My review of the Etihad A380 Business Studio – the bar and food (part 2)

In Part 1 of my review of the Etihad A380 Business Studio yesterday I looked at the seat and service.  Today I want to look at the food and drink options.

You can read more about the Etihad A380 and the new business class product on their website here.

Etihad has chosen to install a bar (called ‘The Lobby’) on its A380 aircraft.  Unlike Emirates, it sits at the front of the Upper Deck between First Class and Pearl Business Class rather than at the rear.

It is designed to have the feel of a Mayfair private club.  There are no windows in the bar area with one wall being taken up a drinks cabinet (see the second photo) and then a round circle of seating.  There is no literal ‘bar’ – the crew will make you whatever you want from the cabinet.

The photos below are from the Etihad website because the actual bar is too dark to photograph!

Emirates A380 bar lobby

and:

Emirates A380 bar lobby 2

This is a truly innovative space.  With no windows, it has been decorated with traditional Arabic lighting and is surprisingly atmospheric.  There is also a big screen TV – showing Premier League football highlights when I was there – although the sound was turned off.

Because of the shared seating, it is also a communal space.  You are almost obliged to chat with anyone else who is sitting there or you appear very antisocial!  Whether or not this is something you like, Etihad has genuinely done something new.

Food and drink

Back in December I did a Business Class ‘bake off’ between BA, Qatar and Emirates based on my recent experiences.  Qatar won, Emirates was second and BA was third.  If I had to add Etihad to the mix, I would still give the ‘best food’ award to Qatar with Etihad equal to Emirates.

As a 9.15 departure, I was scheduled to receive breakfast and lunch.  Having eaten in the lounge, I skipped breakfast apart from a strawberry and elderflower smoothie.  The usual mix of cereals, yoghurt, toasted bagels, scrambled eggs, cheese, fruit and – erm – ice cream was available if I wanted it.

Lunch was a more substantial affair!

The starter options were not fantastic.  If you are not a fan of mezze (the first option), you are left with green pea soup or a crab and prawn salad.  I went with the latter – it tasted fine but the presentation on the plate was a bit wonky!

Etihad A380 Business Suite review food starter

What IS impressive is the hardware used.  The crockery and cutlery was only introduced in December as part of a service revamp and looks fantastic.  This is genuinely on a par with a high end restaurant.

There were four choices of main – braised beef cheek, Arabic-style baked chicken filled with prunes, pan-seared fillet of salmon with beetroot mash and fresh tortellini filled with artichoke.

I went with the salmon – it was an impressive portion size and the beetroot mash worked well with it.  It is worth remembering that A380’s have modern cooking technology built in which gives airlines more flexibility in the sort of food they serve.

Etihad A380 Business Suite review food main

In the only service lapse on the whole flight, my wine glass (half full) was taken away when my empty salmon plate was cleared!

(Let’s pause for a minute and compare the Etihad business class main course above with the last British Airways main course I was served, last October:)

British Airways Club World main course

The last British Airways main course I ate ….

Dessert was a choice between basked suet pudding, chocolate and vanilla mousse with coffee syrup, fruit or ice cream.  I went with the mousse which was the boring but safe option! I should possibly have gone for the suet pudding for a change.

I livened it up with a glass of Quintessence de Berticot, Cotes de Duras dessert wine.

Etihad A380 Business Suite review food dessert

The drinks selection was acceptable although not mind blowing.  The house champagne was Jacquart which Tesco is currently selling on special offer at £19.99.  Gosset, which sells for around £39, was available in the bar.  The white and red wines offered, such as a Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, sell for around £10 per bottle in the UK.  Etihad could do better here.

Conclusion

The ‘Business Studio’ product, available on Etihad’s A380 and Boeing 787 aircraft (the 787 just launched on the Dusseldorf route) is very impressive.  In terms of seat comfort, seat privacy and personal space it is as good as you will find anywhere.  The bar is a genuinely innovative space.  The food and drink could be improved a touch – and I would like to see current day newspapers! – but everything else works like a dream.

