Tried & Tested

Etihad B777-300ER Pearl business class

5 May 2014 by Tom Otley

First impressions:

I arrived at London Heathrow’s Terminal 4 at 1245 for my 1455 departure on Etihad’s EY20 departure to Abu Dhabi, a flight of some 6 hours and 30 minutes.

Check-in was swift at Zone C, with dedicated desks for both business and first class passengers (there was no one at the first desk so I checked in there). I dropped off one bag and then used the fast track line for security where there was no queue, and so I was airside by 1300.

I had previously flown a number of different legs (London to Abu Dhabi and then onwards to Singapore) with Etihad in economy six months previously. To read those economy reviews, click here and here)

Etihad T4 London Heathrow LoungeThe lounge:

Etihad has a large business and first class lounge at the airport, with the entrance being shared with the SkyTeam Lounge. You can walk down the stairs to the lounge or take the lift to the first floor from the second floor.  The lounge is large with lots of different areas for work, relaxing or eating. This lunch time there was a good selection of both hot and cold food, but first I made straight for the Six Senses Spa in one corner and booked a massage, securing a time at 1320.

I then went through a decided to have a Diet Pepsi from the fridge. The first can was warm, and as I tried to find a cold one behind this first can, I knocked it out and when it hit the hard floor it exploded, showering me and also reaching the ceiling and a few people sitting down in the cream leather arm chairs nearby. Immediately there were two people mopping up the mess while I apologised. The lady explained that the drinks in the fridge were deliberately warm, and if I wanted a cold drink I should order it from the bar. I didn’t understand that (I still don’t), but I was not in a strong position for querying whether this made any sense, however, since the poor lady was cleaning up after me, so I slunk off to the Six Senses Spa for a soothing head and shoulders massage.

I then sat down and used the waitress service for all subsequent drinks, using the free wifi in the lounge (nice and quick) while waiting for the flight to board. The flight was about 20 minutes late because of the incoming aircraft being delayed.


The flight was boarding at Gate 9 and by the time we got there most passengers were already on board. There was a dedicated line for premium passengers, and no delay in getting on, via an air bridge.

I was greeted and shown to my seat. Waiting at the seat were headphones, a blanket in its own plastic and then net bag (freshly laundered according to the tag on it) and an amenity bag with a woven pattern on it (based on a traditional Emirati “Sadou” design created by the artisans at Sougha, a social enterprise owned by the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development). This contained Korres products (Shea butter lip balm and mint tea hand and body lotion) as well as ear plugs, eye mask, flight slippers, show horn, tooth brush and toothpaste.

Etihad business class

The flight attendant introduced himself and said he could take my food order from the menu, though I was free to eat at any time, and then I was offered a choice of drinks including champagne, water, and several juices including carrot juice.

The seat:

The B777-300ER is in three class: economy, business and first.

The business class is in two cabins, with the first cabin being of only two rows of 1-2-1 configuration, being 5C-EF-K and 6A-DG-J. To see a seatplan, click here

Seating is in a 1-2-1 configuration, with a staggered effect to allow all seats to recline fully but also have access to the aisle.

The seat is comfortable, and has been through a style refresh since it was first introduced, but there is a lack of storage space, with only a narrow magazine pocket and a side table which has no lip on it so items would slide off. There is a small compartment on this table for perhaps a mobile phone, and a circular holder which had a bottle of Etihad-branded water in it, but other than that, for the course of the flight if you want to keep things with you there is only the floor to store them, and if recline the bed, even that is not possible since the seat reclines so that the footrest rises to meet the alcove under the IFE to make a flat bed. If you have a window seat there is a space where you can store books or magazines next to the IFE screen and against the wall of the aircraft, but not for takeoff or landing.

The IFE system is a good one, with a wide though not huge selection of entertainment, and there was onboard wifi and also mobile phone calls were allowed once we were in the air.  

I didn’t connect because although I was working it was a Saturday, so there was no urgent reason to spend $17.95 to be connected. We were asked to put our phones to silent to stop other passengers being disturbed in the event of our phones ringing – I kept mine off.

Which seat to choose?

I would always try and get the window seats since you have direct access to the aisle but are protected by a side table from the aisle. The seats on the aisle have the same amount of room, but it feels more exposed  where you stretch out your legs is open to the aisle on these seats, and so there’s a chance of being knocked if your knees stray into the aisle.

Etihad business class B777-300ER seat 5K

I’d also choose this front cabin of only two rows rather than the main rear cabin, since it seems like you get a lot of attention yet the cabin is quiet. My seat was 5K which along with 5C would be my preferred seats here, since there is only first class in front, and a curtain blocking that off for the majority of the flight, so footfall is light.

