Despite flying an awful lot we rarely get to fly business class so for us it is still a big treat. On our recent trip out to Australia, we took a gamble and entered a few bids into Etihad’s Business class upgrade system. Our first few bids were all rejected but for the final leg of the return journey from Manchester to Brisbane, Via Abu Dhabi, we bagged the upgrade and got ready to take to the skies in style.
After flying 14 hours in Ethiads rather awful Economy class, the chance to recover and grab a shower in the Business class Lounge before getting a super comfy lie-flat bed for the remainder of the journey was a real luxury. We naturally took the time to review the experience and bring you everything you need to know about flying in Ethiads Business Class Cabin. Our Etihad 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class Review takes a look at the whole process form the business class lounge to boarding, an in-depth look at the Business class pos and lie-flat seat, along with the food and drink on offer and the quality of the service. First up we take a look at how we secured our upgrade from economy to Business!
Naturally, most people flying business class will not be using the bidding process and in fact will even be unlikely to even be booking the flights themselves, however, we still see flying as a leisure activity even though it is now really 100% Business, but we like to still treat is as part of our holiday as that is how our readers experience flying!
The Bidding System is offered to Economy passengers as a way to maximize airline profits by getting at least some revenue for any unused business class seats. This makes complimentary upgrades a thing of the past on all airlines that utilize the system, which is most of them now, and gives you only really two routes to get into the business class cabin.
- Book it!
- Bid for it!
We tend to bid low and really cross our fingers that no one else is playing the game. This leads to mainly failure but we do see around a 25% hit ratio on our bids even though we go really low. We tend to limit our bids to around £6-700 ($750-900) depending on the flight. Our offers on the first 3 legs of the journey were all declined with bids of over £1000 ($1300) taking the seats. This is way over what we would have been willing to pay. Turning our £650 Flight into a £4500 journey! Not far off what a business class ticket would have cost!
As we boarded our flight from Brisbane to Abu Dhabi we still did not know if our final bid had been accepted and at check-in for the flight boarding passes for both legs were issued in Economy and we didn’t hold out much hope. 14 Hours later as we arrived at Abu Dhabi airport we checked our E-mails to find our £650 ($800) bid had been accepted and we would be in business class for the next 8 hours leg back to manchester!
Abu Dhabi Business Class Lounge
Disembarking the plane at Abu-Dhabi funneled us straight into the awful flight transfer hall where we are subjected to further security screening after a long a tortuous queue. Business Class gave us no privileges here as the Business and first-class lane was closed.
The first stop then is the Etihad Transfers desk. Normally there is no need to visit here but we needed to get our Economy Boarding passes replaced with our upgraded Business class passes! At first, the Representative was rather skeptical and treated us with a little disdain, acting as if we were trying to wrangle an upgrade not simply collected one we had already acquired. “You do know Business class on this flight is full?” Well no we didn’t but we have had £650 each charged to our Credit card for an upgrade!
After a few seconds tapping away the confirmation came up on his screen and his demeanor changed and out came the Business class passes. Next, he was on his phone and double-checking we were OK to use the Business class lounge, which was confirmed. So, off we went away from the miserable and depressing Abu Dhabi Departures terminal and into the all-inclusive Business class lounge.
The Lounge at Abu Dhabi is large and very nicely appointed with Marble floors, rich wooden dividers, and comfortable longing areas and spacious dining tables. We headed to the large central bar and kicked things off with some champagne.
We had a 3.5 Hour layover which would normally be a real chore after 14hours in the air but in the luxury of the lounge, it would be no problem. There are 3 large buffet areas two are for western tastes and the other is a more authentic regional cuisine. We were there at breakfast time locally do all three were adorned with excellent breakfast items. However, you were also able to order fresh from the kitchen as well.
Our body clocks were a little messed up so we were not exactly sure what we fancied but a selection of pastries and light bites went down very well. The breakfast items were all present but naturally, any pork products were replacement items, so turkey sausage and imitation bacon.
After 14 hours on a hot sticky flight, we were in desperate need of a shower and these were found nestled in the ultra-clean and wonderfully smelling toilets that had an attendant on duty 24/7 The rainfall shower was simply heaven and washed away the misery of the last flight in no time. We then just relaxed with a few drinks ready for the flight. This time was cut short as final boarding was called 50 mins before our scheduled departure. So off to the gate.
As Business class we had priority boarding but we got to the gate as one of the last few people so this perk as unused, besides we would rather be in the lounge than in the plane even if it was in business. As we headed through the gate we found out why boarding was so early, there was no plane! Just a bus, that would whisk us off to some distant part of the airport where our plane was waiting.
As we arrived at the aircraft our worst fears of flying Ethiad came true. A real sense of We are not getting on that plane came over us as the reality of what was happening dawned. The entire plane was painted sky blue and adorned with the badge and name of Ethiads Proud sponsorship Partner, Manchester City. If you don’t understand, well we are from manchester and big football fans (well I am) but we hail from the red part of Manchester, not the blue. Getting on a City plane was not part of the deal!
Fortunately once onboard the interior is no different from any of Etihad’s planes and the horror soon melted away as we presented out Business class tickets and turned left!
Ethiad Business Cabin Layout
After arriving at our seats we were instantly greeted by our cabin crew who welcomed us aboard and offered us a choice of champagne or orange juice, we naturally opted for bubbles and settled into our seats. Me and Katie were seated a few rows away from each other, naturally as we were last-minute upgrades we had no seat choice. I got a really nice window seat whereas Katie’s window seat was devoid of any actual windows! Seats 9A and 9H both share this “feature”
The layout is a bit strange to us and would not suit our usual flying style. We like traveling together but the pod layout means you are essentially traveling alone. However, privacy is not actually that good. The entire flight the neighboring seat occupant was directly in my eye line meaning we spent a large amount of time awkwardly catching each other’s eyes unintentionally.
