Chloe Cann highlights what’s on offer in Etihad’s business studio on its Boeing 787s and Airbus A380s
When the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 swooped into the market in 2007 and 2011, respectively, the airliner game changed irrevocably. And not just in terms of size, capacity and fuel efficiency: the debut of these aircraft has given carriers the opportunity to reimagine interiors and rethink service. For Etihad that means guests on long-haul flights in business class can still expect the same flatbeds with turndown service and extensive in-flight dining menu, but there are several new features to take in. Here we review the innovations available in the superjumbo and Dreamliner business studio cabins.
The biggest change on Etihad’s two new aircraft in business class is the seating arrangement. The two planes now feature rear and front-facing seats. The idea of facing backwards may make some feel uneasy, but the experience is much the same and the friendly cabin staff will be happy to reseat those who feel uncomfortable wherever possible.
Without underseat storage it can prove a bother having to wait until the seatbelt sign has been switched off to retrieve belongings from the overhead locker. But in both these new aircraft there’s a handy shelf that conceals a storage compartment underneath, where you can pop your phone and any other flotsam and jetsam you don’t want to go flying come take-off.
Neoprene amenity kits from high-end destination guides publisher Luxe come in six vivid colours and patterns – each one inspired by a city on the airline’s global network and featuring a city guide customised for Etihad, and now available on all the airline’s long-haul flights. You never know which one will turn up on your seat, and they’re so jazzy and cute that I want to collect each and every one. Aside from the usual suspects (socks, ear plugs, cotton-wool pads and a dental kit), there’s also lip balm and facial moisturiser from British company Scaramouche + Fandango inside.
Almost everything on these two planes is tech-led, from the touchscreen TV and console to the wall monitor, from which you can select the firmness of your cushion, recline your seat into a bed, adjust the lighting and even switch on a “do not disturb” sign. A very welcome addition is the USB ports, which you can use to charge your devices or even stream media from a USB stick. Some of Etihad’s older fleet do feature USB ports, although they can be temperamental and have been known to make the in-flight entertainment systems malfunction. TV screens are a whopping 18.5 inches in the business studio – more than three inches bigger than in Etihad’s business flatbed service on its older Airbus 340s and Boeing 777s. Less convincing are the noise-cancelling headphones – the magnetic pad where you “plug” in the headset is fiddly and offered a shaky connection.
There’s a bewildering array of lighting options at your seat, all from different angles and with different intensity – ambient wall lights, spot reading lights and brighter overhead lights for when the others just won’t do. Luddites may come a cropper when trying to operate them, but the handy privacy screens – which can be raised between seats or slide out on the aisle side – help to ensure that you don’t annoy fellow passengers with your wattage, and vice versa.
The 787 is already in operation on Etihad’s routes to Washington DC, Zurich, Singapore and Brisbane from Abu Dhabi. By the end of 2016, it will also be in operation on the airline’s routes to Dusseldorf, Perth, Shanghai, Istanbul and Johannesburg. The A380 is already in operation on Etihad’s routes to Heathrow, Sydney, New York, Mumbai and Melbourne from Abu Dhabi.
Book it: Return flights from Heathrow to Sydney in business class start from £3,500pp.