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Following a slightly underwhelming long-haul Business Class experience with Lufthansa, I was very much expecting a return to form in the renowned Business Class cabin of Etihad, on the enormous A380.
To say I wasn’t disappointed would be a huge understatement. This is as good as Business Class gets. Etihad have taken the potential of the A380 and squeezed every last drop out of it, providing a Business Class experience that exceeded my already high expectations and provided genuine luxury at 30,000 feet.
And of course, it wasn’t just in the air that I was pampered with Etihad’s premium service: from the top class airline lounges in London and Abu Dhabi through to the chauffeur from my hotel to Heathrow airport, the luxury experience is comprehensive.
How did I secure this Business Class flight?
There was nothing particularly clever or complicated to this Business Class purchase. I bought an Economy Class ticket and upgraded to Business Class using my Etihad Guest miles at the standard rate. However, my haul of miles had been heavily swollen by my transferring in i) American Express Membership Reward points at a 25% bonus rate and ii) Heathrow Rewards points at a 100% bonus rate.
While both offers are not currently live, keep an eye out for them as they are fairly regular occurrences.
I have always been a fan of the Etihad lounges. Offering both a-la-carte and buffet dining options, a variety of seating options (for dining and relaxing) and a free spa, you will find a range of amenities that few other lounges match.
The bathrooms and showers are also meticulously cleaned by a full-time attendant.
The main lounge at Abu Dhabi may get a touch crowded when a big flight (such as the A380) is about to leave, but it just about has the capacity to cope with it, and the constant replenishment of the food and drinks means you will absolutely not go short.
The Etihad Business Class product on the A380 is absolutely excellent: a genuine market leader.
You are secluded in your own entirely segregated space, with full aisle access – there’s absolutely no issues of over intimacy with, or the need to climb over, strangers.
Upholstered by Poltrona Frau, the Business Class seat is 22 inches wide and extremely comfortable, not least due to the inclusion of an in-seat massage function.
The more professional Etihad media centre photograph sums up the quality and space of the A380 Business Class seat (or “studio”, as Etihad call it) perfectly:
In case it needs to be said, the bed is fully flat, offering a length of up to 6 feet 8 inches:
(In case you’re in any way concerned, that’s also an Etihad media centre photo: I’m not in the habit of taking shots of random slumbering passengers.)
The amenity kit is a Scaramouche + Fandango “unisex comfort kit”, offering various cleansing and pampering options.
The in-flight entertainment system took a little getting used to, but with a touch screen and “iphone-style” control pad, it wasn’t long before I was enjoying a wide range of the latest films, music and TV shows:
If I am being ultra-critical, I’d point out that while the film selection was vast, the TV show options were fairly limited. That said, I may be one of the very few people who actually bothers with TV shows on aeroplanes, so I won’t dwell on this.
The food and drink
The on-board food lived up to the quality of the cabin. Not only was there a wide choice, the Etihad a-la-carte option is “Dine Anytime” meaning you choose when you want to eat rather than having mealtimes imposed on you.
When I was ready, I called the attendant cabin manager and began with a tomato soup:
This was followed by a tasty Arabic-style roasted chicken with couscous and a slightly bland salad:
Pudding was a rhubarb and custard pie:
Then out came the cheese board:
In addition to the meals available, a snack-bar runs for the duration of your flight, offering less formal sandwich and other snack options (crisps, pretzels etc).
To drink, there was Jacquart champagne, in addition to a range of “boutique” wines and various beers and spirits. I can’t provide too much critical feedback though. I’d had quite enough alcohol on my travels and, taking a leaf out of Saudia’s book, I stuck to the orange juice.
The obvious downside to flying with Etihad is the Abu Dhabi hub – you’re not going to get a flight direct from the UK to Asia, for example.
However, when you’ve got great lounges to retreat to, the breaking up of the journey like this is arguably something of a positive, letting you recuperate on the ground (in the shower, or the spa) before returning to your impressive in-flight experience. It also adds an excellent dining option to long-haul flights.
I have always recommended Etihad Business Class to anyone who will listen. Great value and a great product, it it hard to ask for any more from luxury travel. At InsideFlyer, we’re even a big fan of its loyalty scheme, Etihad Guest. Unfairly state funded at the expense of the US/European airlines? Perhaps, but that state funding is going directly into providing its passengers with top, top value.
Ultimately, there is a clear lesson to take away from this review. When you are looking at Business Class travel, and deals, you are of course not necessarily comparing like-for-like. Much like “five star” hotels, there is no global Business Class standard, and as a result you can get a hell of a lot more for your money if you look beyond simply the “Business Class” tag. The step up in class, for example, from my Lufthansa Business Class experience to my Etihad one was enormous. Do you pay for this added quality? No – the great irony, too, is that it tends to be the luxury Middle East operators, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar, that are also offering the mega-deals.
So, shop around and by all means consider your options with good old British Airways, Lufthansa etc. But, in my view, for real value you will be hard pushed to look much beyond Etihad, Qatar and Emirates.