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After catching up on some sleep using a day-use booking at the Hilton New York JFK Airport hotel, I was fully charged and ready for my 12-hour flight to Abu Dhabi. For this segment, I had booked myself a seat on Etihad Airway’s A380 in their Business Studios cabin. Last year when I flew on Etihad’s (now retired) A340-600 from ICN to AUH and AUH to CDG, I was left a little disappointed, so I was curious to see how their newer A380 product stacks up.
I arrived at Terminal 4 of JFK International Airport around 7pm, leaving plenty of time to check-in and visit the Etihad Airways lounge before my flight at 10:55pm. Good that I arrived early, as the departure level was quite busy and chaotic around this time, with long queues forming at the check-in counters. There was about a 15-person queue on the Etihad Airways Business check-in lane, so it took about 20 minutes before I was able to get checked-in.
After picking up my boarding passes, I proceeded through security and headed directly to the Etihad Airways Lounge, where I would be spending the next two hours before heading to my gate. The lounge is not far from the security checkpoint; in fact I literally turned a corner from security and I was there! Even from the outside, the lounge looks quite stunning.
A receptionist greeted me at the entrance and told me that boarding would be announced when it was time. Heading into the lounge, the first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful-looking bar! I loved the geometric appearance and sandy colors of the bar surface, the chairs, shelving, and even the ceiling overhang. It certainly takes inspiration from Etihad’s livery, and it works perfectly.
Walking further into the lounge, there are some traditional lounge chairs set in groups, as well as some individual lounge chairs facing the windows. The entire length of the lounge is lined with windows that look out into the apron, where you can see plenty of Terminal 4 activity. I could imagine the view would be even more spectacular during the day, for those who love to spot planes. (me included 😉 )
There was a small buffet spread with limited food selection, but the quality of the food was really good. I especially loved the Mediterranean dips, as well as the lamb and potato curry.
There was a fair amount of beverage choices, including various types of coffee, tea, pop, beer and wine.
If you’re not in the mood for buffet, there is a small A La Carte dining menu, that can be enjoyed at these 2-seater dining tables. Forgive me as I neglected to get a photo of the A La Carte menu. What I do know is that there used to be way more choices in the A La Carte menu, which has since been scaled back due to Etihad’s cost-cutting initiatives.
There is a shower available at this lounge as well, and it is located within the main bathroom.
This was one of the nicest lounges I’ve been to in the US. Although it’s not that big, everything from the lounge styling to the food quality was top-notch. It got a bit busier as we approached the boarding time, but it wasn’t overly crowded like some US lounges I’ve been to. About 15 minutes before my scheduled boarding time, I left the lounge and headed to the gate.
The aircraft scheduled for my flight was A6-APE, one of ten A380s in Etihad Airway’s fleet. I’m really liking the Etihad livery on this aircraft. It just feels so classy and really brings a Middle Eastern vibe. I wish I got the Year of Zayed livery though!
I arrived at the gate about ten minutes prior to boarding, and from the looks of it the gate agents were already preparing to announce boarding without any delay.
Pretty soon, boarding began, a full hour before departure. On Etihad’s A380, the Business Class seats are all on the upper deck, along with First Class and The Residence. The lower deck is entirely economy. Today I’ll be boarding at the upper deck second door, which separates First Class and Business Class. The Etihad Airways boarding music played as I boarded, which is actually one of my favorite boarding music.
Etihad Airways brands their Business Class seats as Business Studios. There are a total of 70 Business Studio seats spread out over three cabins on the upper deck. The largest compartment is the one behind the Etihad Bar, containing the most seats, which is where I will be sitting. There are two smaller cabins further back in the plane. All seats have direct aisle access as they are laid out in a 1-2-1 seating configuration, with the rows alternating between forward-facing or rear-facing. The seats also alternate between being closer to the aisle or being closer to the window/middle.
Since I’m travelling alone this time, I picked seat 16K, which is a forward-facing window seat which is closer to the window. This offers the most privacy and is perfect for solo travelers in my opinion.
For comparison, here is seat 16F across from my seat. If you are travelling with someone else and want to sit together, these would be perfect, as you could lower the middle barrier and sit basically next to each other.
My first impression of the seat was how spacious it was. Legroom was enormous with the leg rest extending pretty deep. Being 5’7″, I could barely reach the leg rest in the upright seat position. The pathway to get into the seat is a good width, making it pretty easy to get in and out of your seat.
A large, touch-screen TV sits directly in front of the seat above the leg rest.
