The NEW Airbus A350 is here, and it’s one of the most innovative aircrafts in the world. It’s lighter, greener, smarter and quieter than any other generation Airbus aircraft, and expertly designed for comfort and space. Etihad Airways is the first UAE airline to operate an A350 so I joined the inaugural London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi flight to experience it first hand.
Disclaimer: My flight was supported by Etihad. As always, all words and opinions are my own. This article contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
How is the Etihad A350 different?
The Etihad A350 is one of the most sustainable airplanes in the world, formed as a partnership between Etihad, Airbus and Rolls Royce in 2021, the aircraft, named ‘Sustainability50’, carries a unique livery in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the federation of the UAE and Etihad’s commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
- LIGHTER: 1kg lighter per seat.
- QUIETER: 50% quieter than any other Airbus aircraft.
- GREENER: 25% less fuel burn and CO2 emissions.
- SMARTER: Bluetooth headset pairing eliminates the use of single-use plastics. Paperless newspapers and magazines (via the app) reduces paper usage.
Where will the A350 Etihad fly to?
The new Etihad A350-1000 is currently flying on short to mid haul routes from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai, Delhi, Jeddah, Cairo and Istanbul before entering long haul service to New York and Chicago from July. A total of 5 A350-1000 will join Etihad’s fleet this year.
What does a Etihad Business Class ticket include?
As well as the onboard service, you also get:
- Fast Track checkin and security
- Business class lounge access
- Checked baggage allowance of 30-50kg depending on destination and flight
- Priority luggage
- Complimentary chauffeur to/from your hotel in Abu Dhabi – this needs to be booked 12 hours in advance at least here.
Now that the introductions are out of the way, let’s get onto the review…
My Etihad Flight Details
Route: London Heathrow (LHR) to Abu Dhabi (AUH)
Time: 21:00 to 6:45 (+1)
Flight Duration: 6 hr 45 min
Highs: Food, seat, onboard service, checkin experience
Lows: Unpairing of bluetooth headset, wireless charger, laptop storage
Etihad Business Class Check-In at LHR
The checkin experience at LHR Terminal 3 was super smooth, I had planned to checkin online but ended up needing to do it at the airport, but with only one person in front of me at the desk it was very quick.
After checkin, I proceeded to the Fast Track security entrance. The normal entrance to security had at least 100 people lining up outside, so I was glad to be able to enter immediately through Fast Track.
Business Class Lounge
I visited the Qantas lounge in London Heathrow T3 and the Etihad Business Class lounge in Abu Dhabi International airport.
The lounge in Abu Dhabi was much larger than the one in Heathrow, and it had more amenities including a buffet, bar, shower, business centre, magazines and newspapers and even a family room for the kids.
I spent an hour in the lounge catching up on work, and only had some fruit as I was looking forward to the meal onboard the flight.
Etihad Airways Business Class Onboard Experience
Etihad Airways A350 Seats
There is no First Class on the A350 so the Etihad Business class cabin is much larger than usual and has 11 rows of “Business Studio” suites in a 1-2-1 configuration at the front, each with direct aisle access and there are no rear-facing seats (which is a positive change in my opinion).
Each suite has a sliding door for privacy (great for sleeping), and each seat is over 50cm wide, and converts into a fully-flat bed.
It is perfect for anyone up to 6ft 6in, but as I’m only 5ft 2in I was VERY comfortable.
I especially liked the blankets. They are quilted on one side and furry on the other and are soft enough for you to be tempted to take one home!
There is an illuminated screen that makes it incredibly quick to convert the seat into a flat bed in 20 seconds at the press of one button, so you don’t need to manually adjust it.
There are 3 preset choices which are possible with just one click, takeoff and landing position, a relaxed setting for watching the inflight entertainment and the flat bed. I changed between these 3 and thankfully never needed to use the manually adjustments.
Etihad has it’s own signature lighting design inspired by the shadows cast by Abu Dhabi’s palm trees, as you can see in the images below.
There is also ambient lighting throughout the aircraft, and dark mode available on the inflight entertainment, to help reduce light pollution, fatigue and jet-lag.
Each seat also has a reading light by your head, but there was enough light (even during a night flight) for me to not require this.
Etihad Airlines Inflight Entertainment
There is a large 18.5” HD TV screen with a great selection of new release movies, TV shows, games, and music.
However, the entertainment system was not available whilst on the ground, I had to wait until we were in the air, so I couldn’t browse and decide what to watch before takeoff. This isn’t that important but it is something I like.
The controller is found in one of the storage compartments and can be used to control the contents of the main screen or independently to show different content.
This is particularly helpful if you are wondering how long you have left or where you are on the map, but don’t want to pause what you’re watching. I also loved using the remote in general (I’m only 5ft 2in and reaching out to use the touch screen on the TV was not very comfortable).
As soon as I found the remote, I could sit back and enjoy.
