Etihad has the superjumbo Airbus A380 flying between Sydney and Abu Dhabi, and then beyond to London, Paris, New York and Seoul (from 1 July 2019).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is a fully-stocked bar with spirits, wine and champagne, and the crew will happily serve you with food, drinks and snacks here.
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.
Want to know which airlines have the best onboard bars? Read here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next to the IFE is a secondary screen with information about the flight, the content you are watching or listening to and other information.
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.
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.
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 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.
How to redeem points for this flight
The three main points currencies that can be used for Etihad flights are:
In Sydney, London, New York JFK and Paris, you’ll gain access to the Etihad Airways First & Business Class Lounge/The House.
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.
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.
Our other Etihad Airways reviews
Summing up: why choose Etihad’s A380 Business Class 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.