Etihad A350 Business Class Review from New York to Abu Dhabi

Etihad Airways A350

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Etihad Airlines, based in Abu Dhabi UAE, is known for their flashy luxury seats and for having some of the best food in the sky.

Prior to this trip, I had only flown Etihad once on a short route from Abu Dhabi to Istanbul so I was very excited to try a long haul product, on their new A350-1000 nonetheless.

Now this was going to be a long haul flight, about 11 hours from JFK to Abu Dhabi airport. Etihad had only recently started flying their new A350 when I took this route so I got a glimpse of the new seat configuration from other travelers that have taken it.

The business class on the A350 is unlike any other from Etihad, configured in a 1-2-1, each seat is considered a “suite” with a door at each seat. While some think the seat door is a gimick, I think it makes a big difference, especially once you figure out how to unlock it.

I planned to take full advantage of this flight to experience the seat, food, and overall experience of Etihad staff.

Booking Process

Etihad is known as a premier airline, so flight prices don’t come cheap, especially in business class. A flight on the A350-1000, one of Etihad’s newest aircraft, can run you over $5,000. This is even greater than what Emirates charges on the same route.

Etihad Cash Price

There was no way I was paying that much, so naturally using points and miles was the obvious choice.

Now I could book with Etihad points directly but in my experience they often ask for hundreds of thousands of points for redemptions making it not at all worth it.

This is where Air Canada Aeroplan has once again come to the rescue. I have used Aeroplan for a number of flights in the past including on Etihad from Abu Dhabi to Istanbul and on Gulf Air from Bahrain to Singapore.

I was surprised to find availability via Aeroplan for 85,000 miles per person in business class. A steal compared to the 400,000+ booking via Etihad directly.

This was a no brainer and provided an incredible value the amount of points.

Luckily Aeroplan transfers from all major credit cards so it was easy to gather the required points for the booking.

I was heading to the UAE for a wedding and even had a few other attendees book the same deal on the same flight. I was excited to not only experience this flight but also have other people with me on the trip.

Airport Experience

While I was very excited to sit on one of Etihad’s newest planes on a 11 hour journey to Abu Dhabi. However, my airport experience did not start out as expected.

When I arrived at JFK, I was shocked at the scenes of chaos at every single check in counter. This couldn’t be good.

JFK Check In

I was shortly informed that all computer systems at JFK were down and no airline was able to secure a check in. The line up around the terminal was unlike anything I’ve seen, especially on a normal weather evening.

I waited in the check in line for about 1 and 1/2 hours before we were slowly moving through to the desk.

To my surprise when we got there, the system actually wasn’t even back up and running and they were issuing manual boarding passes.

Etihad Boarding Pass

This was definitely a first for me as I watched the attendant write down all my details on a pass before handing it to me.

While I had arrived with plenty of time until check in, this fiasco caused all flights to be delayed so I wasn’t concerned about missing my flight.

The flight boarded about 3 hours late and given it was an overnight I didn’t mind too much.

Flight Experience

It was finally time to board, 3 hours later than expected, but I was ready to get on our way. Since this flight departs pretty late at night, even on time, I knew shortly after boarding I would have a quick meal then get some sleep.

A350 cabin

My first look at the cabin, it was rather dimmed with a yellow mood light. The flight was going to be full this route but I was boarded in the middle so still got time to see the full cabin without it being full.

A350 cabin

I made my way through the back rows of seat and I had selected a solo seat 8A since I knew I would mostly want to relax on this trip. The middle seats looked good if you’d like to have a conversation with your partner during the flight but given the timing I found booking seat 7A and 8A for my wife and I to be a better option.

A350 cabin from seat

The view of the cabin from the seat really stresses how much more spacious it feels without overhead bins. I also felt the amount of space in the bins on the sides was plenty even when you include the middle passengers needing to use them.

A350 window seat

I arrived at my seat and immediately noticed the simple yet elegant color choice. The seat is fairly standard, similar to British Airways new club suites, but with certain touches that make it unique to Etihad.

A350 window seat 8A

I like the way the colors showcased in this cabin but it is a toned down version of the seats on their 787. You can definitely tell this is a safer bet by Etihad in terms of design but I think the seat still gives off the elegance they want it to.

Seat lamp

The addition of this lamp adds a lot to the ambiance in your seat and is signature Etihad. The seat also had a built in wireless charging station, which is a nice touch.

A350 IFE

The IFE is fairly large and equipped with all the latest tech. There is no moving the IFE and its positioned fixed right in front of you.

A350 seat controls

The seat controls have their own dedicated panel, similar to the 787, with a mix of digital buttons and physical ones. I found these easier to use than the 787 and definitely more responsive given the newer plane.

Amenity kits

The ammenity kit was an Acqua Di Parma with the standard items but I found the kit to be a bit small to keep so I ended up leaving it on the plane.

Storage and controller

The storage bin had over the ear headphones, an additional remote, and outlet. I really like the outlet placement here making it much easier to use. I find some airlines tend to hide the outlet in hard to reach places but this makes it way more practical. To the right of the outlet is also the wireless charging area that I used for most of the flight.