I also was impressed by the amount of surface area to put things, as you basically get two side tables. One of them doubles as an armrest, and also opens up to reveal plenty of storage. You can also find the noise-cancelling headset stowed in here.
On my seat was this nice and plushy pillow.
Above the main side table you’ll find an IFE-controller (which resembled the one on the Cathay A350) as well as a touch panel that controls things like the lighting and the seat. You’ll also find two USB outlets here. Unfortunately, the power kept cutting out throughout the flight, so I had to rely on my own external battery pack. I’m not sure if this is specific to my seat, or if it is a wider problem with all the seats.
Just along the bottom of the side table are some quick seat controls.
The touch panel gives finer control of the seat position, cushion firmness, as well as controls the seat massage feature, the seat lighting, and the window shades.
Two storage compartments are found along the side. These aren’t specific to Etihad, but rather common across many A380 business class compartments. They pop up to reveal a massive amount of storage! It’s perfect for me as I tend to carry a lot of gear for trip review purposes, and the last thing I want is for my equipment to take up precious space around my seat. With these, I can just dump all my gear into one of these compartments and have it all out of the way when I’m not using it, and easy access when I do need them. For this seat, one of the compartments had a faulty door which was very difficult to open, so I just stuck to using just one of them, which was still more than enough room.
The tray table slides out vertically from behind the side table, and rotates down into the final position. It is covered in a smooth wood-finish, and you can slide it forward to move it out of the way should you need to get out of your seat. One thing I didn’t like about the tray table was how much strength it took to actually stow it away. This was an annoyance as I felt my seat shake a couple times from other passengers using force to stow their tray tables.
The amenity kit provided is by Acqua Di Parma, and is made of a nice leather material. I’ll go over the contents a bit later in the post.
The seat literature contains several magazines, a duty-free catalog, safety card, sickness bag, as well as the WiFi connectivity information. Three different WiFi packages were available on the flight:
- 4.95 USD for 30MB
- 11.95 USD for 90MB
- 19.95 USD for 180MB
The pricing isn’t cheap, but it’s not terrible either compared to some other airlines. As I wanted to stay connected to get some work done on the 12 hour flight, I opted to get the 19.95 USD plan. The speeds were decent, but I lost connection for a bit as we were flying across the Atlantic.
My view from 16K was basically an over-wing view, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to see any engines for this flight. The window on the A380 is also very small, especially compared to that of the dreamliner, and the fact that it is double-layered glass makes it extra difficult for any kind of photography.
Window shades in the business class cabin are controlled using these buttons. This is both good and bad for me, as it means the crew have the ability to close and disable the window shades remotely to keep the cabin dark (which Etihad did for the majority of the flight). As a photographer, I hate not having control of the blinds, although I understand how one bright window can disturb an entire sleeping cabin.
As I settled in, the crew came over to hand out the hot towel and offered me a selection of beverages, of which I selected the orange juice. Boarding continued slowly throughout the hour as more business class passengers came aboard. Eventually the cabin filled up to capacity and I don’t think there were any free seats left. A flight attendant came over to introduce himself and also take my order for a beverage after departure and the first meal service.
Soon enough, we were pushing back from our gate, and a travel prayer was played on the IFE, followed by the safety video. I noticed this travel prayer on my previous Etihad flights as well, and thought it was pretty neat, although I had no idea what it was saying. I was also listening intently for the engine startup, which I could barely make out. The A380 is insanely quiet! (Maybe a bit too quiet for my liking 😉 )
We had a long taxi out to runway 22R for departure, followed closely by an Emirates A380. Guess it’ll be a race to the Middle East!
We had a dark and overcast departure out of JFK, and I watched as the glow of city lights disappeared through layers of cloud. As we climbed to our cruising altitude, I used the opportunity to check out the IFE. The user interface is appealing, easy to use and navigate, with essential flight information and map always within easy reach. The selection of movies, TV shows and games was plenty enough to keep me entertained throughout the 12-hour flight. There was a slight touch delay when scrolling and pressing buttons, but it was acceptable.
As we leveled off, the crew began to prepare for the first meal service. The menu is as follows.
To start off, I had a Sencha Green Tea and a tray of warm nuts to get my appetite going.
For starters, I selected the Arabic Mezze, which is a mix of traditional Arabic appetizers which are very savory. I had this on a previous Emirates flight out of SEA and loved it, so I thought I’d try it on Etihad! I did not regret it, as it was delicious.
Following that, I had the Seared Salmon, which was served with a lemon caper cream sauce, with wilted spinach and fingerling potatoes on the side. This dish tasted fantastic as well and the salmon was not overcooked or dry, which is sometimes a worry on flights.
