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Review: Etihad 787 Business Class (BKK-AUH)

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Review Overview

A very good business class product, with top-notch amenities, spectacular dine-on-demand catering and drinks, a solid spacious seat, and good WiFi


In July I had the opportunity to fly Etihad’s business class from Bangkok to London via Abu Dhabi. The Bangkok to Abu Dhabi segment was operated by a 787, whereas the Abu Dhabi to London segment was operated by an A350. I was quite thrilled about this, as it allowed me to try two of Etihad’s new flagship business class products.

Etihad was the only one of the four large Middle Eastern airlines that I’d yet to fly – I’d flown Emirates (on their A380 and 777), Qatar Airways (on their 787-8, 787-9, A380, QSuite 777 and non-QSuite 777), and Turkish Airlines (on their A321neo, 777, and A350) prior to flying this itinerary, all in business class. I knew that Etihad had faced a rough past few years, having to cut costs and restructure, though was excited to try what they had to offer in 2023. I also couldn’t wait to compare all four of the main competitors flying one-stop itineraries via the Middle East.

Well, I’m glad to report back that Etihad offers a lovely business class product, and it’s potentially one of my favourites. Here’s my review of the flight from Bangkok to Abu Dhabi, which was operated by a 787-10.

Booking Etihad’s 787 Business Class

I used 75,000 AAdvantage miles + £26.90 (HK$269/US$34.3) in taxes to redeem a one-way business class ticket from Bangkok to London Heathrow. The itinerary was as follows:

12/07 EY409 Bangkok Suvarnabhumi – Abu Dhabi dep. 20:25 arr. 23:40
13/07 EY11 Abu Dhabi – London Heathrow dep. 02:20 arr. 06:45

My Experience Flying Etihad’s 787 Business Class

I was connecting off a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong aboard their A330, though I made it into Bangkok to get some snacks before checking into my Abu Dhabi-bound flight. I found it quirky that they printed a single paper boarding pass for my entire itinerary, where I’d scan the same boarding pass before boarding my flight from Abu Dhabi to London.

After spending some time at the Miracle Lounge at Bangkok Airport, I made it to gate E6, where my flight would be departing. The airframe today would be A6-BMD, a roughly 4.5-year-old 787-10. This was also the first time I’d ever flown a 787-10, which I found exciting.

a plane on a runway at night
Etihad 787 at Bangkok Airport

Bangkok Airport has “holding pen” boarding gates, which means they check your boarding pass ahead of time, and “hold” you in a gate area until the flight is ready for boarding. There was a clearly marked off priority boarding area to the side.

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Boarding Gate at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

While boarding was scheduled to start at 7:40 PM, it realistically started a little earlier at 7:35 PM, starting with families with young fliers, and continuing with business class passengers.

Etihad Flight EY409
Wednesday, July 12th, 2023
Origin: Bangkok (BKK) Gate: E5 Dep: 20:25 (20:25)
Destination: Abu Dhabi (AUH) T: 1 Gate: 19A Arr: 23:40 (23:10)
Duration: 6 h 15 min (5 h 45 m)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-10 Reg: A6-BMD
Seat: 12A (Business Class)

Boarding was done exclusively through the forward doors on this flight, so I said hello to the flight attendants and found my own way to my seat, 12A.

Etihad’s 787 Business Class Cabin and Seat

Etihad’s 787-10 uses a staggered business class configuration, with 32 business class seats located in a single cabin between doors 1 and 2. These isn’t an “off-the-shelf” business class configuration – the seats closer to the aisle all face backwards, whereas the seats further from the aisle (including window and center/”honeymoon” seats) face forwards.

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Etihad 787 Business Class Cabin

I personally felt that the cabin was really pretty, and especially loved the light fixtures and triangular patterns, which broke up an otherwise fairly beige cabin.

a group of people in an airplane a plane with a television set
Etihad 787 Business Class Cabin

I’d assigned seat 12A, the left window seat located in the last row of the business class cabin. This was a forward-facing “true” window seat aligned flush against the fuselage, which is my preference.

a seat in a plane a black file cabinet with white text on it
Etihad 787 Business Class Seat 12A

In comparison, the aisle seats (such as the seat in front of me) face backwards, and the seat console is placed in between the seat and the window, as opposed to between the seat and the aisle. While this gives less head privacy, all of these seats featured nice and large sliding privacy partitions, so you’d still be able to make a private cocoon in bed mode.

a plane with seats and windows a tv on the side of a plane
Etihad 787 Business Class Aisle Seats

In the center, half of the seats are “honeymoon” seats, located right next to one another. If you do get seated next to a stranger, there’s a large privacy partition that slides up; I observed that most people seated in these seats did indeed seem to be travelling together. These seats face forward.

