This is our review of the Business Studio seat on Etihad’s A380 fleet.
After three years in storage, Etihad’s A380s are back and plying the London – Abu Dhabi route. I was on the first flight from London which you can read all about here.
In this review, I want to take a closer look at Etihad’s A380 business class seat, which it calls the Business Studio. Whilst this seat has been superseded by its A350 and upcoming new 787 seat, it remains a very strong product and will likely be around for some time.
Etihad check-in at London Heathrow Terminal 4
I arrived bright and early so that I could review the lounge before it got busy and arrived at Heathrow Terminal 4 at 6am. This is about as early as you want to be, as both the check-in counters and the lounge open at that time.
Whilst I had already downloaded my boarding pass to my iPhone and didn’t have any luggage to check, I still headed to the check-in desks in Zone C to see what celebrations had been laid on and to print a boarding pass to keep. A lot of Etihad staff were milling around and there were roller banners announcing the return of the A380:
There was no queue whatsoever for the business class check-in desk so I headed straight there and got my boarding pass printed. Some special A380 chocolates were available:
Security was equally easy and there was no queue for the fast track service whatsoever. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to walk straight through security at Heathrow.
The lounge opened at 6am and as I arrived at around 6:10 I was the first passenger in. You can read my full review of the Etihad Lounge in London here, but suffice to say this was my first time in the Etihad lounge at Heathrow and it exceeded my expectations.
Boarding Etihad’s A380
As I was with a group of journalists we were boarded first in order to get photos of the cabin without disturbing the other passengers.
Economy is on the lower deck with 415 seats whilst The Residence, First Class Apartments and Business cabins are on the upper deck. There are 70 seats in business; 42 in the forward cabin and 28 in the smaller rear cabin.
When on the upper deck you board into the galley and onboard lounge:
The A380 is in impressive shape. Despite no longer sporting Etihad’s newest business class seats (the A350 and upcoming 787s have those) it is still an excellent product.
The layout alternates between forward and rear facing seats, which feels like an increasingly rare format thanks to the tidal wave of herringbone seats on the market these days.
In fact, I think there’s something to be said for this configuration. It feels remarkably spacious, particularly on the A380 with the storage bins along the sidewalls.
It also allows couples and families or friends travelling together to sit in the honeymoon pairs, which is not something many herringbone seats offer:
What are the best business class seats on Etihad’s A380s?
With a variety of seat variants there are definitely some that are better than others.
For a start, all the even-numbered rows are forward facing. I don’t find flying backwards an issue but if you are particularly sensitive to motion sickness you might.
More importantly, all the window seats in even-numbered rows are actually next to the window, rather than closer to the aisle. This means you have better views but also a bit more privacy and a lower likelihood of being knocked as someone passes through the cabins. (There are no doors on the A380 Business Studio).
Anyone travelling as a pair will likely want to select the middle pair in even numbered rows as these are also next to each other and are therefore better for chatting.
- Seats A and K in even numbered rows are the most private window seats
- Seats E and F in even numbered rows are best for people travelling in pairs
The bassinet seats are all in the last few rows of the rear cabin, with rows 23 and 25 offering eight bassinet seats in total. If you don’t have kids it’s therefore better to be in the forward cabin, or at least the first few rows of the rear cabin, to avoid too much disturbance.
Etihad’s A380 Business Studios
I sat in 8K, at the front of the business class cabin and one of the window seats mentioned above. This is very close to the onboard lounge, but I wasn’t bothered as I was in the lounge myself half the time! In fact, both there and back the lounge was relatively quiet – certainly less lively than you might find on a Virgin Atlantic flight.
Here is the view from my seat into the lounge:
As you can see, you could almost have a conversation during the flight, although the cabin crew do draw a curtain after take-off to minimise any disturbance.
I was impressed by the seat itself, which feels particularly wide compared to other seats I have flown in recently. Etihad have gone for a sand colour palette with an Italian leather headrest. Accent pillows and soft products are blue(ish):
The geometric-patterned pillow isn’t a pillow but the memory foam mattress pad; I didn’t realise this until about an hour into flight so Etihad need to do a better job of advertising it!
