Peter Baumgartner, chief commercial officer, has confirmed that Etihad Airways’ new business class product will be introduced on an A340 aircraft in January. The new Pearl Business class was first unveiled alongside the new Diamond First class seats in May 2009 (see online news May 10).
It will replace the existing Pearl Business class, which has proved popular with flyers both because it is fully flat, and offers all passengers unimpeded access to the aisle. Etihad was the first of the Gulf carriers to offer fully-flat beds in business class. (For reviews of Pearl Business class, click here.)
Baumgartner says: “The new seat is an evolution of the existing seat. It will have the same footprint on the aircraft, with each seat having direct access to the aisle, but we are using the opportunity to make improvements. There will be a larger table at each seat, which will allow us to move away from a one-tray service to more of a restaurant dining approach that we have in Diamond First.
“We will also move the television screen closer to make it easier to watch, and this will create a storage space behind for the person in front around their shoulder level. We are also going to make the armrest wider, and give it more length on both sides, and maximise the space on the aircraft. We will also raise the IFE control to make more room. Lastly, the Poltrona leather that we are fitting in the new Diamond First suites will be used on the armrest and the head covers.”
The improvements are in line with the changing colour scheme in first class, and will also be used for a revamped economy section.
“The headrest covers in economy will also be Poltrona leather, and we’ll change the seating colours, and also give individual cushions to each seat with different patterns on them, which works thematically, but also gives individuality.
“It’s about giving choice, and individuality, and we will extend this to the service so if we serve a glass of water, we’ll give flyers the choice of ice, lemon or lime, which are details to show they haven’t been forgotten, and are important to us. It’s democratising luxury. We will also bring art into the cabin, which [reflects] the new Abu Dhabi, with large prints at the front and back of the aircraft.”
Etihad has not yet released photos of the new business class product, but it is expected to be introduced in January on a newly delivered A340-600, and then retrofitted across the fleet over a two-year period.
Business Traveller has now learned that the new business class will be fitted on Etihad’s new A330-300 first, starting in January. Etihad is receiving five new A330 aircraft from January 2010, and the new business and first class will be fitted on these aircraft and retrofitted on a selection (but not all) of its existing wide body A340 and A330 fleet.