Background On June 30, 2022, UAE airline Etihad Airways celebrated the inaugural flight of its new A350-1000 flying from Abu Dhabi International Airport to New York’s John F. Kennedy International airport (JFK). The 14-hour business class flight offers a seamless experience from the moment you step into the airport to the moment you touch down at JFK. The newly-launched flight accommodates 371 passengers and is one of five new Airbus A350s. Forty-four of the seats are in the business cabin and “provides a luxurious experience comparable to first class on other international airlines,” according to Martin Drew, senior vice-president of Global Sales and Cargo, Etihad Airways.
Not only does the business cabin provide a plush in-flight experience, but the aircraft itself is also highly efficient, enhancing the Abu Dhabi-based airline’s sustainability goals. “This is an incredible aircraft with highly-efficient fuel consumption and CO2 savings, which enables us to support our goals to reduce carbon emissions and deliver an unmatched flight experience for our guests,” Drew explains.
First Impressions With a departure time of 1015, I was picked up from my home in Downtown Dubai by Etihad’s complimentary business class chauffeur service at 0600. It was a smooth and quick journey to the UAE’s capital, with ample time for check-in.
I arrived at the airport at around 0715 and was welcomed by the friendly Etihad staff at the business class check-in area. An attendant assisted with my bags and led me to the check-in desk where I was shown to a seat while I waited for my bags to be checked and to receive my boarding pass.
I furnished my passport, along with my ESTA (the visa required to enter the US) and vaccine certificate which I had obtained via the Alhosn app. At the Etihad business class and first class check-in, there is a separate immigration and security section which ensured I got through with plenty of time to spare.
The Lounge I then headed to the Etihad Business Class lounge where I enjoyed some downtime before the long-haul flight. The lounge is expansive with sofa areas, individual seating and dining tables – plenty of options for whatever you need. It was relatively quiet when I entered and the staff were welcoming and friendly, ready to help with anything I needed.
For F&B offerings, there were a plethora of options at the buffet – everything you could want for a hearty breakfast and a coffee to kickstart your travel day. There were also fully-stocked fridges with soft drinks and other snacks for passengers to help themselves to. The bar was quiet in the early hours of the morning, but it was a welcoming space to relax before a flight.
Overall, the lounge is a great space for guests to recharge before their flights, get last-minute emails done prior to take-off and enjoy a bite to eat.
Boarding Those travelling to the US from Abu Dhabi need to be mindful of the time when heading to the gate because you’re able to go through US customs whilst physically still in the UAE. This is all done through Etihad’s US pre-clearance, the only United States Customs and Border Protection facility in the Middle East. While it means you need to leave slightly earlier when heading to the gate at Abu Dhabi airport, it saves a huge amount of time and effort when arriving in the US, avoiding immigration and queues. The whole US immigration process went smoothly and I then headed to the gate where I arrived just as business class passengers were being called to board. My ticket was scanned at the gate, and I then headed down the walkway to board the new A350 to New York City.
The Seat Business class is the highest cabin class on the A350 and is complete with 44 seats, all with a generous amount of space. The layout is a standard 1-2-1 layout with cream, brown and gold interiors which gives the cabin a relaxing ambience. It also felt extra spacious as there were no overhead bins in the centre of the cabin – not to worry though, there was no shortage of hand luggage space.
The seat pods were designed with technology and style in mind with faux marble finishes and the colour hues of the rest of the cabin echoed in the seats. The fold-out table expands out to be approximately 42cm long and 46cm wide, perfect for those who want to work during their flight. There are also several charging spots including a standard power outlet, a USB-A and USB-C charging ports.
The seat itself was incredibly comfortable with huge amounts of space and privacy afforded by the double closing doors of each pod. When fully reclined, the seat turns into a 200cm bed.
The Flight I was welcomed by the friendly Etihad flight attendants who were attentive from the moment I boarded. After making myself comfortable, and ready for take-off, I was given a welcome drink and asked to look at the menu to let them know my meal of choice. We took off in great time, with an effortless transition from the runway and into the air.
As for entertainment, there were plenty of in-flight movies from all genres to enjoy, as well as television shows and even a few live TV options, all of which could be watched on the 18.5-inch touchscreen TV.
There was also on-board wifi. However, business class guests only receive a 350MB complimentary voucher. Thereafter, it’s chargeable with a 24-hour session for 350MB priced at US$29.99.
Food and drink I ordered from the a la carte menu prior to departure and I could choose the time that I wanted to eat my meal. I opted for the Arabic mezze starter which was a great option – filling but not too heavy on a long-haul flight. I then had the truffle pasta which was superb. However, I was sufficiently full, so didn’t opt for dessert.
Arrival The landing was smooth as we touched down at JFK and we made it to the arrival gate ahead of schedule. The whole immigration process was already completed in Abu Dhabi and so we arrived as if we were domestic passengers, heading out through the domestic exit. The whole process was easy and faultless as I headed to get my bags and enjoy a cool 48 hours in New York City.
Verdict From start to finish, the service of the whole Etihad Airways A350-1000 business class was seamless. If you’re due to travel from the UAE to New York City, I couldn’t recommend flying from Abu Dhabi enough, even if you are based in Dubai. Olivia Morris
Seamless flight experience from start to finish
Seat width and pitch
20.25 inches / 44 inches
14 hours to JFK
Internet rates for return business class flights from AUH to JFK start at Dhs10,740