From a cabin crew discussing orgies to a less-than-perfect check-in experience, my Etihad business class review got off to a turbulent start.
Of all the new (and new to me) business class products I had booked on my first international trip in over two years, I was most excited to fly Etihad business class. Not only was it my first time flying with Etihad, I was also on their brand-new A350-1000. On top of being one of the highest-rated business-class products in the sky, this brand-new plane features semi-private pods with sliding doors which I was eager to check out.
Here is my full Etihad A350-1000 business class review between Istanbul and Abu Dhabi.
Etihad Business Class Check-In at IST Airport
I had a pretty interesting check-in experience for this Etihad business class trip. I have a full post coming about the experience but the short of it is, after deboarding from a Turkish Airlines flight from Antalya I was directed out of the airside part of the terminal to check in again with Etihad directly. This seemed…odd. I was travelling on a flight that Turkish Air codeshares with and would think there is no need to exit the airport. Still, it was early a.m. and I had plenty of time before my Etihad flight. I thought I could just flagpole back in. Not so.
The Etihad counter wasn’t set to open until four hours prior to takeoff which left me with over an hour and a half to kill. This actually turned into three hours prior as counter staff were slow-moving, to say the least. The crew seemed very inexperienced and disorganized. Oddly, they started checking in economy passengers leaving the few business class passengers scratching their heads. I flagged an attendant and she opened the velvet rope to the check-in line for business class passengers however we just stood there again for another 10 minutes.
I am assuming the check-in staff was contracted so hard to fault Etihad on this. Still, it set a bit of a tone.
Etihad Business Class Lounge Access at IST Airport
I was really only annoyed with the slow check-in process as I intended to shower at the lounge before my Etihad flight. My flight out of Antalya was early that morning so I didn’t bother showering thinking I would be at the lounge in a couple of hours. It was also cold that morning so I was wearing a sweater which I was now sweating through due to all of the unexpected running around at the IST airport. I felt gross and now needed to shower rather than wanted one.
Etihad business class passengers have access to the IGA Loung at IST airport. It’s contracted and open to a variety of passengers including those that pay. As such, the lounge is very crowded. I had to wait for a shower stall but the attendant was kind enough to come to get me in the lounge area when a stall was available. I left him my remaining Lira as gratitude which he was happily surprised by.
Showered, I felt much better and took in the rest of the lounge before making my way to the gate. Overall, the lounge has plenty of space to handle the busy crowds. The kitchen area is congested though. There are two cook stations and a dedicated bar but a far cry from the industry-leading Turkish Airlines lounge. Still, I was happy to have a quick bite and, more importantly, a shower before continuing on.
Etihad Business Class Boarding
Once onboard, I was greeted by 5 to 7 attendants as I made my way to my seat and while I settled in. This was nice but a bit much. One seated I was greeted again by two attendants who were confused about who was taking my orders. One offered champagne and then another came by with orange juice. When I said “thanks, but I have champagne on the way,” she said it was not possible…except the other flight attendant was now behind her with a glass of bubbly. It’s possible there was confusion over serving during Ramandan but the menu had alcohol so I’m not sure what that was about.
There was also confusion about if I got a menu. Two attendants were discussing this by my seat. When I showed them that I did have one the closer attendant said “great, what will you have?” I let her know that I just received the menu and I have not looked through it yet. She said, “no problem, we can go through it together.” This was nice but I weirdly felt rushed. I did ask for the flight attendant’s suggestions and took it on the main and dessert which was nice. After she left, I took a closer look at the menu and was happy with the choices of a smoked salmon appetizer, chicken main, and a vanilla pumpkin dessert.
Why The Rush?
The last bit of weirdness with the boarding service is there was no rush. I fully appreciate that flight crew have to heard cats sometimes to get people seated but the business class cabin was not even a quarter full. I counted seven passengers out of the 44 available seats. Once all orders were taken and pre-flight drinks distributed, the overstaffed crew congregated in the forward cabin and socialized loudly for the next 15 to 20 minutes. At one point I could head one telling a story about being invited to an orgy in Chicago. I mean, good on you and I’m glad to hear the Pan Am glory days of the Golden Age of Travel are still raging on but I was eight rows back! All of this while the pre-flight audio rolled and noted that Etihad has “the world’s leading cabin crew.”
To the crew’s credit, they did circulate again after 15 to 20 minutes and topped off my champagne. One attendant saw that I was taking pictures and offered to take one of me. When I declined she asked if I wanted to get a rundown on the seat which I gladly accepted.
What Are The Etihad A350-1000 Business Class Seats Like?
A big part of my excitement to fly this brand-new Etihad A350–1000 was because of its seats. They have a small sliding door which makes them a semi-private cabin similar to what you would find with some first-class products.
The seats are very elegant with gold trim and white faux marble countertops. On the left side of the seat is a classy gold light fixture and a storage pocket for literature.
