Review: Etihad Airlines Business Class A350-1000 (AUH-ORD)

On my way back from a work trip to Israel, I took a circuitous route in order to experience Etihad’s new business class cabin on the A350-1000. By and large, it was worth the trek. The seats, the cabin, and the food all make this one of the best business class products in the world.

That said, there was definitely room for improvement, and a few changes could’ve greatly improved my experience. In addition to some inconsistencies in service, the most significant issues I encountered were the limited number of lavatories and the presence of an extremely disruptive child in the cabin, both of which detracted from an otherwise exceptional journey.

How I Booked My Etihad Airlines Business Class Ticket

Etihad business class award availability has been very scant recently, so when I saw a ticket available through Air France’s Flying Blue frequent flyer program, I jumped on it. Theoretically, I could have booked through any number of frequent flyer programs—Air Canada Aeroplan, American Airlines AAdvantage, or Etihad’s own program, 

My flight details were as follows:

  • EY151
  • Abu Dhabi (AUH) – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
  • Departure: 3:05 AM, February 1
  • Arrival: 8:15 AM, February 1
  • Scheduled Flight Time: 15h 10m
  • Business Class, Seat 14A


It’s hard to overstate how impressive Abu Dhabi’s airport is. From the outside, a massive glass facade sits under an undulating stone roof. The curbside dropoff area is dotted with trees lit like what you might see at the entrance to a luxury hotel.

a building with a curved roof

The inside is equally imposing, albeit less beautiful. Massive arched beams stretch the width of the terminal, and a series of teardrop skylights make the place feel like a space-age cathedral.

a large white building with many people
people in an airport
a light fixture from a ceiling

After a few minutes spent admiring the structure, I made my way to the business and first class check-in area. The space is separated from the rest of the terminal by glass walls and a dark, geometric entryway.

a black and white archway with yellow lights

Once inside, you’ll see a series of comfortable armchairs across from around 20 desks.

a row of chairs and tables in a room

You’ll also find a variety of tasty drinks, including flavored water, mango juice, and Arabic coffee.

a drink dispensers on a table

All said, the check-in process took three minutes, and I was soon on my way to Etihad’s fantastic business class lounge.

Boarding & Takeoff

At around 1:45 AM–after a few blissful hours in Etihad’s new business class lounge–I made my way to our departure gate. 

For most flights, business class passengers can actually board directly from the lounge. Unfortunately, since passengers on US-bound flights are required to pass through US immigration while still in Abu Dhabi, that wasn’t an option. It’s a real shame because boarding directly from the lounge would’ve been a vastly better experience than walking the 20 minutes to the gate area and then standing around for another 20 minutes while waiting to board.

That said, the gate area itself is well-appointed, with dedicated bathrooms, good seating availability, and plenty of power outlets. I occupied myself with some work before boarding the plane around 2:25 AM.

a group of people in a large room

I took my window seat near the rear of the cabin, 14A, and had a mint lemonade in hand a few moments later.

a seat in a plane
a glass of liquid on a table

At around 3:15, we pulled back from the gate and took off less than 10 minutes later.

Etihad Airlines A350-1000 Business Class Cabin & Seats

The A350-1000 has Etihad’s newest business class cabin–and man oh man is it handsome. 

inside an airplane with seats and people in it

A lack of bins over the middle seats lends the cabin a spacious and airy feeling, and soft overhead lighting makes the space feel a bit like a high-end hotel.

people sitting in an airplane

The cabin contains 44 seats spread across 11 rows in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration.

a diagram of a seat

If you’re traveling as a couple, you’ll want to book the center seats, which face one another and have a mechanical privacy partition that allows you to see and interact with your neighbor.

a room with a desk and chairs

As a solo traveler who appreciates a view, I assigned myself 14A, one of the last available window seats when I booked. It turns out that sitting that far back in the cabin was a massive mistake, but I’ll get to that later.

a close up of a sign
a tv in the middle of an airplane

The seat itself is 21-inches wide and 79-inches long when fully flat. On its left side (the window side) was a large, marble-textured surface. A wireless charging pad sat towards the front of the surface and two doors covering storage areas sat behind it.