I rounded off the meal with a chocolate souffle that was warm in the center. Pouring some fresh cream on top made it taste like absolute heaven!
Of course a dessert has to be paired with a nice cup of coffee.
After the meal service, the cabin lights were dimmed to allow passengers to get some rest on this red-eye flight.
The washrooms in the business class cabin have this upscale look to it, featuring gloss black surfaces and a tiled back-splash. Acqua Di Parma amenities were also available, the same brand which provided the amenity kit.
After the meal, I checked out the Etihad bar, which was empty at the time. There are a total of 6 seats surrounding this bar table, where you can order drinks and snacks and enjoy it with your party or other fellow passengers. Since this was a red-eye flight, I wasn’t sure how much use it would get throughout the flight.
The concept is pretty cool, but I personally prefer Emirate’s more open and circular bar design, which feels more social and fun.
At this point, we were just beginning to cross the Atlantic, so there was still a long time left in the flight. I decided to put the seat into the lie-flat bed mode and try to get some sleep.
Etihad provides a thick blanket which is pretty warm. It’s not as soft and smooth as I would like, but it gets the job done. I tend to find airplane cabins pretty warm in general, so I usually only cover myself a little bit during sleep.
In the lie-flat bed position, there was plenty of space to fidget around and stretch out. Etihad doesn’t provide a dedicated mattress or mattress cover like ANA or EVA, but the bed was really comfortable nevertheless. It was definitely one of the most spacious beds I’ve slept in while in the air, and allowed me to get a couple hours of good sleep.
After several hours of sleep, I woke up and opened up the Acqua Di Parma amenity kit to check out the contents. Included are a pair of socks, hand cream, toothbrush and a small bottle of cologne. Pretty standard stuff.
What I found neat was that you could fold the amenity kit into a sturdy tray like so. I’m not sure what the practical uses are, but it’s kinda neat.
I had a browse through the duty-free catalog and bought a couple of items, including an Etihad Airways A380 1/500 scale diecast model, as well as an Etihad tag. I personally collect 1/400 scale models, but I thought this would make a good giveaway item 😉 The Etihad pen was free by request from the FA.
Thanks to Etihad’s Anytime Menu, I could order the breakfast whenever I wanted. I decided to have it a couple of hours out of Abu Dhabi. The Poha Indian breakfast sounded good from the menu, so I decided to order that, along with a Lemon & Lime tea to awaken my senses. The Poha was absolutely delicious, and consisted of paneer tikka, spiced potato balls and tomato chutney. It was also a bit spicy which I loved. I enjoyed my breakfast while watching the beautiful views from the A380 tail camera.
The skies outside eventually turned golden, as the last rays of sun began to slip beneath the horizon. It was amazing to watch this sunset from 39,000 ft. Sadly this meant that our arrival into Abu Dhabi would be in darkness.
The remainder of the flight was pretty standard as we descended our way into Abu Dhabi International Airport, so I’ll skip to the summary of this flight.
All in all, I really loved my time on this flight. The privacy, spaciousness and functionality offered by the Business Studio seat was top notch. There were a few minor gripes – my seat’s USB outlets were finicky, one of my storage compartments had a faulty door, and the tray table needs too much strength to close. With that aside though, the overall hard product was really good. The service from the flight crew was excellent as well, and much better than my previous experience with Etihad. They were friendly and attentive, taking very good care of me during the flight, and were quick to respond to crew calls. Having said that, nothing has yet rivaled the hospitality of certain Asian airlines such as ANA or EVA, but I was still impressed. Food selection was a little limited, but what they did offer was delicious, especially the Arabic Mezze and the Indian Poha breakfast. Also, I really appreciated the Anytime dining, especially on a red-eye flight like this one. Other than the seat itself, Etihad’s common bar area is a cool little space to hang out with your party, but I much preferred Emirate’s interpretation of the space, which featured a dedicated bartender, a circular bar, and trays of snacks and bites. (Check out my report on Emirates here) Overall, I would certainly say I had a wonderful 12 hours in the air.
For a more cinematic experience, why not check out our YouTube trip report for this flight?
Have you flown with Etihad? What are your impressions of Etihad’s A380 Business Studios? Leave your comments below! Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter for instant updates when we release a new post! Also head over to our YouTube channel for our video trip reports. Thanks for reading!
Alvin is an aviation geek, enthusiast photographer, and software developer with a goal of exploring the world. He uses mileage programs to redeem premium flight travel, and shares his experiences here on OneMoreWeekToGo.