Etihad’s first A380 entered service on its Abu Dhabi-London route at the end of 2014. It now operates the superjumbo up to 12 times a week on the thrice-daily service.

The carrier also flies the aircraft to Sydney and New York JFK; next up are Mumbai in May and Melbourne in June.


I arrived at Heathrow T4 at 1130 for my 1405 departure on EY20.

At Zone C there were five economy and two bag-drop desks – I was seen to immediately. There was a brief queue at security.


This was just starting when I arrived at Gate 11 at 1335, and was well-organised. Economy passengers boarded in stages – as my seat (46K) was towards the front of the aircraft, I was in the last group to be called.


Etihad’s three-class A380 has 498 seats, of which 417 are Economy Smart seats.

These take up the entire main deck, split across four cabins, which means none of the sections feels too monolithic. All are configured 3-4-3 (A-B-C, D-E-F-G, H-J-K).

While the A380’s wider girth means it is more capable of accommodating a ten-across layout, the aisles do feel fairly tight.

Still, the higher ceiling, large windows and mood lighting create an open, airy ambience, and this was certainly one of the most luxurious-feeling economy cabins I’ve experienced.

The fabric-upholstered seat is the widest economy product in Etihad’s long-haul fleet, at 19 inches, and the pitch is decent, at 32 inches.

It’s a well thought-out design. The wing-shaped adjustable leather headrest supports your head when you are resting.

The seatback contains an 11.1-inch tilting IFE touchscreen and a second screen on the remote control, plus a USB port, universal plug socket and coat hook. The magazine rack has two additional pockets for small items. The tray table folds in half to create more room.

The seat reclines six inches but is comfortable enough that I didn’t feel I had to utilise it. The aircraft offers mobile phone connectivity (roaming rates apply) and wifi (from US$5 for 30 minutes in economy; US$22 for the full flight). A fleece blanket and pillow were provided.


Being the smallest of the cabins, the front section feels the most intimate and you can also disembark quickly.

In-flight, the curtain at the rear is closed, which also creates a more private feel. As there are no washrooms at the front of the cabin, there is little footfall, although there can be a wait for the toilets behind.

Seats 40A-B-C and H-J-K have the most legroom, as do 43D-E-F-G behind the stairs, although there are bassinets on the bulkhead here.

The front rows of the other cabins (49, 64 and 75) also offer greater legroom, while back rows (48, 63, 74 and 83) may provide less recline.

I would recommend a window seat to have a little more room to the side, to avoid being brushed against in the aisle, and to enjoy the views. Avoid middle seats B, E-F and J.


We pushed back slightly behind schedule at 1415 and took off 25 minutes later.

Noise-cancelling headphones and menus were handed out, with drinks offered at 1505, and the meal served on a tray with metal cutlery.

There was a warmed roll, a tasty chickpea and fava bean salad appetiser, a choice of chicken in mushroom sauce, chickpea-fish kofta (nothing special), or cheese tortellini for the main, a Lily O’Brien cheesecake, and Jacob’s crackers with Dairylea.

Drinks included wine, beer, spirits and Dilmah teas. Water was offered frequently by the warm and attentive crew, and a snack was served later on.

The E-Box IFE system had a reasonable selection of films, a good range of music and Live TV with a ticker tape showing news headlines.


We reached the gate ten minutes late at 0130 local time, disembarking quickly – I was connecting to another flight and time was tight so I made a dash for it, but security was quick, and I made it without a problem.


Very impressive. The seat was comfortable and well considered, the aircraft top-class and the service excellent.


  • JOURNEY TIME 7hrs 15mins
  • SEAT WIDTH 19in/48.3cm
  • SEAT PITCH 32in/81.3cm
  • SEAT RECLINE 6in/15.2cm
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return economy class flight from London to Abu Dhabi in February ranged between £415 and £908 depending on flexibility.
Michelle Harbi