The flight:

Our delay stretched on a bit, and we didn’t take off until 1600, over one hour after our scheduled departure.

The flight staff were excellent, not just in terms of smiling, introducing themselves and making sure they’d already taken our meal and drinks orders, but also in doing the difficult tasks. For instance, as we taxied towards the runway went round the cabin picking up all the bags passengers had left around their feet and putting them in overhead lockers, despite their protestations, and tidying up glasses and making sure the cabin was safe for take-off.

I watched the take-off using the Front Camera on the IFE, which was a great view since it was a sunny afternoon, switching to landscape view once we reached some height.

Meal service

Selection of breads: sun-dried tomato and rosemary sea-salt focaccia house butter, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar


  • Arabic mezze
  • Salmon terrine with avocado, lime scented cream and dressing
  • White bean soup, crème fraiche with chive


  • Braised beef cheeks with steamed baby carots and mashed potatoes
  • Baked chicken breast with sumac mixed vegetables and lemon rice
  • Grilled sea bass with sautéed vegetables, roast potatoes and lemon butter
  • Ravioli filled with Mozzarella with roasted cherry tomato ragout basil and Paremsan.



  • Warm date mille-feuille with cream
  • Banana and toffee gateau with caramel tuille
  • Seasonal fresh fruit
  • A seletion of ice cream flavours

I was really looking forward to the meal, especially after having the economy food on four flight sectors on my previous flights and being very impressed, though I was a little disappointed. Perhaps I chose badly, but the Arabic mezze were fairly tastless, though presented very attractively.

Etihad Arabic mezze

The main course fish likewise needed some kind of sauce or flavour to it, but was really just par-boiled potatoes and a large piece of fish – nothing wrong with that, but nothing very exciting either.

Etihad main course

I then had a plate of fruit for pudding.


Champagne Lanson Black Label Brut NV

White wine:

  • Macon-Verze, Domaine Leflaive, Chardonnay, 2011
  • Rheingau, QbA, Schloss Schonborn, Risling, Germany, 2012
  • Nuala, Marlborough, New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc, 2013

Red wine:

  • Chateau du Glana, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, 2010
  • Spy Valley, Marlborough, Pinot Noir, New Zealand, 2012
  • George Wyndham, Founder’s Reserve, Langhorne Creek, Shiraz, 2012

Dessert wine:

  • Royal Tokaji, Late Harvet 2012, ungary

There was also a range of Dilmah teas including Sencha Green, Jasmine, Mint, Chamomile, Earl Grey, Lemon and Lime as well as English breakfast and Decaffeinated tea – this last is an excellent idea. The coffees included espresso, macchiato, latte, cappuccino, American filter and decaffeinated filter.

After this I reclined my seat. Again, the lack of room means that if you want to charge your laptop while you are sleeping (and I did), there is not enough room on the side table so you have to prop it up in the walkway towards the aisle, or have I around your feet, which isn’t ideal (I like having the choice of working all hours, but draw the line at sleeping with my laptop).

I slept for nearly three hours and then when I woke saw that my fellow passengers had started on the Kitchen Anytime menu (Available throughout the flight) which included

  • Toasted focaccia filled with roasted chicken and mustard mayonnaise
  • Beef pie with rocket leaves and balsmaic vinaigrette
  • Selection of cheese
  • Fruit
  • Ice cream
  • Crisps
  • Baked cookies and madelaines
  • Swedish crisp breads
  • Arabic baklava

You have to watch this sort of thing – even my green tea came with the offer of sugar, honeycomb, biscuits or chocolates.

I then did some more work. About an hour before landing fast track immigration cards were handed out.


We arrived almost an hour late into Abu Dhabi. We were quickly off the aircraft and immigration was swifter than I have seen it previously at this airport, though still took 10 minutes. Our bags arrived shortly afterwards.


Really good, though of course I might not say that if I had missed my connection at Abu Dhabi.

The seat is comfortable and very easy to sleep in – though the lack of room counts against it.

The new business class seats (or studios) which will be introduced by Etihad on the B787-9 Dreamliner and A380, and then retrofitted across the majority of the long haul fleet over the next four years will improve this situation.


Plane type B777-300ER
Configuration 1-2-1
Seat width 21 inches (53cm)
Seat pitch 82 inches (208cm)
Seat length 74 inches (188cm)
Seat recline 180 degrees

Tom Otley

Loading comments...

Search Flight

See a whole year of Reward Seat Availability on one page at

Business Traveller UK September 2022 edition
Business Traveller UK September 2022 edition
Be up-to-date
Magazine Subscription
To see our latest subscription offers for Business Traveller editions worldwide, click on the Subscribe & Save link below