Review

Etihad Airways A380 Business Studios overview

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Etihad has the superjumbo Airbus A380 flying between Sydney and Abu Dhabi, and then beyond to London, Paris and New York.

I used Velocity Points in 2016 to travel between London and Sydney and it was one the best Business Class flights I have experienced. I repeated the trip a year later.

In this guide, we run through what to expect from the Etihad A380 experience and the key ways that travellers based in Australia can redeem points to fly with Etihad, and specifically on the A380.

This product is also found on Etihad’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet, which services Melbourne and Brisbane.

Etihad’s A380 Fleet & Routes

With only ten Airbus A380s in Etihad’s fleet, they are a relatively rare beast compared to the likes of Emirates and Singapore Airlines.

Etihad fly two of their A380s every day to Sydney—the fact Australia has two flights operated by their world-class take on the A380 gives us an amazing opportunity for our points redemptions.

Etihad Airbus A380

A photo of Etihad’s A380 that I unsurprisingly didn’t take

Etihad have put a substantial amount of thought, time and money considering how to make their Airbus A380 experience the best they could imagine—with 70 Business Studios seats on the upper deck.

With no plans to add more A380s to their fleet, the number of additional destinations they could fly them to is limited. There may be room for one more city but otherwise any further changes would probably come from route changes or adjustments to flight timing to allow for best use of their fleet, such as the addition of Abu Dhabi – Mumbai in 2016.


The Cabin: Seats & Seatmap

Etihad’s Business Class cabin can be found taking almost the entirety of the A380 upper deck—with the exception of First Class at the front, and the shared Business & First Class bar/seating area between the two.

As you can see from the seat map, the Business Studios are laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration, with alternating forward and rear-facing seats. This makes seat choice particularly important, especially if you are travelling with a partner, colleague or family members.

Etihad A380 Business Class Cabin

The seats interlock in a complex jigsaw puzzle to maximise available space. Every seat has direct aisle access—no need to climb over your seat partner.

Etihad A380 Business Class Cabin

There are two large cabins in Business Class, with the rear cabin a little smaller—and probably the pick for a little more quiet time. That said, food is prepared in the galley at the rear of the plane (on the left of the seat map above), so there may be more foot traffic from the crew serving the other guests the further back you go.

All seats adjust to be fully-flat. On offer are a small pillow and a soft-touch and relatively thick blanket—compared to other airlines—to help keep you comfortable while you sleep.

Seat choice

Beyond picking where in the cabin you sit, there is also a question of the kind of seat/s that would suit your needs.

The forward-facing centre seats are next to each other, as pictured below. These are ideal for couples or folks wanting to talk during flight. They are also the most practical option for travellers with young children.

Etihad A380 Business Class Seats

Here is us using two centre seats. Passengers are close enough to converse but a centre privacy divider also can be raised for total privacy too. In either case, the divider is fixed down to the floor, so you cannot walk between the two seats.

By comparison, the rear-facing centre seats pictured below are positioned with the seat next to the aisle and your seatmate around 1½ metres away, well out of arm’s reach, and again, separated by a small divider.

For a family of four, aim for a block of four centre seats together—two forward, two rear.

The aisle seat options are simpler—all the forward-facing seats are positioned next to a window, while the rear-facing seats are next to the aisle, like the seats pictured below.

If you are travelling with a partner that you want to converse with during the flight then the only option is to aim for the forward-facing centre seats as mentioned before. All of the window seat options are significantly separated from both the seats in front and behind them but also those over the aisle.

In my opinion, while all the seats are top-notch in terms of comfort and space, the additional privacy offered by the window seats makes them worth aiming for if you are a solo traveller.

Etihad A380 Business Class Seats

Etihad A380 Business Class Seats

The Business & First Class Bar

At the front of the Business Class cabin (and behind First Class) you’ll find an open space with a circular table and chairs with seating for six passengers. The area is usually quite dark with no windows, and there is a large in-flight entertainment screen usually tuned to live sports or news.

Etihad A380 Bar

There is a fully-stocked bar with spirits, wine and champagne, and the crew will happily serve you with food, drinks and snacks here.

Etihad A380 Bar

If you are travelling in a group of two or more, this is a great spot to come and hang out, catch up, have a bite to eat and/or grab a drink. The space is not as big as Emirates’ offering on their A380 and less conducive to hanging out and meeting strangers, but it is still a usable and relaxing spot to spend some time.

Service: Food & Drink

Etihad offer a dine (and drink) on-demand service, meaning you choose what you want to eat, when you want. This is a true ‘what and when you want’ service—you’ll find the crew are happy for you to order, within reason, any combination of items from the menu at any time, allowing you to eat according to your own rhythm.

