Recently, Etihad Airways introduced the new Airbus A350-1000 aircraft into its fleet. As part of the introduction, the airline debuted an all-new business class suite, replacing their previous flagship product.
Although the new aircraft doesn’t feature the renowned Residences and First Class Apartments of yore, Etihad Airways has installed a gorgeous new business class suite on the Airbus A350. On my way out to the Middle East to take part in the 2022 FIFA World Cup festivities, I found myself in a position to give Etihad Airways’s newest product a try.
Etihad Airways A350 Business Class – Booking
I booked this one-way business class flight from Chicago to Abu Dhabi using 85,000 Aeroplan points, prior to the September 1 devaluation. The same flight booked now would cost 90,000 points, which isn’t a significantly greater amount, but is more than it used to be nonetheless.
As an Aeroplan Express Aeroplan Reserve cardholder, I was able to take advantage of the American Express 25% points back promotion at the time, which effectively brought down the cost to only 63,750 Aeroplan points total.
Etihad Airways A350 Business Class – Ground Experience
The ground experience in Chicago is rather mediocre, as Etihad Airways uses the contracted Swissport Lounge alongside many other airlines.
The Swissport Lounge is a small, somewhat unremarkable space with only a handful of seats. There isn’t a very wide selection of food or drinks, and the lounge lacks windows to let in natural light or offer views of the apron.
Instead, it’s a very modest space to pass time in before a flight, and I wouldn’t say it’s really worth arriving any farther in advance than you need to if you’re flying with Etihad Airways out of Chicago.
Etihad Airways A350 Business Class – Cabin
Upon stepping into the business class cabin, I was immediately captivated by the sheer amount of open space in the cabin. When designing the product, Etihad Airways opted not to install overhead bins over the centre seats, and according to the airline, the ceilings are the highest in the industry.
The cabin is pristine and gorgeous, with cream hues alongside licorice and golden accents, which are very much in keeping with Etihad Airways’s style. At the front of the cabin is a striking metallic gold Etihad Airways logo, while another logo is emblazoned on a black background at the rear of the cabin.
There are 44 business class suites onboard the A350-1000, arranged in a 1-2-1 standard reverse herringbone seating configuration, each with direct aisle access. Note that the row numbering begins with 5 instead of 1.
These suites feature a 43-inch-tall sliding door for extra privacy. While the door isn’t as tall as you might find on Emirates First Class, Etihad Airways First Class, or ANA First Class, it adds a welcome layer of separation between you, the aisle, and other passengers.
For a solo traveller, the window seats are likely the most preferable due to the additional privacy and the window views. On the other hand, couples travelling together might appreciate the middle seats, where they can converse and enjoy each other’s company easily.
Intriguingly, when I first boarded the aircraft, the cabin manager asked me not to photograph or film the business class cabin. He subsequently stopped by to chat lightheartedly about the situation and pointed out that filming at my seat was fine, and wound up suggesting that we take a selfie later on.
Etihad Airways A350 Business Class – Seat
After spending a few moments to bask in my new surroundings, I eventually made my way to Seat 5A at the very front of the cabin.
The seat was equally as opulent as the cabin, adorned with faux marble consoles, brown leather armrests, and an Etihad Airways mosaic throw pillow on the seat. In the corner of the seat is a distinct Etihad Airways lamp, which mimics light passing through a palm tree.
Immediately in front of me was the 18.5-inch, highly responsive entertainment screen, which can either be controlled by touch or by the in-flight entertainment remote.
Below the entertainment screen is a sturdy wood-veneered tray table. Underneath is a latch that allows the tray table to slide towards you, and then it can be folded out again to reach its full size.
To the left is the seat console, which has a modest amount of surface space and a series of storage compartments. The centre of the console opens up to reveal a deep storage space with a power outlet and the in-flight entertainment remote, which can be withdrawn from its place.
Down by your feet, there are charging ports that are compatible with both USB-A and USB-C cables.
At the back of the console is a shallower storage compartment, and notably, the far end of the console has a wireless charging station. Below this, on the vertical surface, is a further storage compartment.
Nestled at your shoulder is the literature pocket, where I found the menu, as well as a reading light.
The seat controls are just below the console, well within reach of your fingertips. There are three pre-set analog functions, or you can customize the seat recline, seat angle, and overhead light via the touch-screen.
Moving to the right side of the seat, the flap of the armrest reveals enough storage for a small personal item or water bottle.
The sliding door is locked for takeoff and landing, but when released, it closes for added privacy, although it only reaches up to near your shoulders.
It’s worth noting that just like any other seat with a reverse herringbone design, the footwell can feel a little cramped. However, the seat isn’t particularly uncomfortable or claustrophobic by any means.
Etihad Airways A350 Business Class – Amenities
The crew members came by shortly after we boarded to introduce themselves and welcome passengers onboard. The crew members were a highly international group, and I appreciated how friendly and personable they were.
I was offered some nuts to munch on and a welcome glass of Duval-Leroy Champagne. This was different from the Piper Heidsieck served on my previous Etihad Airways business class flights.
While sipping on my crisp glass of Champagne, I took the opportunity to browse through the Acqua di Parma amenity kit.
Although the kit felt and looked luxurious, the amenities inside were rather modest. There was the usual eye mask, socks, toothbrush, and lotion, and then a cologne spritzer was one of the more elaborate amenities.
