Over the past decade or so, the Gulf carriers have been consistently giving airlines such as Singapore Airlines a run for their money, with their superior service, competitive pricing and premium offerings. One of the Middle Eastern forerunners is Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.
Abu Dhabi is gaining traction as an up-and-coming tourist destination, sometimes regarded as the more quiet and refined city as compared to the ostentatious and loud Dubai. It is also becoming more attractive as a stopover and what better way to do so than in the plush comfort of Etihad Airways Business Class.
My journey with Etihad Airways begins at Singapore Changi Airport, with a flight time of about 7.5 hours. The aircraft servicing the Singapore-Abu Dhabi route is the Boeing 777-300ER.
The Business Class is segregated into two cabins, separated by a gallery with two restrooms between. There are a total of 40 Business Class seats, with front cabin having 12 seats and 28 seats in the aft cabin.
Etihad Business Class seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 layout. This is something I appreciate because I have encountered cramped 2-2-2 business class configurations in other carriers. The Etihad Airways seating is a little odd though – for the window seats, alternate rows face outwards closer to the aisle, which means passengers in the inward-facing seats get more privacy.
In terms of design, the Etihad B777 Business Class is not retrofitted with its innovative Business Studios product, which is found in the airline’s new B787 and A380 aircraft. In spite of that, I do find the seat dimension to be spacious enough for me, though I must add I am a short 1.6 metres tall.
Each seat comes with a fixed 15-inch entertainment screen and a tray table that can be pulled out and kept relatively easy. A brown leather ottoman serving as the foot rest sits just below the entertainment screen with some storage space good enough for a small bag. I initially had some problems finding the USB port and international power port; both are located near the floor – not the most ergonomic design as it is a tad hard to reach for them when I want to charge my devices.
One highlight of the seat is that it comes with massage functions, available at a touch of a button. The seat can be fully reclined into a flat bed of 183cm, including the foot rest. Etihad also provides a good-sized pillow, plush duvet blanket and noise-cancelling headphones.
I need to make special mention of the Acqua di Parma amenity kit, which is cleverly designed to double as a valet tray. This is probably the niftiest airline amenity kit I have come across. Each kit comes with a 1.5ml eau de cologne from the Italian fragrance brand, a 10ml hand cream, eye mask, socks and toothbrush/toothpaste set. These days when I take a Business Class flight, I would most certainly expect an amenity kit at the very least. I feel it reflects negatively on an airline that does not provide one for its Business Class passengers.
And should I add that Acqua di Parma toiletries are used in the Business Class restrooms? Sweet.
On the Menu
For the Singapore-Abu Dhabi route, there is only one meal provided on the flight. The menu actually offers Singaporean cuisine for those who still want a taste of home. I spot Char Kway Teow and Prawn Biryani on the menu, but decide on the Beef Fillet at the recommendation of the crew.
I also have a choice of the starter. I opt for the Smoked Salmon with Beetroot Spaghetti over the Arabic mezze and the Green Pea Soup. Dessert is Chocolate Fondant, served warm with vanilla sauce. And if you get hungry even after eating the main meal, you can request for additional bites such as steak sandwich, chicken satay and fresh fruits to add to the dining experience. Overall, the food is decent in portion and presented in a well manner – as one would expect from Etihad Airways.
For a night flight, I typically do not care much for the entertainment options as I would sleep for most part of the flight. But for those who care, Etihad offers over 750 hours of on-demand entertainment. There is a wide variety of movies, TV shows, music and games to choose from. The entertainment system can be controlled using the handset or by touching the LCD screen.
For those who need to get online, wifi is available for a usage-based fee, with US$4.95 for 30MB, US$11.95 for 90MB, and US$19.95 for 180MB.
I sleep like a log after my meal, despite the incessant cries of a baby in my cabin. My only gripe is the odd seating, with my seat facing outwards. That’s something which I hope Etihad Airways would change in its future aircraft. However, overall Etihad Airways Business Class is still a fine product. Rest assured you will be comfortable in terms of all the basic in-flight needs from sleep to meals to service.