If you wish to travel together the only seat options are rows 5,7,9, and 11 seats E and F. These seats are actually adjacent and perfect for couples but would provide potentially awkward traveling if you were seated in these with a stranger! There is also very little room to visit other seats there are no perch seats where you can sit and have chat instead you are forced to hover nervously trying not to annoy the other guests. The lack of a bar area also compounds this. Overall it’s not a particularly well-designed space and while it does not bother us at all a number of seats force you to fly backwards which does upset some people!
Business Class Layflat Seat
Once in your own little pod however things do improve. The space is far better designed with only a few annoyances. The gap to leave the seat is seriously small. only with the seat fully back is there any hope of getting out comfortably. The other small issue is the screen is an awfully long way away and impossible to touch without climbing out your seat. The remote controller solves this issue but it is a bit awkward and clunky to use all the time.
With those issues out the way, the rest is all excellent. The seat in its full upright position is really comfy. It has great support and is adjustable for both lumbar and firmness. However, once the seatbelt sign goes off the seat would not be back to the upright position again until landing. The nearly infinitely adjustable seat made the entire flight a breeze. The Massage function was particularly nice to take out the tension of our last flight. The bed moves electronically all the way to fully flat that made a couple of hours sleep easy and very sound.
Sleeping felt like a complete waste however and instead, we focused on sampling the bar service and the food options. The IFE was the same as the rest of the flight a good selection of the latest films, which can always be hit and miss depending on Hollywood’s release schedule, along with a great selection of older but top quality films. The Screen while too far away was pretty huge and very well lit, easily viewable with the windows open. I have three windows in my pod and all three were linked to the same dimmer controls.
There was a handy side table along with a small storage bin to the side. You god a 3-pin power socket along with USB Charger and a terrible 2-pin audio jack. Fortunately, Etihad provided some pretty decent headphones for business class customers which were large comfy and did a good job of noise canceling. The sound was pretty awful though and I ended up using my own with an adapter I was luckily carrying.
Food and Drink
Moments after settling in and enjoying our champagne we were offered a drink for after takeoff. This arrived as soon as the seatbelt light was turned off. The drinks menu was decent if not remarkable. There was a good choice of wines all of really good quality, a choice of two beers, Peroni or Stella Artois. The spirits were fairly limited but top-shelf. Scotch fans will be happy if not delighted. There were three whiskeys available, Jack Daniels which is disappointing, Gelnlivit Reserve which was excellent and a Chivas Regal 18 yo which was also very good. I made a good effort in sampling as much as possible.
The Food menu is on-demand and shortly after takeoff, the food and beverage manager spoke to each guest to see if they wanted the dinner service and what time they would like to be served. There is also a selection of snacks that can be ordered whenever you fancied them but on our fairly short flight, the 3-course dinner was more than enough.
Without discussing things first we both selected the same 3 courses of the Arabic Mezze, the Sea Bream and a chocolate brownie for dessert. Even before tasting a bite we are far happier with the choice over Economy. Of course, the quality and selection would be superior but in economy the choice made no sense whereas in Business we were offered foods that reflected the origin of the flight rather than the just generic bland offerings in economy.
Once dinner arrived the tray table was laid with a white linen cloth along with real cutlery and china. The Mezze was excellent a nice selection and really large portion. The Fish Course followed very soon as was excellent. Not restaurant quality (the skin was soggy, not crispy as would be expected from a panfried fillet) but really tasty and with bags of flavor.
A brief pause followed while we enjoyed some wine before dessert, which was actually disappointing. The Brownie was very dry and only saved by the excellent praline sauce. And after dinner port and then it was time for the seat to go full reclaim and enjoy the most amazing post-meal snooze in the world!
Service was sublime. At one time, just before landing when the crew were very busy I pushed the call button and it took a whole 1:40 for someone to attend to me. That was the longest I waited and normally the response time was spookily fast. The truth is we very rarely needed to press the call button as the service seemed to pre-empt any whim and desire we had.
Really as expected the service was pretty much without fault, we are more used to overworked cabin crew in economy who have hundreds of customers to service, whereas there was at least 6 crew in business class to service only 28 guests. It really does feel very special and akin to what royalty may feel!
There are not many perks for business class on arrival at manchester. As we were upgrades we could not have a car waiting for us but still being first off the plane meant we got to customs control with around 8 or nine people in front of us in the queue. Then at the baggage carousel, our bags arrived straight away meaning we were through the airport and out the exit in less than 10 mins, out into the rain, where our lift had not arrived yet…back to reality.
Ethiad business was a fantastic experience. There are a few quirks with the seat layout and the cabin but on the whole, you have a wonderful space that you can call your own. Service is absolutely top-notch and the food really good. Drinks are endless and the seat is very comfortable with a ton of adjustment meaning most people will find their happy place.
Abu Dhabi’s new airport really is one to forget so having access to the Business class lounge made all the difference. A 3.5 Hour layover went in a flicker. We all clock watch on flights wishing the time away but in the Business class cabin, we were clock-watching in the opposite sense, trying to stretch the hours as our 8hour flight was too short to really indulge in all the benefits and luxury provided by the cabin crew and in-flight service. We know Business class passengers, on the whole, are very demanding and we are generally not so discerning but this is an excellent product a million miles away from the substandard economy offering of Etihad.
Have Your Say
Have you Flown Business Class With Ethiad? Let us know your thoughts and comments below. Every flight and every service are very different so we love hearing your highs and lows. If you have any questions about the service, the bidding process or anything at all Etihad related just fire us a message below.