Etihad A380 Business Class Dining

Here are a couple of example menus to give you a taste of what is on offer. First, from London to Abu Dhabi:

and then from Abu Dhabi to Australia:

Here is the wine/drinks list:

The crew will prompt you around the general time of meal services but they are also generally happy for you to tailor your dining times as you see fit.

Breakfast

Etihad A380 Business Class Dining

Fruit platter

Ravioli

Ravioli

Arabic Mezze

Arabic mezze

Soup

Main course

The quality of the food on our flight was excellent—some of the best Business Class meals I have been served but what really stood out for me was the absolute flexibility we were offered in how and and when we wanted to eat, as I already mentioned.

Other carriers offer this too but, in practice, you will often end up eating during the planned meal service. We felt that the way the dining service was offered by the crew was top-notch.

Inflight entertainment

Etihad’s inflight entertainment in Business Studios is excellent, with a wide touchscreen. It is usually out of reach unless you have your seat forward, for example, while dining.

Etihad A380 Business Class IFE

Next to the IFE is a secondary screen with information about the flight, the content you are watching or listening to and other information.

Etihad A380 Business Class IFE

And then next to that is a third touchscreen (!) and secondary controller, which is useful for navigating content when you cannot reach the main screen. It can also be used as a secondary screen for viewing content such as TV shows and movies, although that is of less use given its size.

Etihad A380 Business Class IFE

All screens are super-responsive to touch input and the IFE interface offers a variety of ways of navigating quickly to key information like maps and flight progress.

Note that we have received reports from readers of malfunctioning IFEs on this aircraft—if this happens to you, reach out to Etihad Help on Twitter via direct message to request compensation.

Beyond that, you’ll find two USB ports to charge the usual plethora of mobile devices we now tend to carry with us.

Etihad also offer internet access for a fee, with US$24.95 for the duration of the flight being the most effective offer. I found the speed perfectly acceptable given we were 40,000 feet in the air, and totally usable for browsing the web and email.

Amenities

Every Business Class passenger receives an amenity kit, which are of high quality, containing everything you need to sleep and some extra skin-care products to see you through the flight.

etihad-business-class-amenity-kits

Etihad used to offer pyjamas to Business Class passengers but scrapped that benefit in a cost-cutting drive in September 2017.

They also used to offer their complimentary chauffeur service on both ends of the trip but now only passengers on paid First and Business Class tickets are offered the service and only upon arrival to/departure from Abu Dhabi, i.e. award redemptions made through any frequent flyer program, including Etihad Guest, are no longer eligible.

Etihad Chauffeur

How to redeem points for this flight

The three main points currencies that can be used for Etihad flights are:

  • Velocity Points
  • Etihad Guest miles
  • AAdvantage miles

Lounge Access

In Sydney, New York JFK, London Heathrow and Paris, you’ll gain access to the Etihad Airways First & Business Class Lounge.

In London, the lounge looks like this, with buffet dining as well as table service:

Etihad Lounge London Heathrow

Etihad Lounge London Heathrow

In Abu Dhabi, Terminal 3 hosts both a Premium Lounge for Business Class guests and an Arrivals Lounge. There is a vast buffet, bar and children’s room with nannies so parents can duck out and grab some food or a drink.

Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi

Etihad Abu Dhabi Lounge

Etihad Lounge Childrens Rooms

There is also a spa and barber where for ~$30 you can pick up a 15- or 25-minute massage or treatment, and/or a quick haircut.

Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi - Six Senses Spa

Etihad Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi - Barber

Our other Etihad Airways reviews

Summing up: why choose Etihad’s A380 Business Studios?

If you could not tell, I am a fan of Etihad Airways, and especially their A380 service.

Their lounges are generally excellent, and I think Etihad’s Business Studios is one of the best Business Class seats out there, whether that is on their A380 or growing fleet of Boeing 787s.

I like and value their menu and dining service, where the menu has a great mixture of flair whilst offering a range of meals that are not too complex and rich, and all at a high quality.

After a handful of Etihad flights now though, what has consistently stuck out to me as a real differentiator from their competitors has been their staff—and not just the crew but those at check-in and in lounges too.

Almost every crew member I have interacted with on Etihad flights have been first and foremost amazingly friendly and chatty, whilst remaining professional and treating you like a valued customer. Other airlines do get this right too but for some reason, this has really stuck out in my Etihad flights so far.

I would be happy to travel with Etihad again—despite the high cost in Velocity Points and taxes to do so.

