Review: Etihad 787-9 Business Class from Abu Dhabi to Istanbul

Etihad 787 Business

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I’ll have to admit it took me a long time to fly Etihad Airlines that this was actually going to be my first time. I have read a lot about Etihad offering the most luxurious seats on the market to an airline with some of the best food in the sky.

To say I was excited is an extreme understatement.

Now this was going to be a short flight, only 4.5 hours from Abu Dhabi to Istanbul, but the journey was going to be on one of their largest planes they are still flying, the Boeing 787-9.

I was booked in business class as this particular aircraft was not equipped with a first class cabin. I planned to take full advantage of the short flight and see exactly what Etihad was about.

Booking Process

Etihad is known as a premier airline and with that the flight prices don’t come cheap, especially business class. For this ticket the one way fare was a whopping $3,355 and was no cheaper when you searched for a round trip.

There was no way I was paying that much, let alone for a 4.5 hour flight, 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 recently and the redemption offers on airlines like Etihad, Emirates, and Gulf Air are unmatched to any other program.

I found an incredible deal via Aeroplan for only 20,000 miles per person in business class.

This was a no brainer and provided an incredible value for such a low amount of points.

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

On my way out to the UAE, I flew on Swiss Airlines via Zurich and spent a few nights at The Dubai Edition. I was much more excited for this flight even though it being a short jounrey.

Boarding and Airport

I arrived at Abu Dhabi International Airport early in the morning after a 1 hour car ride from Dubai.

The airport was starting to get very busy and I noticed a number of tour groups departing that day.

Luckily there is a business and first class check in terminal that wasn’t too crowded but definitely still full.

I wouldn’t say there was a huge advantage here, although I didn’t see the economy side, but as soon as you get your boarding pass you are merged with all passengers to go through security and customs.

I made a quick pit stop at the Etihad Business Class Lounge that was way bigger than I was expecting. This lounge was located in the main terminal, although Etihad has another lounge after you go through US Immigration at Abu Dhabi Airport.

Yes, there is US Immigration here that allows you to clear and fly into a domestic terminal when you get to the US. If you are departing this airport to the US make sure you give yourself extra time since the screening can take a bit before you can get to your gate.

When I arrived at my gate I immediately noticed how packed it was.

Etihad boarding area

I was departing from one of the last gates at the terminal and could already see the dreaded buses waiting to take us to the plane.

Etihad boarding

The boarding lines were split into two groups, one for priority boarding and remaining for economy. What I found odd was the economy line was moving much faster but soon realized why they did them both at the same time.

Etihad boarding

I finally made it to the front of the line and was ready to get onto my bus to get to the plane.

Remote gate bus

I took one look at the remote gate bus and was confused. Was I supposed to be getting on this packed bus as well or was there going to be another bus? I would also be shocked if Etihad, known for their luxurious business class cabins, would not provide a separate bus.

Luckily a gate agent stopped me and pointed me left to another bus waiting for business class passengers.

Remote gate bus

The business class bus was not too full and to be honest wasn’t anything special. It was the same bus that you would get regardless of the class of service you fly.

Aircraft and Cabin

We pulled up to the aircraft after about 10 minutes in the bus. One of the perks of remote gates is getting to see your airplane up close and this was no small aircraft. You never really realize the size of airplanes until you see a 787 up close.

Etihad 787 boarding

The boarding process was quick since the business class cabin is not too big. We took the stairs right up and turned left into the cabin.

Etihad 787 Business class cabin

I boarded and got my first few looks at the 787 business class cabin. Note, this is one of the airplanes in Etihad’s fleet that does not have a first class offering.

Etihad 787 Middle seats

I am booked to fly on Etihad A350 in a few weeks so I was kind of excited to check out the slightly older 787 cabin with different seats.

The seats in this cabin are split into 1-2-1 configuration, with the couple seats facing forward and individual seats facing backwards.

Etihad 787 Middle seat

We chose two seats facing forward and I really liked the feel of this cabin, even if it is old. There is something about the gold finishings and lamps that make Etihad’s fleet feel so elevated.

Etihad 787 Middle seats

What I also liked about the seats is how close you can be to your partner or how much privacy with the middle barrier raised. I did end up finding it odd that I could directly see the person across the aisle from me but it didn’t bother me.

Etihad 787 cabin view

The benefits of the cabin is also how spacious it feels. Since there is plenty of overhead bin space the ones in the middle are smaller giving the look of more space.


We were welcomed onboard with a glass of champagne and although it was 9:00am, I couldn’t resist. Etihad typically serves Bollinger La Grande Année 2005, which tastes pretty good but not the best compared to other airlines.

I decided to take a look around while we waiting for boarding to complete.

Seat control panel

What I really liked about the seat was the controls. You had this little digital panel on the left side that had various seat controls and a do not disturb button.

Seat control panel

I messed with the seat a little bit and you only have a few options to recline and move you seat down. Overall the seat was pretty spacious and comfortable even in recline mode.

IFE Screen

Even though its an old plane the IFE was still pretty big and had plenty of options to choose from.

IFE Live tv

I really like when airplanes have Live TV. Often times I don’t know what to watch, especially on short flights, so I tune into some channels while I get some work done.

IFE Search

The move selection on the screen was plenty and I really like the filter feature. You can type in genre, keywords, or categories to find the movie you would want to watch but even better you can move a slider to show just how many of a certain type you want to come up.

Seat storage

There was decent storage space in the seat although I didn’t need to use it much.


The headphones Etihad provides were just ok but nothing special.

Food and Beverage

Now comes the highlight of flights for me, checking out the food offering. I had high hope since I have Etihad ranked as one of the airline with the best food.

We were handed menus shortly after boarding and I scanned it before take off.

Food and wine menu

There were a decent number of options to choose from and I decided to go with the arabic mezze and lamb shank but no dessert for me on this flight. I also resisted the temptation to get some wine, something I don’t do very often.

Mezze appetizer

The mezze platter came out pretty quick after we took off and was very well presented.

Mezze appetizer

The offerings included hummus, tabouleh, muhamarra, and grape leaves. All looked very fresh and were actually served at just the right temperature.


The dishes were served with a side of pretzel bread and another very soft roll. I did get served pita but it looked a bit sad in its plastic so I didn’t really eat much of it.

Soft bread

While you may not be able to tell from the pictures just how soft this bread was, it was incredible.

Mezze up close

As I dove into the mezze I came across this fried ball that I originally thought was falafel. It seemed to be stuffed with meat and although I didn’t know what it was it was delicious.

Main lamb dish

The lamb came out shortly after and was very well presented. It was a lamb shank on top of cous cous with vegetables and onions.

Main lamb dish

The dish and the presentation is exactly what I was looking forward to on Etihad. It was well put together and the plates they use fit the aesthetic of the dish very well.

The lamb itself was incredibly tender and I would have to say this probably the best lamb meal I’ve ever had on an airplane. I easily took down this whole dish regardless of what time it was in the morning.

Espresso dessert

I know I should’ve ordered tea given I was in the middle east but I had to finish with an espresso. Surprisingly not every airline serve espresso in business class but coffee on Etihad was nothing to overlook.

Summary & Takeaways

Overall my Etihad flight to Istanbul was short but a great way. The seat was incredibly spacious and made the 4 hour journey fly by in no time.

Even better was the points deal offered by Aeroplan. I’m finding more and more that Aeroplan rates are unmatched on Middle Eastern airlines so if you want to fly this same flight or Etihad in general then that is definitely the best place to get the most value from your points.

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