Tried & Tested

Etihad Airways A380 business class

29 Apr 2015 by GrahamSmith
BACKGROUND Etihad unveiled its all-new cabin products for its A380 and B787 last year. These include the Residence and First Apartments on the A380, First Suites on the B787, and Business Studios (reviewed here) and Economy Smart seats on both. The airline placed its first A380 on one of its three daily London-Abu Dhabi flights in December, with a second planned this month and a third later this year. CHECK-IN I used Etihad’s free business class chauffeur pick-up service and arrived at T4 at 0630 for my 0915 departure on EY12. There was no queue at either check-in or fast-track security, and was in the Etihad lounge opposite Gate 10 within ten minutes. BOARDING We went to the gate at 0840. There was a separate airbridge to the all-premium upper deck. I was welcomed warmly. THE SEAT The Business Studios are in a dove-tailed 1-2-1 layout, with seats labelled A-C, D-E-F-G, H-K (A, E, F and K face forwards and the rest backwards). The semi-private cubicles all have direct aisle access and are 22 inches wide and 75.7-80.5 inches in length when fully-flat. I was in 11D, and was struck by the generous space – my neighbour was about five feet away and while there was no screen between us, we each had a large table surface and an armrest more than 15 inches wide to separate us. A sliding panel offered some privacy from the aisle. A second fold-down table made it easy to work and eat at the same time. There was a large shelf under the ottoman in front and further open space to the side. The 18-inch touchscreen was sharp, and there were two USB ports and a universal plug socket. The bed was comfortable with ample room to stretch out (I’m 5ft 10in), although the curved footwell narrows towards the end. An amenity kit is provided, with slippers, sleep suits, comforters and turndown service added on “ultra long-haul” routes. WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Window seats A and K feel slightly more private. Central seats E and F are good for couples as they are close together, with a dividing screen if you’re on your own. C and H have a window, but, like D and G, are nearer the aisle. Seats 8A and K are nearest the lobby lounge between first and business class. Rows 18 and 19 are closest to the washrooms, and row 26 to the galley. Still, as the upper deck has only 70 business studios, nine first apartments and the Residence, it doesn’t seem to get hectic, even on an almost full flight such as this. THE FLIGHT We took off at 0940. I was told I could pre-order my meal and choose when to eat later. Before that I had a breakfast snack. Around 1300, I asked for my lunch to be served. It took about 30 minutes. I had yellow pepper and lemongrass soup (tasty) and pan-seared lamb loin – nicely cooked and tender. Service was excellent – friendly and helpful – but with 70 seats in business, it’s not as instantaneous as in smaller cabins. Wifi is currently free in first and business (although this promotion is not planned to be permanent) and US$21 in economy. Logging on was a bit of a procedure, but crew were on hand to help. I found it worked well for a while but seemed to stop operating during the second half of the flight. The lobby lounge has circular sofas around a coffee table, seating about six. Staff serve drinks but it didn’t get busy, and it’s a good spot to sit and chat. ARRIVAL We disembarked via an upper-deck airbridge and used the fast-track immigration lane. VERDICT An impressive product and service, with a clever layout to create a feeling of space. Etihad says it offers 20 per cent more personal space than the earlier version of business class. All-aisle access puts it in the top league. The all-premium upper deck feels tranquil, even when nearly full. Good food and drink, ease of working, comfy beds and excellent service make it an enjoyable, user-friendly experience. FACT FILE
  • DEPARTURE 0915
  • JOURNEY TIME 6 hours 55 minutes
  • AIRCRAFT TYPE A380
  • CONFIGURATION 1-2-1
  • SEAT WIDTH 22 inches
  • SEAT LENGTH 75.7-80.5-inches
  • SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return A380 business class London-Abu Dhabi flight in June ranged between £2,062 and £4,367 depending on flexibility.
  • CONTACT etihad.com
Paul Revel
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