Hi Frugalistas! I’ve recently returned from my most recent trip to Europe (and yes, there will be more of that coming up in future posts). I was thrilled to be able to travel on the updated Etihad Airways Business Class Studio for the first time since their introduction on Australian routes. I’ve travelled in Etihad Business Class multiple times, so was curious to see how it had changed. It was also my first opportunity to travel in the Etihad A380 Business Class and was keen to be able to compare it to the Qatar A380 and Emirates A380 Business Class options. On this trip I was able to travel Etihad Airways Sydney to Abu Dhabi before connecting onto Amsterdam, and then Paris to Sydney via Abu Dhabi on the return leg. So, this is my Etihad Airways Business Class review 2018 edition.
Etihad Airways Business Class on the ground
A380 flights always mean queues, even for the Business Class check in and my flight is no exception. Even with two Business Class and one First Class check in available there’s a bit of wait, but once it is my turn I’m on my way quickly, express lane pass for Immigration and security screening in hand. I was booked on an evening flight out of Sydney – which usually means minimal queues for both security and Immigration. This evening was no exception, so I breeze through both.
Etihad has its own dedicated Business & First Class Lounge in Sydney. It’s a smaller version of the flagship lounge in Abu Dhabi, complete with separate dining area, as well as a bar, and buffet. Things has changed a little since the last time I was there – no waiting staff to serve in the seating area. So it’s serve-yourself champagne from the buffet area, or from the friendly bar staff. There was plenty of food and drink options for those wanting to go straight to sleep on the plane. One thing I did notice was just how busy the lounge became as we drew closer to boarding time – I think it must have been designed to accommodate the Etihad 777 Business and First Class passenger volumes rather than the much bigger A380. It also became a little noisy as it filled up.
The Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Business Class Lounge is very different. With the opening of a new dedicated First Class Lounge, Business Class passengers have their lounge to themselves. Because the Etihad Airways flight schedule from Australia through to Europe is very good there is no need to spend a long time in the lounge. But if you need to, honestly, there are far worse ways to spend your time. With multiple seating areas, two dedicated meal areas, and multiple food and beverage stations there’s plenty of room for everyone. Arriving at different times of the day, food options were plentiful, including table service restaurant style dining.
Back in the day I used to really look forward to my free 15minute express treatment in the Six Senses Spa in the Etihad Abu Dhabi Lounge. But along with the First Class passengers, the free treatments have also left the Business Class Lounge (the barber and hairdresser has gone as well). Free 15minute express treatments have been replaced by paid treatments – either 15 or 25minutes. The Spa menu seems to be unchanged though.
When I arrived in Abu Dhabi from Sydney I had quite a headache, and booked a 25minute radiance facial (my favorite treatment in the Lounge). When she found out I had a headache, my therapist focussed the massage component of my treatment on a very soothing head massage. I really did feel better after it. At USD40 for a 25minute treatment I thought it still represented good value for money (based on Australian facial pricing anyway), and a very relaxing and enjoyable way to while away the time in the lounge.
Like Sydney, the Etihad Paris Lounge is also a combined First and Business Class lounge, but with a bigger lounge and a morning flight that was not full in Business Class, it remained quiet and no where near as busy. I’d not had breakfast before heading out to Charles De Gaulle, so did enjoy my cheese omelette, made freshly to order, and served at my table. A range of hot and cold dishes, including some buttery fresh croissants, were available at the buffet.
Etihad Business Class review: in the air
Etihad Business seating and cabin
The Etihad a380 Business Class cabin is located on the upper deck of the plane, behind the First Class cabin. There are two separate Business Class cabins. I found this kept the noise down in the cabin compared to the Emirates A380 Business Class cabin. Like their Middle Eastern cousins, Etihad also features a lounge area, located between the Etihad Airways First Class and Business Class cabins. It was located adjacent to the galley, but there was no food or drink displayed to be served, and no flight attendant there to serve. It looked quite forlorn, and I didn’t use it. In fact I didn’t see anyone use it during the three a380 legs I flew during this trip. It was certainly a poor second to the spacious Qatar Airways Business Class lounge area.
Etihad Business Class seats are arranged in a spacious 1-2-1 layout. But the Etihad Airways seating is a little different in Business Class. Alternating rows are arranged facing backwards, which not everyone is a fan of, I know. But all are still on the aisle, and there is no need to step over legs with the Etihad a380 Business Class Studio seat – unlike in the hideous British Airways Business Class seat. Seating was exactly the same in the Etihad 787 Business Class that I took from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam. The only difference with the Etihad Dreamliner Business Class was that there was no First Class and no lounge area.
The Etihad Airways baggage allowance is a generous 40kg in Business Class, so they obviously don’t expect much carry on luggage. This is the only reason I can imagine for the size of the overhead lockers. My tiny, much smaller than an international carry on, bag barely fitted into the overhead locker because the locker was so shallow. In fact, I needed to take my ziplock bag of liquids out of the front compartment I normally store it in. Fortunately the overhead lockers in the centre of the plane were deep and spacious. Window seats also had ample storage on the side of the studio seating, so there was plenty of storage for handbags, and shoes.
My studio also had conveniently located power points and USB ports, which, combined with the deep fixed table area, made ample space for my phone and laptop.
My seat itself was spacious and comfy. The seat was controlled either by a range of preset positions, or via a manual touch screen – which personally I found confusing in its myriad of options. The seat reclined to a generously long and wide lie flat bed when it was time to sleep. Combined with the mattress topper my flight attendant provided, I found it wonderfully comfortable, and I slept very well on all flights.