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Etihad 787 Business Class Center “Honeymoon” Seats

Meanwhile, in alternate rows, the seats are further from each other, face backward, and also feature the large privacy partitions that the window-side aisle seats have.

an airplane with a bed and a chair
Etihad 787 Business Class Aisle Seats

I was very happy with my seat, as I had a nice view of the cabin, a good amount of privacy, and three windows to myself. The seat itself felt nice and spacious, and had decent padding. There was also a shoulder strap, which isn’t always the most comfortable, though that only had be applied during takeoff and landing.

a seat in a plane
Etihad 787 Business Class Seat

In fact, due to the forwards-backwards layout of the seat, I felt like I had an unusual amount of shoulder space. I felt this product gave a notable increase in space over the standard staggered business class seat, available on airlines such as Turkish Airlines and EVA Air (among many others, but these airlines have staggered seats on their 787s).

There was no infringement upon my shoulder space directly to my right, though I guess you could say that there wasn’t much of a partition from the aisle either – this didn’t really bother me inflight. Due to the way the seats were laid out on the 787-10, I felt like I had quite a bit of privacy, since I was directly facing the console of the seat across the aisle (I’ve heard this isn’t the case on the airline’s 787-9s, where you’re more “flush” with the seat located across you).

All that was featured to my right was a beautiful light fixture, along with a separate reading lamp.

a light fixture on a wall
Etihad 787 Business Class Snazzy Lamp

Below this was a storage area, which could store small items, such as a pencil case, phone, or amenity kit. This compartment housed the headphones that were provided for each passenger.

an open seat with a drink bottle in it
Etihad 787 Business Class Storage Compartment

Located in front of me was a little platform where I could store things, as well as the seat controls and IFE remote – sorry for the blurry photo below, hopefully you can still get a sense of how spacious the seat felt and how much counter space there was.

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Etihad 787 Business Class Side Console

There were extensive seat controls (including of the adjustment of the actual seat, including the angle, lumbar support and cushion firmness, as well as the reading light brightness, light fixture, etc.) located on a touchscreen panel. For those curious, “mood lighting” simply refers to the little backlights by the seat’s nooks and crannies.

a screen with a light on it a screen with buttons and symbols on it
Etihad 787 Business Class Seat Controls

There was even a massage function, though it wasn’t particularly strong, or even noticeable. I will say that the lumbar support felt like it was inflating and deflating without prompt during the boarding process, though this was quickly mitigated inflight.

a screen with buttons and buttons on it
Etihad 787 Business Class Seat Controls

There were also simpler seat controls, including an upright mode button, fully flat button, reading light switch, and adjustments for cushion firmness.

a close up of a seat
Etihad 787 Business Class Seat Controls

The tray table slid out from behind the control panel, and was massive and sturdy, albeit not being bi-fold.

a table in an airplane
Etihad 787 Business Class Tray Table

Finally, the footwell was located below the IFE screen in front, and was a good size. I certainly didn’t feel like my feet were restricted at all in bed mode.

a seat in a room
Etihad 787 Business Class Footwell

110V universal power ports and USB ports were available, though not USB-C ports.

This isn’t even Etihad’s newest business class seat – I flew their current newest business class seat on my subsequent flight on the A350 (which I’d consider to be a small step up), and Etihad is even introducing a new business class seat on their 787s. This is a very solid hard product, and I did find their custom touches to be an enhancement over the “off-the-shelf” staggered business class seat.

I was particularly impressed by the attention to detail around the seat’s finishes – even the little ledge to the left of the seat was coated in faux leather.