Storage and Controls
There are two storage compartments under the counter, one shallow one that is for keeping small things like your cell phone from sliding off the table. The second is deeper and contains the entertainment system controls as well as a power plug.
Interestingly, the shallow container is not big enough for a tablet. It’s also not possible to charge your device while stored with the lid closed.
That said, there is no USB charging in the deeper compartment which is surprising. This is likely because there is a wireless charging pad built into the tabletop, which is cool to see. That said, it’s only available during flight and is a bit finicky. I had to ask a flight attendant if it was working and she went to the forward cabin where I assume she turned it on. I had to adjust it a few times for it to work but when it did it was very fast.
Below the counter is a touchscreen control for the seat. The Etihad A350–1000 seats lay completely flat and the front footwell it’s very spacious making rest not a problem. I was travelling during the day so didn’t put this to the full test but did recline while watching a movie. It was plenty comfy.
On the right side of the seat, you will find a nifty armrest that can raise and lower. Inside is a drink compartment that stores a bottle of water. Oddly, there is no safe place to store a laptop anywhere in the pod.
Lastly, the table tray has three positions which is nice for eating and working. The attendant set the tray to the second position when serving my meal. This felt too far away however I needed to use the restroom before dining and there was more than enough space to get in and out without adjusting the tray.
What is the Etihad Business Class Entertainment System Like?
The in-flight entertainment system on the Ethiad A350–1000 is on par with other business-class products out there. There is a great selection of new release movies, TV shows, games, and music. The screen is large and passengers receive noise-cancelling headphones however I would not put their quality up there with Turkish Airs Denon headphones.
Another interesting note, the system is off until in the air. I guess it’s called in-flight entertainment for a reason but this is typically available on most airlines while on the ground. Personally, I like to browse and queue up movies and TV shows before takeoff.
The controller is interestingly dual purpose. While watching a movie I was able to pull up the moving map on the controller which I thought was pretty great. I literally looked over and wondered what mountain range we were flying over. I looked at the controller to confirm I was over Iran…while drinking port…while watching Ghostbusters…at 40,000 feet. I feel sorry for anyone that doesn’t appreciate moments like this.
Etihad Business Class Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi is available onboard the Etihad’s A350-100 and costs $6.99 USD for one hour, $15.99 for six hours, and $29.99 for 24-hours. I did not try the service out but interestingly, Turkish Air included 1Gb of Wi-Fi access on my 787–9 business class flight between Panama City and Istanbul. I would’ve assumed this would be a standard with Middle East carriers but I guess not.
Etihad Air Business Class Service and Amenities
After the odd boarding experience, service was pretty steady for the remainder of the flight. Attendants came by to top up wine and offered me port after my meal. Overall, they were very friendly…just not friendly enough to invite me to an orgy 😉
I did try ordering a coffee through the entertainment system which I thought was pretty cool. This just brought up an attended asking what I wanted instead of bringing me the order I placed which is too bad.
Etihad Air Business Class Amenities Kit
There was no amenities kit on this flight, likely because it was less than four hours and during the day. I was actually looking forward to a kit as I was in need of some lotion. The hotel I was staying at in Antalya oddly had products that dried out my skin. Worst case, I thought the bathroom would have some hand lotion but no. This was surprising as again, this is something that I have seen on pretty much every business class flight to this point.
What is Etihad Air Business Class Food and Drinks Like?
Perhaps where Etihad makes up for spotty service is with its food and drink offering. My appetizer of smoked salmon with horseradish creme fraiche was really good but not great. The presentation and cutlery that it came with were quite impressive though.
The main of paprika chicken included by far the juiciest and well-cooked chicken I have had in the sky. The polenta that it came with was also fantastic. This all paired beautifully with the nicest New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc I have had since being in New Zealand.
Desert was a vanilla and pumpkin mousse and was, again, good, not great. Beautifully plated thought!
I followed this all up with some excellent port and a macchiato that I tried ordering through the entertainment system.
Final Thoughts on Etihad Air A350-1000 Business Class
The Etihad Air A350-1000 business class product is very impressive. It combines an elegant and semi-private pod with excellent food and drink. That said, there are some small oddities with the seat layout and the lack of minor elements such as hand lotion in the washroom was surprising. Again, minor but still there when compared to other business-class products.
For me, if I hadn’t just flown Turkish Airline’s 787–9 I probably would have been blown away by the Ethiad A350–1000 business class service. That and the odd check-in and boarding made for a less than perfect experience for me. Pair that with not being able to access the IST lounge in Istanbul and I would suggest flying Turkish Airlines if on the same or similar route. That said, if you are looking to fly Etihad’s A350-1000, this is a great route to try it out. Turkish Air only flies their A320 narrow-body to Abu Dhabi so you would sacrifice space for lounge access really.READ MORE: Singapore Air A350-900 Business Class Review