Etihad Airways A380 Business Studios overview was last modified: August 30th, 2018 by Keith

Comments Expand Comments

  1. Nick

    I have been trying to find a review of this caliber for so long, thank you for posting 🙂 i will hopefully be flying EY Business from Perth to London this August (787 and A380’s all the way), something most people don’t mention that i hope you can clarify for me is the seat mechanism for transition from seat to bed, does the seat recline to a bed like EK, QF, VA etc… or does the seat back fold forward to form a bed like SQ, NZ, VS???

  2. Tam

    What is the best way of using VA points to upgrade on EY flight from Syd to AUH? Call VA, EA, ask AMEX concierge or get the travel agent to organize ?

  3. John Doe

    I took a business trip from JFK to BLR on August 31, 2017 via flight EY 102. This was my first flight ever with Etihad and will be the last! I was drawn into all the hype of what Etihad probably was at one time when they launched their first A380 and built their lounge at JFK in and around 2015. However today Etihad Business Class can be best compared to a cheap budget airline at best. Key highlights of the current Etihad Business Class A380 experience:
    1. The signature cocktails such as “New York” and “Los Angeles” have been discontinued. No cocktails at the lounge anymore. Just beer and wine!

    The Chauffer service has been discontinued for Business Class. This service is only available at Abu Dhabi.
    Pajamas, slippers and socks have been discontinued.
    The amenity bag has been scaled back drastically. Not even worth discussing. I guess it is just a matter of time before even that is discontinued and seriously no one will even loose a second over it.
    There are no duvets for bed service. A thin white sheet is just layered over the seat if requested.
    There are no warm nuts on board or even listed in the menu card. When you ask for them they will transfer cold packaged nuts into a bowl and bring it to you.
    Potato chips are cheap store bought lay’s chips transferred to a bowl and served.
    Even though the cheese platter is listed on the menu along with lunch it is not served.
    There are no limes on-board the flight. I was told that as a cost cutting measure there are only lemons and no limes even in the first class. Go figure! What’s next you will stop using paper towels and tissues to save costs?
    The in-flight entertainment selection is not just limited but probably the worst ever I have experienced even when compared to economy flights.
    Etihad has cut down on the number of flight attendants within each cabin to save costs. So if you press the flight attendant button you will not get any attention for at least 15 minutes.
    With any and every cross-Atlantic international flight flown by me windows are left uncovered during take-off and landing (based on FAA and international safety rules). Upon takeoff window shades are lowered to prevent glare on TV screens and to help customers acclimate with the day and night time change during the flight. Not on Etihad. The shades were up during take off (centrally controlled in the A380). But even after 3 hours of in the flight the shades were not lowered and individually shades were left unlocked. So guests by the window could not see the TV screens. Finally when requested, a flight attendant stopped by and said she will unlock the central lock to help the shades to be lowered! Completely unacceptable.
    There is no mood lightening during the flight service similar to what you may have seen on some pictures and videos online. Not sure if this is another cost cutting move by Etihad or if the crew on board were just lazy!
    They start boarding an hour before take-off. When you get seated in your business class seat you are told that the only pre-boarding drinks are lime and mint juice or orange juice. However you may notice that in the adjoining aisle the flight attendant is offering champagne. When you ask for champagne from your flight attendant you get a rude and snappy response and then the champagne is served after 15 minutes.
    In the entire 13.5 hour flight from JFK to AUD only one hot meal is served. No kidding. A lunch is served right after take-off and then for the remaining duration of the trip there is no meal service. You can order small side meals such as cereal and milk, steak sandwiches, etc. but that is it. The selection is terrible.
    The entree size is disgustingly small. There is a small appetizer served before the entrée but there are no accompaniments such as fruits, small salad, etc. They however have a huge bread roll (really huge like a half-pound of bread) on the tray. As if that was not sufficient they will also bring a bread basket with more choices of bread! However, if you ask for another serving of an entrée (subject to availability) it is flatly refused indicating that they have exactly the same count of entrée as business class guests. Not even one extra to spare. I got the cod meal which literally had no more than 3 bites of fish with one piece of grilled endive on the side. Makes no sense. I noticed some other guests around me had the grilled chicken as it looked like a substantial meal with sides and decent serving size.
    During the meal there is no attention to details. If you are out of water or a drink unless and until you ring the bell and ask for it, the flight attendants will just pass by you without even looking at you or your tray. Additionally if you stop an attendant as they are passing by they get annoyed as they are on their way to help another guest so you better not stop them. Go figure!