Bluetooth on IFE

One of the best things of newer planes is the ability to connect bluetooth to the IFE. I’ve always flown around with my AirFly Pro that can do the same but on these planes its much easier than needing to add an external device.

Suite door

Now onto the suite door that is situated in a “locked” position while on the ground. The height of the door doesn’t provide complete privacy but I do still think it makes a difference, especially when laying down.

Suite door

You will only be able to use the suite door once the FA has “unlocked” it after takeoff. I’ve been on flights where they forgot to do it so if I shared here how you can unlock it yourself.

Menu JFK to Abu Dhabi

Now onto one of my favorite things about traveling in business class, the food. Etihad certainly had great food on my first route from Abu Dhabi to Istanbul but I was curious how JFK catering was going to do for them.

The menu is broken up into a set meal as well as an anytime ordering section.

There is definitely a lot of options on Etihad so you will not go hungry as in other airlines – I’m looking at you United Polaris.

Welcome champagne

I settled into the flight with a glass of champagne and some warm nuts. The glassware on pre departure beverages really makes a difference since there is nothing like a real champagne glass to get your flight started.

Next up was mealtime shortly after the late takeoff.

Appetizer – Tuna Tataki

I started off with the Tuna Tataki that was paired with an asian style salad underneath. The tuna was served at a good temperature and the sauce was not overly sweet as I would have imagined.

Appetizer – Tuna Tataki

A closer look at the tuna – it felt fresh and was easy to eat. The pairing with the cabbage really worked and it was a nice light started.

Now given I wanted to get the most out of my Etihad food experience – I asked for a second appetizer that they happily provided.

I’ve been on other airlines where they scoff at you for asking for an additional dish and nice to see Etihad stands out as a willing airline. My friend on the flight also got a second entree, just to further confirm their willingness to make passengers happy.

Appetizer – Curried cauliflower soup

I decided to also get the curried cauliflower soup and it was delicious. The soup was well balanced with a nice turmeric and curry flavor.

Appetizer – Curried cauliflower soup

The soup was a nice change of pace from the cold tuna and I liked the idea of getting two dishes that I could try before the main meal.

Now onto the entree, where I ordered the Lamb machbous.

Entree – Lamb Machbous

From the description I knew this was going to be a type of comfort food – a well seasoned lamb served over rice with a side of yogurt sauce.

I really enjoyed this dish, especially the fried onions on top, and it is similar to the one I ordered last time on Etihad.

Many of the middle eastern carriers serve these well spiced rice dishes as mains and I feel you can never go wrong when you choose them.

After dinner I decided to browse a bit on the internet with the prices listed below.

A350 Wifi Price

Internet price wasn’t too bad until you notice they cap the amount of data you use. I really dislike when airlines do this and for Etihad to cap at 350MB its very low. I would expect either a discount or free wifi for business class or a free 1,000 MB like Turkish Airlines does.

After some light browsing and some sleep I got up with only 2 hours to go in the flight.

I tried waving down a flight attendant to order a drink and some food but she told me I can just order from my screen.

IFE Menu order

What I didn’t notice before is the entire menu was on the screen in front of me. It had all the selection of their drinks as well as the ability to make your own coffee.

IFE Menu order

I filled out my order for a macchiatto and tried to hit confirm… but it didn’t work. I tried a few times and the order never went through.

In the end I had to flag the FA again and order directly but the menu idea of the IFE is great if it ends up working.


I got my coffee and I loved how it came in this high end tray. It really elevates the experience when flying to receive items like this vs just a cup being placed down on your table.

After my coffee I knew I needed to have something to eat and had heard about the steak sandwich being very popular. I decided to give it an order.

Steak sandwich

Only about 10 minutes later my sandwich arrived with a side of chips. Again the plating and presentation was top notch and made me look forward to enjoying my meal.

Steak sandwich

The steak sandwich itself was pretty decent but nothing over the top. It was served warm and had two pieces of steak but didn’t really stand out too much.

Steak sandwich

Maybe getting this sandwich on a departure from Abu Dhabi would make it better but I thought it was decent. I of course still ended up eating the entire thing and before I knew it we were getting ready for landing.

Summary & Takeaways

All in, I had a great experience on Etihad and for the price I paid for this trip I thought it was great value. Etihad seems to have a strong reputation as a luxury airline but often gets iffy reviews on their service from the FA’s.

On this flight the FA’s were very friendly and helpful and you can tell when someone is genuinely wanting you to enjoy your trip. That is what I experienced on this flight and will be looking forward to flying Etihad again.

After this trip, I did notice the A350 is not flying as often on this route but the A380 is actually coming back in service! The downside to this change is I’ve noticed the availability on Aeroplan to be decreasing while Etihad direct miles are getting cheaper.

Perhaps next time I book this route I’ll book through Etihad directly for 110,000 miles and will hopefully get to experience their largest plane while its still flying.

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