The whole seat felt very spacious, with ample storage thanks to the bins along the side-wall:
…. and additional at-seat storage under a side console with a bottle of water:
At the base you will find a universal mains socket, whilst a beautiful light fitting is above:
It’s details like this that make a good seat great. It is unmistakeably Etihad.
In addition to the storage unit there’s also a large side-table:
This features two USB-A charging ports (behind the amenity kit), a remote for the in-flight entertainment as well as the seat controls. The second screen lets you further adjust the seat, with additional settings to adjust the seat hardness and lumbar support.
To the right of this table is the in-flight entertainment screen which I would hazard is around 18″ diagonally. Underneath is a surprisingly spacious footwell, far more spacious than many business class seats:
Underneath the footrest is an empty space that’s perfect for stowing away shoes. The Armani/Casa duvet was on the footrest and felt high quality.
A large tray table flips down from behind the seat control unit:
The table feels really solid, which is great, but it can be quite a challenge to get out and it often does so with quite a thud – not ideal on a night flight if you don’t want to disturb the other passengers.
Whilst there are no personal air vents, Etihad has fitted the Business Studios with electronically-actuated blinds. You can choose between a sheer blind and a blackout blind, as you can see below. I love this, as I enjoy having my windows open during the day but often the sun can be too bright or shining right onto you, so it’s nice to have the option of diffuse light.
I put the seat into bed mode for a quick afternoon nap. Etihad now supplies memory foam mattress pads which are great. Whilst they aren’t the thickest, they make a huge difference and mean you aren’t laying right on the seat itself, too.
The duvet is very warm and the pillow just firm enough. My only complaint is that the bed is a hair too short for my 6’2″ frame: I could stretch out, but my feet touched the end.
Also at my seat was an Acqua di Parma amenity kit. I’m a big fan of this kit: it looks great and the bag is super reusable too, unlike some kits. You could easily use it as a travel wallet or similar.
Inside are a set of black socks, an eye mask, dental kit, hand gel, sanitising wipes, Acqua di Parma hand cream and a little sample-size eu de toilette.
To be honest, I think the hand gel and wipes can probably go, and would be better replaced with some Acqua di Parma lipbalm or similar.
In-flight entertainment on the A380
As mentioned before, you have a 18″ monitor plus a small IFE remote with a second screen. (Does anyone use these? I never do.)
The supplied headphones in business class are pretty standard and nothing special, I would say. I’m not sure they’re noise cancelling.
Etihad calls its IFE system ‘E-BOX’ which, to be honest, sounds a bit 2005 to me. However, it worked very well and came with a vast selection of films including new releases, classics, Disney and Marvel as well as the entire Mission Impossible collection (although not the most recent one that is currently in cinemas).
If you want to watch something with someone else, you can actually share your content and watch simultaneously.
If you’d rather just put something on in the background, you can also choose from one of the three A380 cameras, including the tail cam, which I always love.
What was really cool, I thought, is that you can also order drinks from the IFE. Most airlines don’t do this even in their newer cabins so this was very forward thinking from Etihad when they introduced the A380 back in 2015.
Of course, you can also log into the ‘Wi-Fly,’ and Etihad recently rolled out free messaging for all Etihad Guest members. It’s worth signing up just for this.
If you want to do more than just messaging, you can buy a full flight ‘surf’ package for $9.99 which I thought was reasonable.
That said, the wifi on board wasn’t amazing and seemed to get worse as the flight progressed. It struggled to load photos and definitely couldn’t manage any videos. Probably some of the worst wifi I’ve experienced this year, which is a shame.
Food and service in business class
Service was excellent with both the cabin manager and cabin crew coming to introduce themselves. If I had to describe it, I would say it was a bit more conversational and friendly than the service you’d get on Qatar Airways, which can sometimes be a bit robotic. Joanna, in particular, was excellent and always kept me topped up.