Etihad’s 787 Business Class Amenities

Waiting at my seat was no shortage of amenities, starting with a pillow, duvet, and mattress pad. Etihad had just introduced their Casa Armani business class bedding at the time, and while I’ll detail how these feel in bed mode later, they definitely were comfortable and felt high-quality.

pillows on a table in front of a screena grey blanket on a table
Etihad 787 Business Class Pillow, Duvet, Mattress Pad

As aforementioned, waiting in one of the storage containers was an alright pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

a black headphones on a table
Etihad 787 Business Class Headphones

There was also a faux leather amenity kit from Acqua di Parma waiting at my seat. I liked the pouch, and it featured a dental kit, some sanitising wipes, socks, hand sanitiser, hand cream, and a facial mist.

a brown leather wallet with a black label a table with a few items on it
Etihad 787 Business Class Amenity Kit

Also waiting at my seat was a menu, which I thought looked classy.

a menu on a table
Etihad 787 Business Class Menus

Etihad’s amenities reminded me a lot of the amenities I received on Turkish Airlines, sans slippers. The bedding was very comfortable and I liked the amenity kit. It’s noteworthy that on a similar flight on Qatar Airways, I’d have been unlikely to receive a mattress pad unless I was flying the QSuite – the mattress pad was a noticeable addition to seat comfort.

Etihad’s 787 Economy Class

Since I was seated in the back row of business class, I had a peek into Etihad’s 304-seat economy class cabin, with seats arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration. I’m sure I would’ve appreciated the fixed-wing headrests, though the cabin did look very tight.

an airplane with rows of seats
Etihad 787 Economy Class

Etihad’s 787 Business Class Pre-Departure Service

Shortly after I boarded I was offered a pre-departure beverage, with options including apple juice, orange juice, lemon mint juice, champagne, and water. I decided to have a glass of very refreshing lemon mint juice.

a glass of orange liquid on a napkin on a table
Etihad 787 Business Class Lemon Mint Juice

Later during the boarding process I asked if I could have a glass of champagne, and the flight attendant obliged. The champagne was Duval-Leroy Brut Reserve, and was very nice.

a glass of wine on a napkin
Etihad 787 Business Class Champagne

A few minutes after the champagne arrived, I was also offered a hot towel.

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Etihad 787 Business Class Hot Towel

After boarding was complete, one of the flight attendants serving my aisle came around and introduced himself, and took my drink order. Meal orders weren’t taken until after takeoff.

Etihad’s 787 Business Class Lavatory

I asked one of the flight attendants welcoming passengers where the lavatory was, and she pointed me towards one of the two lavatories located at the front of the cabin, saying that I was welcome to use the economy class lavatories as well. I will say that for a 32-seat business class cabin, two lavatories doesn’t feel like very many – that’s a 16:1 passenger-to-lavatory ratio, which could get busy before landing.

The lavatory itself was nicely appointed, and I quite liked the tiled walls. There was also an unlabelled hand soap in a marble container, which was classy (the toilet paper “tips” were nicely folded whenver I went as well).

a bathroom with a sink and toilet
Etihad 787 Business Class Lavatory

Taking Off from Bangkok Airport

The flight was pretty much full in both cabins, and boarding was done exclusively through the forward door – I heard quite a few “wow”s from economy class passengers as they passed the business class cabin. Boarding was completed at about our departure time of 8:25 PM, which was when the safety video was played, which was filmed at the Louvre Abu Dhabi (which has a very similar design ethos to some of Etihad’s newer lounges).

a screen on a plane
Etihad 787 Business Class Safety Video

After the safety video was played, we watched another video titled “We’ve Still Got More To Do”, a promotional video of Abu Dhabi filmed by Etihad.

a television on a plane
Etihad 787 Business Class Video

The captain came onto the PA to welcome us onboard the flight, announcing our flight time of 5 hours and 25 minutes, our cruising altitude of 38,000 feet, as well as explaining that the weather would be fairly bumpy over India and north over the Bay of Bengal due to monsoon season. Etihad also made it clear that the use of portable chargers was strictly prohibited, a rule I hadn’t heard of prior to this flight (Hong Kong Airlines also has this policy, which I learned on a subsequent flight).

We had a short taxi to runway 19R, and took off at around 8:45 PM local time, with great views of sprawling Bangkok down below.