Business class passengers receive noise-cancelling headphones, but in a bid to reduce plastic, the Etihad A350 allows you to connect your own wireless headphones via bluetooth.
I love this option as I use my Bose QC35 II everyday and hate having to bring a separate cable on flights! The only problem was that I had to keep pairing the device every time I fell asleep or stopped watching, so I did this maybe 5 times throughout the flight. A great improvement would be for it to remember your device for the duration of the flight.
Another aspect that I really loved the idea of, but didn’t work that well in practise is the built-in wireless charging dock.
Firstly it only works when you are up in the air, secondly it is VERY temperamental and I had to keep re-adjusting the position of the phone to get it to charge, in the end I gave up and used my charging cable instead. The charging port was super fast so this was a lot easier.
Newspapers and Magazines
Since COVID-19, Etihad has removed all newspapers and magazines onboard flights, but you now get access to PressReader, a premium digital newspaper and magazine app, 30 hours before your flight.
You can access content from over 7,000 newspapers and magazines, from 120 countries, in over 60 languages.
I love that this also reduces paper onboard, and adds to their sustainability goals.
A350 Etihad Business Class Flight Service
The service from the cabin crew was great, the flight attendants memorised my name and I didn’t once have to press the call button. However the cabin was only a quarter full, so it might not be the exact same experience on a full flight.
Etihad Air Business Class Storage
There are 4 sections for storage, as well as a coat hook, book holder and a headphone hook.
On the aisle side, there is an armrest thats raises and lowers. Inside it, there is a bottle of water, and space for taller items to be stored.
On the opposite side there are two compartments with pop up lids, one is fairly shallow and can hold a phone and other flat items like passport, wallet etc.
The other popup compartment is more generous and houses the inflight entertainment system controller, the headphone port and a universal power socket.
The last storage compartment is by your knees, and is big enough for a bottle of water, it’s also where 2 USB ports can be found (this is where I plugged in my phone cable when I couldn’t get the wireless charger to work).
Even though there are several places to store your belongings there is nowhere to store your laptop, so I found myself having to move it around often. This is not an issue on the Etihad Boeing 787.
Etihad Business Class Menu
Etihad Business class passengers can choose from a curated à la carte menu, and on longer flights can enjoy Etihad’s signature ‘dine anytime’ service.
I personally love looking at food menus before I visit any restaurant, so here is a peek at what we were offered on our flight.
I opted for the 5 course à la carte menu, so I didn’t have space to try the all day menu but I’d definitely want to sample the toasted crumpets next time!
Business Class Etihad Airlines Food and Drinks
Dinner at 10pm is a LOT later than I’m used to but I still opted for all 5 courses (and there were empty plates all around).
I started with a prawn appetiser, followed by the lobster salad, the goats cheese soufflé with fresh bread, a cheese board (never too much cheese!), and the sticky toffee pudding.
Needless to say, I slept well after all that!
Note: There were plenty of drinks options, but I pretty much stick to water these days so didn’t sample anything except an apple juice and a non-alcoholic Bellini, both were lovely.
Etihad Business Class Amenities Kit
Etihad provided a wellness pack which included a face mask, snood, several disinfectant alcohol wipes and a mini hand sanitiser.
There was also a complimentary Acqua di Parma Amenity Kit which contained a 40ml body lotion, 3ml lip balm, 5ml Eau de Cologne fragrance, toothbrush, toothpaste, ear plugs, socks, and an eye mask.
However, I recommend my all time favourite sleep mask, which I use on a daily basis and can’t imagine sleeping without it!
At home, I also couple it with the pillow spray, which is a handy travel size so can be taken onboard a flight too.
Etihad Business Class Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi is available onboard the Etihad’s A350-100 and costs $1.99 USD for chat only (20MB), $6.99 USD for one hour (100MB), $15.99 for six hours (200MB), and $29.99 for 24-hours (350MB).
These packages can be paid by credit card, PayPal or Etihad Guest miles, and there are discounts available for Etihad Guest Members:
- Bronze – 10% discount
- Silver- 25% discount
- Gold – 75% discount
- Platinum – complimentary
I used the 350MB package for a few hours to catch up on email and social media before going to sleep, so the 200MB package would have sufficed considering the length of my flight.
Etihad Airlines Business Class Chauffeur Service
If you are travelling to and from Abu Dhabi, your First or Business class ticket includes a chauffeur service to/from your hotel and the airport.
This must be booked at least 12 hours in advance.
When you exit Abu Dhabi International airport make sure you head to the Arrivals Lounge. My driver was ready when I arrived so it was a very smooth service.
Final Thoughts on A350 Business Class on Etihad Airways
The Etihad Airways A350-1000 business class is impressive. It combines an elegant and private pod with excellent food and drink. Plus I loved the sustainability aspects, and the thoughtful touches (such as dark mode and privacy door) that make it a better experience.
The complimentary chauffeur was particularly handy (especially when landing in a new city), but there a few technical aspects such as the wireless charging and the wireless headphone connection that could be improved.