After boarding, the crew initially came round offering champagne, orange juice or water. Of course I opted for the champagne, a Duval-Leroy Brut Reserve which I found particularly pleasant:
This was followed by a hot towel service. Joanne also took my order for a post-take-off drink, which came with a sizeable portion of nuts:
On this fight, a day flight, the main meal consisted of a lunch service, with a range of snacks available on the side that you could order at any time.
To start, there was a choice between arabic mezze, a roast beef carpaccio and pumpkin soup. I opted for the mezze, which I think is my favourite airline mezze now (sorry Qatar!)
Earlier this year Etihad launched a new partnership with Armani / Casa for all the tableware, which you can see above. I know some people think the tray looks cheap, but I thought it went well with the overall design of the other items and it’s got an anti-slip coating which keeps everything in place.
The little green puck is a salt and pepper pinch pot with roughly ground peppercorns and sea salt flakes – probably the classiest salt and pepper I’ve had in the sky.
There were four options for the main course:
- Roasted chicken breast with confit potato, asparagus, onion soubise, kohlrabi and jus
- Grilled cod fillet with parsnip puree, kale, carrot, leek and lobster sauce
- Lamb biryani with basmati rice and spices
- Spinach & cheddar gnocchi with cherry tomato, pumpkin, eggplant, basil and tarragon sauce
Whilst I don’t normally order fish on board I was tempted by the cod fillet, which was delicious:
Finally, for dessert, there was a choice of cheese plate, warm white chocolate bread and butter pudding, yuzu matcha Sakura cheesecake, fresh fruit or a selection of Haagen-Dazs ice cream.
I went for the bread and butter pudding:
That was it for the formal service, although you could of course order from the all-day dining menu at any point. This included choices such as:
- Steak sandwich (an Etihad classic)
- Open chicken & tarragon pie
- Mixed leaf salad
- Fres fruit
- Ice cream
Later on in the flight I opted for the steak sandwich. The meat was very tender:
Etihad uses DO&CO as its caterers in London, the same company as British Airways. That said, I think it is very apparent how different the quality and presentation can be depending on how much you budget for meals.
Certainly from a presentation standpoint, Etihad plates up all meals in the galley, and it shows.
Over the past decade, Etihad has endured a number of identity crises: first by trying to compete as a mega carrier with Emirates; then pursuing ultra-luxury before realising it wasn’t financially sustainable and going through a cost cutting phase.
Finally, it seems like Etihad has found its groove. Business class on the A380 felt luxurious – despite being in a cabin with 69 other people – without being over the top. It feels like a happy balance has been struck.
I was particularly impressed by the crew and service, which I thought was excellent. The seat, despite being almost a decade old, can also hold its own against more modern cabins.
There are just two things I think Etihad could improve on here: the wifi, which was poor, and the number of lavatories. There are just four toilets for a cabin of seventy, and I had to queue on a number of occasions around peak times (after take-off, after the meal service etc).
Overall, I thought it was an superb flight and definitely an airline I’d fly again. A big thank you to Etihad for inviting me for this special inaugural flight.
A review of the First Class lounge in Abu Dhabi from my return flight is here.
Head for Points made a financial contribution to the Woodland Trust as part of this trip. The Woodland Trust creates and manages forests in the UK in accordance with the Woodland Carbon Code.
How to earn Etihad Guest miles from UK credit cards (December 2023)
Etihad Guest does not have a UK credit card. However, you can earn Etihad Guest miles by converting Membership Rewards points earned from selected UK American Express cards.
Cards earning Membership Rewards points include:
- American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 20,000 Etihad Guest miles. This card is FREE for your first year and also comes with four free airport lounge passes.
- The Platinum Card from American Express (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 30,000 Etihad Guest miles.
- American Express Rewards credit card (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 10,000 Etihad Guest miles. This card is FREE for life.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 into Etihad Guest miles which is an attractive rate. The cards above all earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on your card, which converts to 1 Etihad Guest mile. The Gold card earns double points (2 per £1) on all flights you charge to it.