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Takeoff from Bangkok Airport

Etihad’s 787 Business Class WiFi

Shortly after takeoff I decided to connect to the WiFi. Etihad updated their WiFi pricing earlier in 2023, and now charges by time instead of by data usage, which is great. WiFi was priced on this flight as follows:

  • US$2.99 (HK$23.45/£2.35) for complimentary messaging
  • US$9.99 (HK$78.34/£7.83) for browsing

These are great rates for WiFi, and I was very happy with the speeds for a majority of the flight, with only a couple of blips over India and once we approached Abu Dhabi. Etihad’s reasonable WiFi charges have made flying the airline a much more appealing prospect than it was a year ago, in my opinion.

Etihad’s 787 Business Class Meal Service

We hit some chop once we got in the air, so the meal service actually took a while to kick off. Not very long after takeoff, a flight attendant came around to take my meal order. Etihad has a dine-on-demand service, though most people chose to eat after takeoff, including myself.

Here’s the menu for my flight:

a menu on a table
Etihad 787 Business Class Menu

Here is the beverage list, followed by the wine list:

a menu on a table a menu on a table a menu on a table
Etihad 787 Business Class Drinks Menu and Wine List

As you can see, there’s an excellent selection of mocktails and a strong wine list, though no advertised cocktails. While this flight also left at the wrong time for me to take proper advantage of it, Etihad features espresso-based beverages as well, and even features iced coffee, including iced cappuccinos, americanos, mochas, and lattes. This is a very, very strong food and beverage list.

I ordered the “Butterfly Effect” mocktail to be served after takeoff, which the flight attendant said was a good choice. It was served with some hot nuts. I thought the mocktail was absolutely delicious – so refreshing and fragrant, without being too sweet. It definitely was one of my favourite non-alcoholic beverages in the sky.

a bowl of nuts and a drink on a table
Etihad 787 Business Class Drink – Butterfly Effect

While the meal service is dine-on-demand in theory, in practice the cabin lights are kept on for the first couple of hours, so most passengers end up eating at similar times. In this case that “time” was over an hour after the post-takeoff beverages were served. The flight attendant serving me was apologetic, saying that the process was slower than usual due to turbulence. This was totally fine by me on this six-hour flight that departed in the evening and arrived in the evening, and I imagine the process would genuinely have been quicker if we hadn’t hit a patch of turbulence. Meals were brought directly to me on a tray, and I was asked whether I wanted still or sparkling water as well.

For starters I ordered the coconut and pumpkin soup. This was absolutely delicious and super flavourful, and the bread it came with was a perfect accompaniment. The meal was served with a side salad with a variety of vegetables, though I wished for a more exciting dressing than olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Za’atar was also provided.

a tray with food on it
Etihad 787 Business Class Starter – Coconut and Pumpkin Soup

Etihad’s new partnership with Casa Armani meant that they had new cutlery as well. How stunning is this?

a silverware on a tray
Etihad 787 Business Class Cutlery

After finishing my Butterfly Effect drink I was asked whether I wanted another drink. In this case I decided to go for a white wine. I decided to be bold and asked for a recommendation, and was recommended the Chilean wine. I was first shown the bottle (and asked if I could take a photo), before the glass was poured at my seat. Etihad’s glassware is stunning as well – I loved the wine glass.

a person holding a bottle of wine a glass of wine and a glass of water on a tray
Etihad 787 Business Class Wine

For mains I ordered the lamb biryani, which was delivered about 15 minutes after the starter was cleared. Oh my goodness this was delicious – the lamb was falling apart tender, the rice was fluffy and perfectly seasoned, and the dish was garnished with brown onions and almonds. My mouth is watering as I’m writing about it – certainly one of the tastiest dishes I’ve had in the sky.

a tray with food on it
Etihad 787 Business Class Main Course – Lamb Biryani

The flight attendant double checked with me whether I wanted dessert, and I said yes. Dessert was a similarly decadent warm banana cake with vanilla sauce, and tasted as good as it looked (and sounds).

a plate with food on it and a glass of water and spoon
Etihad 787 Business Class Dessert – Banana Cake

All three dishes I was served were really, really tasty, and I was super impressed. I guess the one observation I have is that Etihad really does take their time with the meal service. For a dine-on-demand service, I realistically only received my dessert (which I ordered with the rest of the meal) almost two hours after ordering, which is on the slow side. In this case turbulence contributed to the pace of the meal, though I’ve generally heard that Etihad takes a quite relaxed approach to the way they pace their meals.

