The A350-1000 is Etihad’s newest aircraft, with 371 seats in a two-class configuration: 327 economy seats in a 3-3-3 layout in two cabins, including 45 Economy Space seats with four inches of extra legroom (seat pitch), and 44 business class suites.
Etihad has ordered 12 of these aircraft for routes from Abu Dhabi to the US and the Indian sub-continent, though there are rumours that it will also be on at least one of Etihad’s daily flights to London Heathrow. I had been on a tour of the aircraft from (the closed) Terminal 4.
This was a little unusual, firstly because this flight took place in the final weeks before Terminal 4 reopened and Etihad returned to its normal home there, so both check-in and boarding was from Terminal 3. Instead of using Etihad’s refurbished lounge at Terminal 4, we used the Qantas Lounge.
This was a ‘special ‘ flight from Abu Dhabi (EY2009), and so while business class was almost full and there was a full service on board, the rest of the aircraft was empty as the A350-1000 returned from 24 hours of promotional duties in London. Boarding was at 2000 for the 2100 departure to Abu Dhabi, a flight time of six hours and thirty minutes.
In business class the 44 seats (or business suites as Etihad is calling them) are forward facing in a 1-2-1 configuration, starting at row 5 (A-DG-K). Etihad has a seat map of the A350.
This is an ‘off the shelf’ seat, the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond, which is the same seat as the new British Airways Club Suite, for instance, but one which is adapted by each airline which uses it (including Air China and China Airlines).
Noticeable differences here are the signature ‘facet’ light in the corner of the seat, which doesn’t cast much light but is designed around the light coming through a palm tree, and the linen effect on the walls of the seat. All seats have direct aisle access, and the seats are 20 inches in width and recline to a 79 inch bed.
The cabin is spacious by design with the absence of overhead lockers running down the middle of the cabin over the two centre seats making it seem even more so. It does mean, however, that in a busy cabin it can be difficult to keep your bags close, depending on when you board.
Of the storage areas around the seat, three have lids, including two under the side table and one under the opposite arm rest, with a provided water bottle.
The largest of the storage areas also has the IFE controller and the jack for the headphones and an EU / UK/ US plug for charging devices. There is a further charging point including USB and USB-C down by the well of the seat, and also a wireless charging area,
The seat controls are operated by a traditional pre-set set of options including fully flat bed, reclined sitting and take-off and landing position as well as a very sensitive touchscreen. If even a wire from a device brushes against this you can find your seat starting to move.
The IFE screen is 18.5” and there is the ability to use your own headset to watch the entertainment, connecting via Bluetooth, or using the provided noise-cancelling headphones, which are of a good quality.
There’s a sort of linen-effect on the walls of the seat which as well as making it seem less stark will probably mask marks and wear and tear, and the leather seats are high quality, as is the table which folds out and is firm enough to work and support the wining and dining options. There’s enough space that you can be working and then when the meal is served you simply move the computer to one side to eat without having to pack anything away.
There were a few teething problems with some of the IFE screens, including mine and it had to be reset several times. I would not have been able to watch a film, even had I wanted to.
This is a tough one because there aren’t any bad ones.
All the window seats have uninterrupted views – no wing in the way, so the choice of which side of the aircraft will depend on where you are flying to if you enjoy the views out of the windows.
Centre seats are best for couples, and I’d probably avoid the front row 5 and back row 15 just because of the potential for galley and washroom (toilets) noise.
Service is normally from the front of the cabin, so if you are in a rush to eat, perhaps pick one of the rows up there (6,7 or 8).
Food and drink
I was sitting in a window seat 12A. On arrival I had the offer of my jacket being taken to a wardrobe (there’s also a place to hang it on the seat in front) and was offered a choice of drinks, including Champagne.
The menu was already at the seat, and because of the short flight time and hour, the flight attendants offered to take the meal order before take-off. The (edited highlights of this) were:
Starters: Lobster salad, marinated fennel, endive and pomelo with tarragon dressing; Arabic mezze, assortment of hot and cold Arabic appetisers; potato and leek soup, black pepper crème fraiche and truffle oil.
Mains: Halibut fillet, marinated potato, fennel puree, charred broccolini and tomato salsa; rack of lamb, roasted root vegetables, creamed leek, Yorkshire pudding and jus; chicken tikka masala, rice pilaf, mint yoghurt, mango chutney and paratha; goat cheese soufflé, organic superfood salad and red pepper sauce.
Cheese: assorted cheese, artisan crackers and fruit.
I had the Arabic mezze starter (pictured above) and then a cheese soufflé, and both were very tasty.
I couldn’t manage a dessert but here were the options.
Desserts: sticky toffee pudding, caramel sauce; Eton mess, meringue, fresh strawberries and mint; seasonal fresh fruit; ice cream, selection of Haagen-Dazs flavours.
There was also an all-day menu on the flight, and this was offered when we woke and were coming into Abu Dhabi, hence the choice of everything from lunch items and snacks to breakfast items.
I suppose a lot of people then head to the lounge and then get on another flight onward from the Abu Dhabi hub. The all-day menu was steak sandwich, tenderloin, Emmental, red onion chutney, grain mustard mayonnaise and rocket; chicken and leek pie with mash potato and jus; toasted crumpets, butter, honey and blueberries; scrambled eggs, brioche, turkey bacon and tomato; seasonal fresh fruit; ice cream, baked cookies, crisps, Madeleines, Arabic baklava.
Wines: At the top of the ‘beverage list’ was a Bellini, and this was offered both in a standard style and a non-alcoholic version. Then the list was as follows:
Champagne: Duval-Leroy Brut Reserve, NV.
White: Journey’s End Chardonnay, V1, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2019; Two Tracks Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2020.
Red: Bordeaux, Chateau Marojallia, Haut-Medoc, France 2016; Passori, IGT Veneto, Italy.
By now it was around 2300 and with the time difference to Abu Dhabi (GMT +3) I wanted to sleep. It’s a difficult balancing act, because since we set off around 2115 for only a six and a half hour flight, I was not reclining the bed until midnight, by which time it was already 0300 in Abu Dhabi. Nevertheless, it was long enough to fall asleep for, perhaps, two hours, and get a sense of sleeping in this seat.
It’s a similar sensation to the BA suite, although I prefer the pillow in the BA configuration – the Etihad one is more of a cushion in both looks and texture. There’s no under blanket either, which I missed, since it does help smooth out some of the ‘join’ or gaps in the seat when it is full reclined into a bed. The blanket is comfortable, though.
I woke around 0500 Abu Dhabi time, and walked into economy to stretch my legs (both economy cabins were empty of passengers).
This isn’t the emptiest I’ve ever seen it (delivery flights from Seattle have very few people on board and we ran up and down the aisles, but I’m older now), so I took photos of the seating and the sunrise hitting the winglets.
We arrived on time in Abu Dhabi international airport, and were quickly disembarked. It felt off after flying on such a modern aircraft to be at one of the old gates that I remember from more than twenty years ago, but immigration was quick and we were quickly on to the Etihad Arrivals lounge and then a car to take us to our hotel.
This is a very comfortable, spacious, fully-flat bed seat – or suite – with a closing door. The service is superb, and the food and drink top draw and à la carte, and the aircraft is quiet, modern and comfortable.
Flight duration: 6 hours and 30 minutes
Seat length: 79 inches
Seat width: 20 inches