work the next morning but given the geographic location of the UAE, this is pretty much rush hour.
I didn’t have the same jaw dropping reaction to this cabin as I did to First Class but I was mightily impressed nonetheless.
Centre seats consist of either closely paired ‘honeymoon seats’ or twin aisle seats, with tables in the middle. The window seats are arranged in alternating fashion whereby half the seats are located directly next to the window, with the table on the outside and the other half are nearer the aisle with the table right by the window.
I was seated in 10A. A forward facing window seat, with the table on the outside.
No matter which seat you pick, there is either a high wall or a table between you and the aisle. Sat by the window, when you’re sat in your seat, hell even if you’re standing up, you’ll struggle to catch sight of another person at all. The eyelines are designed in a way that absolutely maximises privacy for every passenger whilst leaving you open for unencumbered service from the cabin crew.
(In case you were wondering, I took a full set of pics at night but retook a lot of them in the morning, as the evening lighting washed a lot of the shots out.)
I was surprised to see the Poltrona Frau logo stamped on the leather headrest. This is an Italian furniture maker whose products feature in the First Class apartments and rightfully so – their leather goods are eye wateringly expensive. The build quality here is irrefutable, not just the seat either, the lighting is on another level.
The Arabic style lamp gives both a local flair and a distinctly premium feel to the design of the seat.
Between the side bins, the low beige table and the higher brown table there is a huge amount of fixed storage space. The two surfaces by the aisle also add a lot of privacy to the seat, particularly in bed mode where they become a de facto wall.
My private sanctuary.
I love the side bins on A380s, it makes such a difference to have this space, not only to store personal items but to use as a tabletop surface for books, tablets and laptops.
The fixed IFE screen was super sharp and fixed in place, meaning that it could be viewed continuously from gate to gate.
As you can see, my feet were not at all restricted by the foot cubby – a common complaint with this style of staggered seating design. The black table on the right is the top of another person’s foot cubby and is not low down at all.
Etihad’s IFE selection is quite varied but the censorship is very annoying. Entire scenes are often edited out of otherwise family friendly shows, resulting in some bizarre gaps in continuity.
Small details: a coat hook and reading light
There is a touchscreen for seat controls, as well as the usual buttons. The IFE controller is very slick and responsive, similar to the ones you get on the latest QR and SQ planes.
This little storage space adds to the private feel of the seat and gives you a convenient surface to place a drink. It’s great when seats have a separate water bottle holder too.
Universal power socket with plenty of space around it to fit any kind of bulky charger.
A headphone compartment on the left and a deep storage cubby in the centre.
Note the magnetic headphone socket, the same type used in the First Class Apartments. I can’t believe no airline came up with this before. It totally eliminates the tripping hazard created by cables.
Menus and amenity kits were distributed pre-take off. The FA distributing the menus took note of the fact that I didn’t want any dinner but would like to have some breakfast. I’m not sure if this was related to my Etihad Gold status but she asked me what I would like to eat in the morning and said that she would have it held aside for me. She also assured me that if I was unable to get to sleep she would be happy to serve me food whenever I wanted.
Etihad Long Haul Business Class Menu
Although the plane was fully boarded on time, our departure was rather delayed. The nature of the delays was never made clear to us and it kept rolling.
I was becoming rather worried about the time I’d make it to the office the following morning but figured there was nothing I could do about it. So naturally I did what what any reasonable person would, faced with a similar set of circumstances…
I sat back, relaxed and ordered a glass of champagne.
The IFE controller reads: Announcement in Progress. This was probably for the third consecutive ’20 minute delay’. Still, there are worse places to be delayed than this stylish, private and comfortable seat.
The amenity kit was by a brand called LUXE and was made of a wetsuit like material.
In addition to the usual toiletries and eye mask, there was an Abu Dhabi city guide included. These kits were created as a collection with a different city guide in each edition.
Face cream and lip balm by Scaramouche & Fandango
Once we were in the air I immediately made my bed. I didn’t wait to see if any turndown service was offered as I just wanted to maximise my sleep time.
Spacious, private and comfortable. Exactly what you need from a business class product. The pillow was plump and supportive although the fleece blanket was a little on the thin and small side.
I awoke to this awesome view after a solid 6 hours of sleep. Nothing beats waking up to the crisp blue sky above the clouds.
The on-board Lounge
After getting changed back into my clothes, I used the IFE chat system to get hold of Kamara who was safely ensconced in a First Class Apartment. I then asked an FA if I could get my breakfast in 15 minutes, with my first coffee of the day delivered to the lounge: “No problem”, was his response.
I love the design of the drinks cabinet in the lounge. This is actually an active part of the galley, as opposed to a self serve bar though.
In terms of decor and ambiance this has to be the coolest bar area on any modern commercial airliner. The lighting , panelling and cream leather sofas are all extremely luxurious.
There are pull down armrests located strategically around the sofa…
…which give you access not only to charging facilities but also to headphone sockets and TV controls. This means that you can sit and watch a movie with somebody, whilst sharing a meal.
After a brief chat and a coffee I headed back to my seat for this superb breakfast. The bagel was amazing, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The salmon filling was both abundant and delicious.
Ordinarily that bagel would have sufficed as a breakfast in its own right but I figured this was the last meal of my holiday and I might as well go out with a bang(er).
The omelette was wonderfully soft and ever so slightly runny in the middle, perfect. The sausages were gently spiced and pretty great too. The tomato was a bit mushy and flavourless. The hash brown was soggy and oily.
Etihad Business Class – English breakfast
A couple of minutes after finishing my breakfast, the captain asked the crew to take their seats for landing and we were treated to an uncharacteristically clear view of my apartment
I disembarked feeling refreshed, caffeinated and fully fed for the day ahead. I left Kamara to grab our checked bag as she was taking a car straight home, whereas I had a meeting to get to. After a quick dash to the duty free, I made my way to the awaiting army of Etihad chauffeurs with nothing but a bag of Daim bars as ‘luggage’.
My chauffeur was more than a little surprised. “Is that it?” he asked. “Yeah, I’m travelling light.” An hour later, my Mercedes limo dropped me at the office; my commute to work from the Conrad Maldives was finally over.
Much like the First Class Apartments have revolutionised the First Class travel landscape, Etihad’s A380 has significantly raised the bar for business class travel. The seat finishes are up there with the fine leather of Singapore’s A380 Business Class, the IFE controls and screen are just as sharp as those found on Qatar’s Dreamliner, the privacy is almost as all encompassing as the apex suites used by JAL (with privacy assured in almost every seat – not just windows) and the food and drink is not only of a high standard but also available on demand.
The only slight drawbacks that come to mind are that Etihad is now in cost-cutting mode and doesn’t offer PJs or limo service to business class passengers. Overall though, this is now the business class product to beat.