Apart from the pace of the meal, the meal service otherwise reminded me a lot of Qatar Airways (generally considered to have some of the best catering in the sky).

Etihad’s 787 Business Class Bed

At this point I decided it was time to have a lie down, especially since I had a long night ahead of me. Etihad’s 787 business class is very comfortable in bed mode, and is a good width – I didn’t feel like my shoulders were restricted. There also was sufficient head privacy due to the height of the seat console, and the bedding was great as well.

a bed in a plane
Etihad 787 Business Class Bed

The lights were turned off after most people ate, and it was dark in the cabin, allowing passengers to get sleep.

Etihad’s 787 Entertainment System

At some point during the flight I decided to have a scroll through the entertainment system. Etihad’s entertainment system is very responsive, though I can’t help but feel like there were fewer options than I’d seen on Qatar Airways, Emirates, or Cathay Pacific. Additionally, not every episode of TV show seasons were uploaded onto the entertainment system, which I’d imagine could get annoying quickly.

a screen shot of a computer a screen shot of a television a screen shot of a computer a screen shot of a computera screen shot of a television a screen shot of a television
Etihad 787 Business Class E-BOX Entertainment System

To me this is a moot point since I value inflight WiFi far more than the entertainment system, and the WiFi worked very well. However, I don’t think this is one of the better entertainment systems out there, despite its ease of use.

Etihad 787 Business Class Service

All flight attendants serving me on this flight were courteous, and Etihad has some very polished service touches, including welcoming passengers during boarding and before landing, pouring wine at seats, etc.. A couple of flight attendants were also particularly eager to please, including recommending me wines and apologising for drawn out meal service times.

I’d say that I didn’t think flight attendants were particularly proactive or engaging, though I’m not exactly expecting that on a six-hour night flight in business class.

Landing into Abu Dhabi Airport

I got some shuteye after the meal, and woke up over Baghdad, around an hour before arrival into Abu Dhabi.

a city lights at night
View of Baghdad and Iraq

Around this time some pretty purple mood lighting was turned on.

a white box on a plane
Etihad 787 Business Class Mood Lighting Before Landing

Around 40 minutes before landing, the captain came onto the PA, announcing our imminent arrival. We were then shown a “Welcome to Abu Dhabi” video, involving the fact that those entering Abu Dhabi had to complete a financial disclosure form.

Shortly after that, the flight attendants came around to thank passengers for flying Etihad. I did appreciate that the seatbelt sign was kept off until around 10-15 minutes before landing, when the cabin crew did their final cabin checks and were seated for landing shortly after.

a city lights at night
Landing into Abu Dhabi Airport

It was my first time landing into Abu Dhabi, and we landed onto runway 31L at around 11:05 PM. We ended up taxiing to a remote stand, before passengers were let off on air stairs, starting with business class passengers.

Nobody likes being herded onto a bus to the terminal after a flight, particularly if you’re connecting, though at least I had magnificent views of the first 787-10 I’d ever flown.

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Etihad 787 at Abu Dhabi Airport

I knew not to expect much of my transit experience given Abu Dhabi Airport’s age and reputation, and my low expectations were…met.

Conclusion: Etihad’s 787 Business Class

Etihad has a stunning business class product on their 787s, including a solid seat, top notch amenities and bedding, great WiFi and awesome catering (including a high-quality dine-on-demand menu and a really strong drinks list). In many ways, many aspects of Etihad’s business class product reminded me of Qatar Airways’, known by many to be the world’s best. I’d say there are a couple of ultra-premium touches Qatar Airways has that Etihad doesn’t – they’ve got pacing figured out better with a dine-on-demand service structure, and they have pajamas, slippers, a better entertainment system, etc., but Etihad has a very solid product and all the basics are very well executed.

I was definitely excited to see how the product fared on Etihad’s A350, where the hard product was a step up from what I experienced on this flight. I’d say that Etihad easily has one of the world’s best business class products. The issue is that I’d say the same about their competitors in the Middle East, so there’s definitely some dissecting to do in a future post as to which airline comes out on top.

The biggest differentiator between Qatar Airways’ and Etihad’s business class experience at the moment is the ground experience – oh boy. Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll be reviewing Etihad’s business class lounge at Abu Dhabi Airport.

Have you flown Etihad’s business class before? How was your experience?

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