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Etihad Business Class Review, Sydney-Abu Dhabi

Joanna Hall

There are so many options when it comes to flying business class to Europe with a premium airline, so what does Etihad offer which its competitors don’t? Quite a bit as it turns out.

  • The Flight/Route: EY451, Sydney to Abu Dhabi.
  • Duration: 14 hour 45mins, departs 16:20, arrives 00:05 +1.
  • The Aircraft: A380-800.
  • Cabin/Seat: Business Class Studio, Seat 16A.
  • Baggage Allowance: 40kgs.
  • Frequent Flyer Program: Etihad Guest.
  • More Information:


On a recent trip to Europe, booking with Etihad through Virgin Australia, my flight was routed from Brisbane via Sydney to Abu Dhabi due to the direct flights being full. I was booked in business, which helped, as my journey prior to this flight included an hour and a half by train to Brisbane Airport from the Gold Coast, and a domestic flight from Brisbane to Sydney, albeit in business class also; that’s when you really appreciate all those extra business class perks, including priority check-in, lounge access, and priority boarding. My trip to Europe was somewhat brief, so it was essential that my flights there and back were as easy and restful as possible, and fortunately it was exactly that right from the start.

Check In/Lounge

As a business customer departing from Brisbane I had checked in online at home. At bag drop, the additional boarding passes for my flights to Abu Dhabi and Madrid were issued, my bag was checked through, and I was given a pass to transfer from the domestic to international terminal at Sydney Airport. On arrival at Sydney, however, the connection time was so tight that I was advised to transfer myself to the international terminal, as the transfer bus wasn’t due for some time and I might miss my flight. This meant making a dash for the train, and I ended up going straight to the gate as my flight had been called by the time I got there. No relaxing in the lounge for me before this leg of a very long trip. 

The Seat/Entertainment 

Etihad’s A380 aircraft has a 1-2-1 configuration in its Business Studio on the upper deck, with a total of 70 flat bed seats. The cabin has a unique dovetail design with forward and rear facing privacy shell seats, offering increased personal space and every seat benefitting from direct aisle access. The middle two seats are ideal for people travelling together; as I was on my own, I was allocated a forward facing seat on the left. The seat reclines into a fully flat bed, and comes with a small pillow and a soft-touch blanket to keep you warm. There is also a large, 18.5 inch touch screen TV with noise-canceling headsets, in-seat power sockets, audio/ethernet connectivity, and an in-built massage function. The entertainment options were excellent, with a great selection of latest release movies, classics, TV shows and more.

The Food

As my flight departed later in the afternoon the on-demand menu offered a range of all-day options including eggs, steak sandwich and other items, and a full three course meal which you could take when you wanted. I was pretty hungry having missed out on snacks in the lounge pre-departure, and opted for a lovely cauliflower soup followed by a delicious chicken machboos, which is an Arabic dish consisting of tender chicken cooked with spices and served with basmati rice. I nibbled on some cheese with artisan crackers and fruit, and finished my meal with a simple pot of ice cream. Although I mostly drank sparking water during the flight, I began my journey with an obligatory glass of Champagne, in this instance Billecart-Salmon NV Brut, and indulged in a Gamay, Julienas L’Esprit de Marius Sangouard Trenel from Burgundy. There was a nice mix of choices drawing from Western and Arabic cuisines, a good range of teas and coffee including macchiato on demand.

The Service

On boarding the A380 I was warmly welcomed, called by my full name and shown upstairs to my seat. The cabin was immaculately presented, and I was quickly offered a drink, followed by a newspaper. Around 40 minutes later everyone was onboard so the aircraft door was closed, the captain made his announcements, and we were on our way. Overall, the crew quickly prepped the plane and passengers for the flight, and we left the gate on-time. Throughout the flight, the crew were friendly and polite, and on hand if you needed anything from a bottle of water to more food. Loves 

  • At the front of the Business Class Studio, and behind First Class, there is a bar with a circular table and chairs for up to six passengers. It’s a great place to hang out if you are travelling alone, and a throwback to the golden era of air travel.
  • The built-in massage function in the seat which works while you sleep.
  • The cabin layout really does offer the ultimate in privacy.

Insider Tips  

  • The pyjamas provided are quite large, so if you are small like me and want to be comfortable as you sleep, bring your own.
  • The amenity kits are terrific, containing everything you need to sleep and some extra skin-care products to see you through the flight - you don’t need to bring your own.
  • If you are transiting Abu Dhabi, make sure you use the Etihad Lounge nearest to your next departure gate.
Stephen Einhorn – Travelling Business Class to Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways 01:01

Meet Stephen Einhorn, a jewellery designer from London who regularly travels to Abu Dhabi for inspiration, his journey always starts in our Business class studio.

  • Stephen Einhorn – Travelling Business Class to Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways
    Stephen Einhor...
    Meet Stephen Einhorn, a jewellery designer from London who reg...

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