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Etihad’s A350 takes its first flight, unveiling its Club Suite-cloned business seat

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Etihad has had a rough time of it in the past few years. A major restructuring took place before covid and the airline decided to shift focus from trying to compete with Emirates in scale to becoming a mid-sized boutique airline.

That change meant it had more aircraft than it could ever hope to operate. This includes five A350s which have sat in storage since their delivery in 2019.

Etihad is ready to dust these birds off and start flying them. The first flight took place from Abu Dhabi to Paris this week, although this was a one-off and the aircraft will not be flying to Europe for a while. The first flights will be shorter hops to Mumbai and Delhi, extending to Chicago and New York in the Summer.

Etihad's new business seat

Introducing Etihad’s new business class suite

Inside the A350 is Etihad’s newest business class seat:

You may find it uncannily familiar. That is because it is the same seat as BA’s Club Suite, albeit with Etihad’s choice of colour scheme and fabrics.

It has the same door and same new tray table mechanism as Club Suite. Unlike British Airways, however, Etihad has chosen to install a beautiful little mood light in every suite which I always thought BA should have done. It softens the seat and gives it a bit more atmosphere.

Like British Airways, Etihad is not installing a First Class cabin on its A350s. First is now only available on five Boeing 787-9s, as the A380 fleet has been permanently retired. It looks increasingly likely that Etihad will move to a Malaysia Airlines style offering with ‘business plus’, although CEO Doug Thomas insists “it’s not the end of first class.”

I’m not complaining. The Collins Super Diamond design, which is what both Club Suite and Etihad’s new suite are based on, is my favourite ‘off the shelf’ business class seat. It manages to perfectly balance personal space, in flight entertainment and a flexible tray table. Early feedback is that the overall spec of the fixtures and fittings is higher than Club Suite.

We are talking to Etihad about a few ideas to coincide with their move back to Terminal 4 in July. Hopefully we can do a review of the new seat as soon as it starts flying to Europe on a regular basis.

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Comments (30)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • David Richards says:

    Some very good reviews of this already online, the best one IMHO at, where the writer makes good points on how the EY seat differs from the BA one. Wireless changing is a great feature, as is USB-C as well as USB-A charging, but the ‘hidden’ location of those USB ports is definitely frustrating!

    • Rob says:

      Finnair has wireless charging too – I found it very impressive.

  • Ross says:

    You might want to check your sources. The A380 is coming back end of May.

    • Andrew M says:

      Etihad’s A380s returning in May? That would be good news. Do you have a source for this?

    • Benilyn says:

      Are flights loaded up? I heard the rumour of it coming back but have been waiting…

  • rj24 says:

    Doug Thomas or Tony Douglas? 🙂

  • Harry T says:

    New seat looks lovely. I’m a big fan of club suite and I like the design Etihad have gone with.

  • Babyg says:

    Like BA’s seat they look nice, but like the Club Suite these wont be great when travelling as a family or even as a couple. Its a lazy design(copy+paste) with form given priority over function. Qsuite for me thanks.

    • Mark says:

      Except even if you choose to fly with Qatar you may still end up in a Collins Super Diamond seat. I’ve also noted that QSuite, although clearly innovative and popular, is not universally loved – claustrophobic being a description I’ve seen a few times (though to be fair I’ve seen people describe Club Suite in the same way).

      Having never flown on Qatar I’m curious to know how they manage seat selection in order to assign the blocks out to families / couples, especially given their apparent propensity to switch aircraft types/configurations, and therefore hard product, around.

      • Babyg says:

        Yeah been on the Qatar Super Diamond, but it works better for couples/families as they dint have the doors walls 1970s kitchen hatch. I have seen the odd comments around people who feel claustrophobic – which as you mentioned would feel the same in any business class with walls/doors etc., at least with qusite you have the options to open doors, walls, dividers etc (depending on how many in your party) to create a big space, whilst with Club suite you can open the door and the little hatch. In Etihad a350 and CS family members are forced into their own cubicle, and the useless “hatch” between the middle seats is sub optimal for anything other than brief conversation, in fact the old clubworld seat is much better when travelling as a family over the new instagramable Club Suite.

        • Mark says:

          Each to their own, I guess. We thought Club Suite was a big step up, travelling as a couple. We both like window seats though and appreciated the feeling that it was quite private. We’ve also have got accustomed to “travelling alone together” over the years. I’d say in general of the products we’ve flown, the ones that we’ve preferred have been the more private ones (Etihad Business Studio, Iberia, BA First, BA Club Suite) and (with the possible exception of QSuite) you can’t normally have it both ways.

          • Babyg says:

            exactly, ClubSuite (and Etihad’s clone by the looks of thing) is only really designed for solo travellers…

      • Rob says:

        You don’t get open seat selection until close to departure. You are offered blocks suitable for the size of your group so a solo traveller cannot book a seat which forms part of a foursome.

        • Mark says:

          I see. So what happens if you have people travelling together on different bookings?

          • Rob says:

            Tough, unless there is a way of calling to link them which would unlock the seat map.

          • Babyg says:

            its not a problem – i needed to book my family on separate bookings (QR only release 2 reward seats per fligh, long story short we got more than two seats with some trickery, if o seperate bookings just DM @qrsupport and they will put your party into a qusuite quad.

  • Richie says:

    Looks great. Only 11 rows in the J cabin. Good news for the Sky team collectors.

    • Mark says:

      Identical to BA’s forward A350 cabin then (although BA also has the smaller cabin behind with a further 3 rows).

  • ChrisBCN says:

    What on earth is a ’boutique airline’?

    From the dictionary – ‘a small shop selling fashionable clothes or accessories’. Will Etihad sell me an outfit for my dog onboard?

    • Jacob says:

      You might want to look beyond the first definition, the second one within the same dictionary says “used to describe a small fashionable business that sells a particular product or service:
      – boutique hotel.
      – a boutique grocery/market/winery”

      • ChrisBCN says:

        And how does it fit that definition?

        • Jacob says:

          Same as boutique hotel? Focusing on style, quality and aesthetics, not on quantity or masses…

          • ChrisBCN says:

            Article says it’s mid-sized, and it’s using pretty much the same seat as BA….

          • Bonglim says:

            Same seat as BA…… with a special light!

          • Rob says:

            The spec is reportedly a lot higher in terms of what was spent on materials etc.

  • john says:

    The light does look nice, although you can see in the photo there is spill over from the seat in front to the one behind at the window which isn’t ideal..

    • Rhys says:

      What is that, 2 inches of spillover? I think you’ll survive!

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