As takeoff approached, a crew member stopped by to take my meal orders for the flight. There were to be three courses, and I selected the lamb makhdous for the main event.
Etihad Airways A350 Business Class – Meal Service
Soon after reaching cruising altitude, the flight attendants began the main meal service for the flight. At this point, I opted to swap my bubbles for a glass of red to enjoy alongside my meal.
As an appetizer, I had tuna tataki on a bed of lettuce with some sprouts sprinkled on top, accompanied by fresh rolls with butter.
This starter was delicious and perfectly textured. With just a bite, I got a strong burst of flavour from the citrus-based sauce.
The main course of lamb makhdous served over rice came shortly thereafter. In terms of both quantity and quality, the dish was well-executed, with lamb that was tender, savoury, and teeming with tangy flavours and a good hit of spices.
I also asked if I could order a second main course, to continue with my tradition of overindulging on flights. Unfortunately, the cajun shrimp dish was far less compelling than the lamb, and I don’t think I’ll find myself ordering it again.
Concluding the meal service was a mango passionfruit cheesecake, garnished with fruit and drizzled with mango sauce. Without a doubt, this sweet and soft dessert was the most memorable part of the meal.
Overall, the majority of the meal service, including the tuna tataki appetizer, the lamb makhdous main course, and the cheesecake dessert, was fitting of the standard that Etihad Airways has set for itself. On the other hand, I recall that the meal service on my previous flights with Etihad Airways to have been better as a whole.
Etihad Airways A350 Business Class – Bed
After the meal service, I was looking forward to some rest, so I visited the Airbus A350-1000’s restroom to freshen up before bed.
The restroom was rather tight, but has sleek jet-black finishes. A table folds out over the toilet, should you need to rest your belongings on it while you freshen up.
Returning back to my suite, I was pleased to find that the lie-flat bed had been prepared with a duvet. When in lie-flat mode, the seat becomes a comfortable 79-inch bed.
I awoke after nearly five hours of restful sleep, with only two hours remaining until our arrival in Abu Dhabi.
Etihad Airways A350 Business Class – Entertainment
E-Box is Etihad Airways’s in-flight entertainment system. You can find a selection of blockbuster films, live programs, TV shows, music, games, and a selection of around 50 premium magazines in digital format.
Etihad Airways’s E-Box software features Bluetooth connectivity for pairing with your own devices. However, if watching movies on a plane isn’t your thing, you can always place a drink order through the screen.
Unfortunately, you won’t find a live tail-mounted camera on the Etihad Airways A350-1000 business class, but you can easily follow along with your flight using the real-time airshow.
Etihad Airways A350 Business Class – Wi-Fi
As I had some work to do, I decided to connect to the in-flight Wi-Fi for the remainder of the flight through my Boingo account. One of the many perks on the HSBC World Elite Mastercard is complimentary Wi-Fi access on flights that feature Boingo.
Business class passengers are given a mere 350 MB of free Wi-Fi, and the cost of purchasing Wi-Fi for the remainder of the flight is up to $29.99 (USD).
Without complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi, the four Wi-Fi packages, including a text-only package, are priced as follows:
- Just chat: $1.99 (USD)
- One hour: $6.99 (USD)
- Six hours: $15.99 (USD)
- 24 hours: $29.99 (USD)
I found the connection speed to be quite fast, and I didn’t have any issues completing my work during the flight.
Etihad Airways A350 Business Class – Snack Service
As the flight continued at cruising altitude, I was feeling a bit peckish and began to browse the All Day Dining menu. In addition to the dinner menu, you can order from this menu at any time during the flight, as well as for the pre-arrival meal.
To begin, I had some breakfast cereal, and then I followed up with a steak sandwich. I rarely eat cereal for breakfast, but having it on an airplane is always a nostalgic treat that brings me back to my childhood.
A cereal bowl was presented, and then milk was poured separately by the flight attendant. I enjoyed it while looking out the window at the gorgeous sunrise and sipping on a piping hot mug of coffee.
The steak sandwich was served alongside a fresh croissant and a side of potato chips. The steak sandwich was delicious; it’s a dish I’ve had in the past, and it was just as good this time around as I remember it from previous experiences.
In general, Etihad Airways’s in-flight meals continue to be very strong. I recall the meal service to be more memorable in previous years, but they still maintain a very high standard compared to many other airlines.
It wasn’t long until we began our descent into Abu Dhabi, and I finished the flight with a full belly and a content mind.
After my inaugural flight on Etihad Airways’s newest business class product, I left feeling both satisfied and impressed with the overall experience.
The cabin is immaculate and striking, while the high-tech seat is complemented with ample storage space and superior comfort. In my opinion, it is a meaningful improvement over the business class cabin found in Etihad Airways’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Even though the in-flight meals on the new business class product aren’t quite on par with what I’ve enjoyed in previous years, they nevertheless continue to be of a fairly, but not exceptionally, high standard.
Moreover, the service onboard did not go unnoticed, and I appreciated the warm but polished professional interactions.
Etihad Airways’s new Airbus A350-1000 business class product is certainly a compelling way to travel to the Middle East, and I wouldn’t hesitate to fly this product again on a future long-haul flight.