    In most long-haul business class flights the restrooms are serviced mid-flight to help provide customers with a good experience. Not on Etihad. Within 7 to 8 hours into the flights most business class restrooms were disgusting with water and tissues on the floor, dirty toilets, clogged sinks, etc. Truly a very disgusting cheap airline feel!
    In most long-haul business class flights you will notice flight attendants make periodic rounds walking through the aisles checking on passengers making sure they are okay. Adjusting their blankets, lights, etc as needed. Smiling and asking if there is anything they can get etc. Not at Etihad! The attendants are busy sitting comfortable, eating, drinking and watching shows on big flat screen televisions (Yes they have flat screen TVs for attendants in the forward end of the cabin between business and first class). If you need something you press the call button and someone will stop by 15 minutes later!
    While I had read several reviews about the in-flight service in Etihad being inconsistent and not anything comparable to Emirates I did not expect it to be so bad. Like really bad! The inflight crew and the service is terrible. Additionally they don’t care when a customer raises a concern. They are not apologetic or display any customer courtesy whatsoever. The inflight crew is a total opposite of the ground crew that are friendly and professional. Etihad has a weird business model to allow such arrogant and disrespectful service.
    The seats, toilets, and interior equipment (fixtures that are already built in the flight) are good but the service around it has been so scaled back like it is a cheap budget airline. It appears that if Etihad could peel out all the lights, seats and fixtures and sell and replace with cheap sub-standard replacements they probably would have done it but I guess it does not economically make sense, so they have had to leave the fixtures as is.
    Overall one of the worst and cheap business class flights experience ever. I would advise all Business travelers in my circle to not get carried away from the great reviews online relating to the Etihad experience prior to June 2017. I fell into that trap and burned my fingers. Etihad is now nothing more than a cheap budget airline mentality airline. PLEASE STAY AWAY. Other highly recommended airlines for business class even if they do not have A380 flights are Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Virgin Australia.

  4. Johnathon Brock

    I flew London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi (return) back in November 2016. Easily the best business class that I have used and better than most first class seats. Even sat on the bar for nearly 2 hours talking to other passengers.

    Going London Heathrow to Tokyo (Narita) at the end of July (via Abu Dhabi). Easy decision to choose Etihad and they are now my business class of choice.

    They are discontinuing the Chauffeur service for flights booked after the 4th July. 🙁

  5. Jim Murphy

    i have used the older Business class Mel to Dub and found the whole experience wonderful. i will be flying 777 ex MEL and coming back A380 in a few months so i thank you for your review .

  6. Sharon

    Hi Keith,
    Great review but I do have to correct you on one thing. The chauffeur service that Etihad offer is included in the W (whiskey class), it’s the Z (Zulu class) that this is not offered.
    I am a travel agent and will be experiencing this for the first time this year so am really looking forward to it.
    Your review is probable one of the best I’ve seen.

  7. Jonathon

    I agree with everything except you haven’t commented on the size of the seats. I’m 6’4″, hardly excessive by Australian standards but I can’t lie flat in the Etihad seat. So while every other aspect of their service is great, I’ll stick to Cathay for trips from Melbourne to London – the extra hour or two of flying time is more than made up by the great Cathay seats (food is a bit ho hum) and the 6am arrival time in Heathrow.

  8. Julian

    Great review, thanks Keith.
    I’m very excited to experience Etihad Business, having just booked business seats using Velocity points. Is it possibly to select seats prior to check in? I’m traveling with my wife and want to ensure we get forward facing centre seats. I’ve found the reservation on Etihads website but am unable to select seats.

  9. adelee

    Great review. I’m looking to redeem Etihad business or first via AAdvantage. Given availability isn’t viewable online, where is the best place to check before calling up? Perhaps Virgin?

  10. adam2015

    Try the staff in economy, not so impressive. I was on a flight to Abu Dhabi to Melbourne, which got diverted to Singapore. The staff, from the captain down to all the flight attendants could not have been ruder or less helpful about it. I’ll never fly them again.

    I’ve flown them on several other flights (again, in economy) and have always found their staff to be borderline unprofessional.

  11. Daniel

    Thanks Keith, great review. The hard/soft product looks impressive.

    How is general availability with redemptions out of Australia? Is it sporadic in nature or is there a general rule of thumb in Etihad releasing inventory?

    • Keith Author

      Etihad are generally pretty good about making a few seats available per flight which then get booked up. Availability can then come back again in small bunches here and there. As a general rule, it’s not bad, whether planning ahead or booking last minute.

  12. Excellent review, Etihad’s food presentation and quality looks better than some First class meals I’ve seen and had on other airlines.
    Their interiors are also more stylish and not as over the top as Emirates.

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