The Etihad website has more information on the ‘Business Studio’ concept here.

I funded this trip using American Express Membership Rewards points as I explained in this article.  If you want to try the same trip, there is currently a 25% transfer bonus to Etihad Guest which means that a one-way Pearl Business Class redemption will require around 35,000 Amex points.  Tax from London is under £200 and is entirely Air Passenger Duty and Heathrow charges.  Tax from Abu Dhabi is £15.

PS.  I have an Etihad Gold card from a status match last year.  On arrival in Abu Dhabi, there was a 2-person welcoming party on the gangway – for me.  Clearly I was the only Gold card holder in First or Business, or at least the only one not in transit.

One person took my bag and the other walked with me to passport control.  I was ushered into a private line (no queue) and then walked to the Etihad chauffeur centre.  We bypassed the reception desk – instead I was taken outside and popped into the first car.  It had taken less than 10 minutes from getting off the aircraft.

Click here for the next review in this series – the Jumeirah At Etihad Towers hotel in Abu Dhabi.

More photographs from the Etihad A380 can be found on our Instagram feed.

250 free Flying Blue miles for completing one survey (and more for more)
Bits: more free coffee, Malaysia devaluation, Best Western sale, Regus thefts
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. (Let’s pause for a minute and compare the Etihad business class main course above with the last British Airways main course I was served, last October:)

    IAG’s operating profits for the year to 31st December nearly doubled to just more than €1bn. It also raised its 2015 forecast by 20%. 😉

    • If the item which made up 33% of my cost base had halved in price in recent weeks, I’d be making the same forecast!

      BA is another Tesco in the making. Eventually people do realise that you are not offering a competitive product. You then get a downward spiral because at the first sign of wobble the press start writing articles about how much better other carriers are, and people who haven’t thought about switching suddenly decide that they should try it as well, if everyone else is ….

      • Sorry, I believe you may have missed my point, which was actually, very tongue in cheek, correlating IHG’s profit increases with their, IMHO, inferior product & service (eg. food offering), thereby reducing their costs and increases profits. Of course I appreciate the fuel input as being a major factor in the recent profits. I’ve posted several times about BA F and how it’s really generally only comparable today with other carriers business class offerings.

    • Short term profit Nick. the message I get from BA is they don’t want my custom…..
      So I look to see which is the product that now best suits my needs. Blinded by the BAEC as I admit I have been for too long. The final straw on short hall has been the reduction in space in CE and now the changes to BAEC making the upgrade from WT+ to CW much more expensive.
      Getting that upgrade on my normal route (AUH) has been usually straightforward, tho’ I understand it can be difficult on many routes.

    • Agreed, I have flown business class with a bunch of airlines, but not yet BA – and I’ve never seen the appeal. I will be flying with them later this year in business class as i have a 2-4-1 voucher to use and its not a flight i am looking forward to with any great expectations.

      • Raffles, how does this business class compare with BA F, in your opinion?
        If availabilty was better ie 4 seats, it’s something I would seriously consider even if I had to do a short hop to Amsterdam or Brussels.

        • BA F has a more private feel due to small cabin. The solo window seats also feel more ‘solo’ …. if that makes sense.

          Note that Etihad has a different seat if you are not on an A380 or 787, which is very likely if not flying from London.

  2. Mr(s) Entitled says:

    So who has the best bar? My favourite is Qatar on the A380. Nice decor, communal and private space, Krug flows like water.

    • Worzel says:

      That sounds a bit more like it!

      I was surprised to read that Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc was being served up. This is regularly on offer at supermarkets and currently £6.75 at Sainsburys-about what it’s worth.

      An enjoyable report Rob-thank you.

    • Not done that – the B787 bar is not impressive because it isn’t really in a separate space and there is no seating.