Despite my section of the Business cabin being full on both Sydney-Abu Dhabi legs, I found the cabin stayed quite quiet. I didn’t even hear anyone snore!
Etihad Business Class menu
Etihad flights to Abu Dhabi from Australia are around 14hours long, so decent food is a must for me. Like many long haul Business Classes, Etihad features both an à la carte, and anytime dining menu. Menus are designed around flying times. Both menus feature a choice of Middle Eastern, Western and vegetarian options.
I always enjoy the mezze plate from the à la carte menu and this trip was no exception. I also found a caprese salad entrée (appetizer) tasty, fresh and enjoyable. My airline reviews are littered with reviews of ordinary fillet steak. I live in hope of finding that one perfect, restaurant quality steak. My fillet steak on Etihad was a generous portion that was quite enjoyable. Still overcooked, but lacking the “stewed meat” taste they often have. I enjoyed it, and it paired well with the red wine I selected.
My fish dish between Paris and Abu Dhabi was light and delicious. And the steak sandwich I ordered from the anytime menu prior to arriving in Sydney on the way home was great (but the mayonnaise was a little on the generous side for me).
But the best plate I enjoyed on this trip was dessert on the Sydney-Abu Dhabi leg. A chocolate lava cake that didn’t look particularly enticing (so much so I elected not to share my photo in this post) was just so good. Served hot with a crème anglais it was lovely and unctuous inside, very chocolatey and not too sweet. It was good.
Wines were a mixture of old and new World. Champagne in Business Class is Piper Heidsieck. A Douro Valley port was excellent. The only let down among the wines I chose was a South African chenin blanc which was just not to my taste – I should definitely have gone the chardonnay that time.
Etihad Business Class entertainment and amenities
The Etihad Business Class pyjamas are gone, but the amenities offered are still worthy. A generous sized pillow and luxurious duvet were greatly appreciated on all legs.
Amenity kits are not available on day time flights, so no kits on my European flights. Toothpaste and toothbrushes were available upon request on those flights and I had no trouble receiving one. Amenity kits on the Sydney-Abu Dhabi legs were in an attractive soft sided pouch that was a keeper. Along with standard toothbrush and toothpaste, ear plugs, eye shade and socks, good sized lip balm and moisturiser was included. In each pouch was a Luxe mini travel guide, which curiously featured Melbourne on my Sydney-Abu Dhabi flight and Rome on the Abu Dhabi-Sydney leg. In the loo, hand cream, facial mist and hand sanitizer were also available.
I read on the Etihad Airways website that First Class pyjamas and amenity kits (both Lacroix, Sweetie) were available for purchase in Business Class, but no one asked if I wanted to make a purchase, and I didn’t see anyone with them. I must admit I was relieved not to be plied with requests to buy at 38 000ft.
The Etihad entertainment system was wonderful. A large touchscreen opened to reveal a huge choice of movies. Most of the last Oscars contenders were there – friends I met up with in Europe had both travelled from Australia on Emirates, and were suitably impressed with the much larger choice on Etihad. For news junkies live streaming of various news channels seemed to be working most of the flight.
Etihad Business Class service
I’ve always enjoyed the Etihad Airways service. And this trip didn’t disappoint. It’s the little things I really enjoy. The assistance with menu choices. The joviality of my young male flight attendant between Paris and Abu Dhabi. Heading to the loo on a night time flight and returning to find my bed all made up for sleeping without me needing to ask. The smiling greeting whenever I rang for something. The constant enquiry of “can I bring you anything else” when clearing my plates or glass away.
Yes, the Etihad Business Class service is smiling, professional and personable.
Etihad a380 Business Class Review final thoughts
Yes, the Etihad Airways seating in Business Class is a little quirky, but the Etihad Airways Business Class a380 and 787 Dreamliner is a superior Business Class. Seating is comfortable, and when it’s time for bed, you’ve got a spacious and comfy bed. Food, service and entertainment are all top notch. As previously, I enjoyed my most recent experience on Etihad Airways.
frugal first class travel tip: how to afford Business Class flights
I get so many enquiries from readers about ways to afford Business Class flights. When they are discounting, the Etihad Business Class price is quite moderate, and excellent value for money for Business Class. But I’m the first to admit, it’s still not cheap compared to an Economy ticket. One of the things that I’ve done to pick up extra cash when I’m saving up to travel is to look around the house and sell unwanted goods. I’m a particular fan of Gumtree, where I’ve sold a number of things over the years. They sell everything you can imagine, from old kid’s toys all the way through to used cars. Look around your house and garage. What can you find that you no longer use that someone else might wish to buy?
Other ways to earn money for travel include selling goods, services or even your time. Do you have any special skills? Are you great cook who could take out a stall at a local market? A spreadsheet wiz who could pick up a little extra work through somewhere like Fiverr? Or do you have a spare room that’s crying out for an ad on Airbnb?
Of course, there are also other ways to save money. One of the best ways I find to save money for travel is to just not go shopping. I don’t open those tempting emails from my favorite online stores, and I definitely don’t go near my favorite shops. Just the supermarket……but even at the supermarket I find ways to save money. I keep to a list, so I’m not tempted by those enticing end of the aisle displays. When non-perishable items are on special I buy extra. And for basic items like flour, butter and sugar I stick to the supermarket brands and save a fortune. Instead of buying premade items (like lasagne or cakes) I buy the ingredients and make my own. Similarly, I pass on the pre-packed salads and buy the loose ingredients to prepare my own.
What other ideas do you have to save money for a special treat when you travel?
Author’s note: I paid for my own ticket on Etihad Airways this trip.