  3. Nicochick says:

    I think you’ll find Etihad’s first 787-9 route is Düsseldorf and not Frankfurt! Could you be getting it mixed up with Qatar’s A350 route?

  4. Imbruce says:

    Has anyone use Qantas A380 business class? How does that compare to the ME airlines?
    Although expect part of that would be on Emirates.
    I flew Qantas to A380 economy to Sydney twice in 2012 and thought the layout was good due
    to the large space at the back of the plane were you could stand and stretch for a while
    Also there was cups for water from a water filter machine and apples & oranges as well as packets of 2 biscuits we could help ourselves to.

    • We did LHR – SYD and return in J last year, out on QF and return on EK, all 380, all via DXB.

      From the seating perspective, QF’s 2-2-2 config was fine travelling as a couple, and I slept better on QF than I did on EK or have on VS in J.

      Moving to food and drink the QF offering was poor and eclipsed mightily by EK. Though there was snack station on QF it was crisps and soft drinks only, and a poor use of the space compared to the EK bar.

      QF entertainment content was far better. EK’s ICE may boast 1000 channels, but it covers a global market.

      QF had the edge on service. EK’s was efficient but distant.

  5. Oscarthegrouch says:

    I think the greeting may have more to do with your work. I’m EY gold, and over 8 sectors with them last year I have never been met at the aircraft door. Not that I wouldn’t love that level of service of course…

    • The_Real_A says:

      I had the “pleasure” of writing one for work last week as the regular contributor from my group was away. It took me that best part of 2 days to get a single article together writing about my day job. Putting three articles a day together is certianly “work” in my eyes!

    • yup, I’ve been EY Gold for 5 years and have just recently flown with the A380 Apartments – no one had escorted me on arrival.

      • I don’t anyone at Etihad so it is difficult to see why I would have been picked out for special treatment, beyond what a Gold status match got me. The trip was not even booked from my own Etihad Guest account (not that I can think how my own Etihad Guest account would be flagged anyway).

  6. Doreen says:

    Similar to a Hilton blue being welcomed ? :)

  7. Waribai says:

    Yes, I think you’ve unknowingly ended up on an unpublished travel industry ‘VIP’ list

  8. Geoggy says:

    Given that the Gulf airlines are now clearly superior in every way to BA, what chances of them breaking into the transatlantic market?

    Surely that would be the market that might make BA take notice? Or don’t they care given the profits they are making from serving crap food in poor premium cabins (NF probably excepted but i’ve only flown it once)

  9. plastikman says:

    no cheese plate? I will take my business elsewhere.

  10. A quick report on the Etihad A380 on the lower deck (economy). The seats are nice and wide and the leg room is more than acceptable for a 6-7 hour trip (longer haul to Australia might be a different issue). The IFE system is very good, but I found that the archive selection wasn’t very big and in the audio section it didn’t seem that you could pick tracks – only albums which seemed a bit weird. The food was unmemorable but I did notice all the specially ordered meals were brought out first so for a lot of couples, the first person had finished their meal before the ‘regular’ partner had even been served. On the way out I sat at the front of the plane (in front of the engines) and found the A380 to be very quiet as others have reported. On the way back I was further back, behind the engines and found the plane no quieter than the A320/330 I also travelled on.

    AUH is horrendous at the moment – the landing runway seems to be miles away from the terminal and there are clearly nowhere near enough toilets in the terminal. A tip for those arriving on on A380 – make sure you go to the toilet on the plane before you land. Otherwise, if you go to the first toilets you find on the ground you will queue for a while (2/5 toilets are squat toilets) and emerge at the back of an A380-worth queue to go through security (advice – keep left in the queue if you aren’t fast-track).

  11. The food pictures and comment / compare with BA, made me laugh. It reminded me of their attempt to con premium passengers with a ‘pulled pork’ offering .
    Of course they must be aware how much better the quality competition do it, but it seems they have made a decision not to even try to compete.