a sign on a surface
a rectangular object on a table

Inside the forward storage area was a touchscreen IFE remote, headphone jack, universal power outlet, and USB charging port.

a device in a seat

Towards the front of the seat, near the footrest, was another USB and USB-C charging port.

a black usb port on a grey wall

A brass sconce light, literature area, and pop-out reading light sat above the counter area at around shoulder height.

a wallet and a book on a shelf

Just below the marble counter was a seat control touch screen and three seat control buttons.

a close up of a device
a screen with lights and buttons

In front of the seat was an 18.5-inch touchscreen display which I found crisp and responsive. 

a television with a picture of a city

Just below the IFE screen is a nested tray table, which was more than large enough to fit my 16-inch laptop.

a laptop on a table

Finally, below the tray table is a fairly spacious footwell that provided my feet plenty of wiggle room while I slept.

a brown seat in a brown box


Etihad’s orange leather amenity kit, supplied by the Italian luxury brand Acqua di Parma, feels premium and looks good.

a close up of a wallet

Its contents were pretty standard: a pair of earplugs, socks, a sleep mask, a toothbrush and toothpaste, Acqua di Parma body lotion, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, and a tiny vial of Acqua di Parma cologne.

a table with a variety of items on it

Not the most generous amenity out there–I would’ve appreciated some lip balm and a few other creams–but everything felt high quality.

Entertainment & Wi-Fi

Etihad’s entertainment system on the A350 offered a lot to enjoy during the flight. The touchscreen interface is intuitive and makes finding movies, TV shows, music, and other content easy. There’s also a huge volume of content, including entire seasons of TV shows and tons of newly released movies. The interactive map is gorgeous, super detailed, and interactive—a true AvGeek’s dream.

a screen on a shelf

My favorite piece of onboard tech, though, had to be the Bluetooth audio support, allowing the use of personal headphones. No longer having to rely on headphones provided by the airline is a game changer, especially on Etihad, whose business class headphones aren’t very good.

a screen with text on it
a pair of black headphones

On the connectivity side, Etihad provides Wi-Fi through Panasonic using a pay-as-you-go system without data caps. Prices are reasonable–$20 for an entire flight–especially for Etihad Guest loyalty members who get basic messaging functionality for free. I found performance fairly reliable, and I really like that I was able to switch between devices.

Dinner Service

With takeoff just after 3 AM and arrival in Chicago the same morning, the timing of this flight makes meals awkward. Basically, passengers have the option of either eating dinner at around 3:30 AM local time or going to sleep straight after departure, letting the food sit for a while, and then having the same elaborate dinner for breakfast. 

After glancing at the menu, I decided to power through and have a light dinner. To start, I ordered a pea and mint soup and, for my main course, I ordered a miso-glazed sea bass.

a white paper with black text
a menu on a table
a menu on a table
a menu on a table
a paper with black text on it

I also ordered a glass of Condado De Haza 20 Aldeas from 2018 which really hit the spot.

a glass of wine on a table

About twenty minutes after takeoff, a tablecloth was laid across my tray table and a tray with my pea and mint soup, as well as a small green salad and bread roll, was brought out. The soup was light and refreshing, which was a welcome departure from the richer, more aggressive flavors favored by airline caterers.

a tray with food and a glass of water

Soon after I finished my soup, I was served my miso sea bass with black rice, asparagus, and pumpkin. Though the presentation was iffy, the fish tasted excellent. Whether I’m flying in first, business, or economy class, I’ve found that fish on a plane is always a gamble, so I was particularly impressed with this dish.

a plate of food on a tray

At this point, I was operating on almost no sleep and decided to decline dessert and head straight to sleep. Etihad has a dine-on-demand concept, so I figured I’d order a snack after I woke up.


I conked out almost immediately after dinner. Given how exhausted I was, I probably would have slept soundly on a bed of nails, but nonetheless appreciated Etihad’s Armani/Casa bedding, which included a comforter, pillow, and mattress pad. This certainly isn’t the most comfortable business class bedding I’ve had, but it was cozy enough for me to sleep an hour and a half until I was woken up by a small passenger behind me.

a close up of a pillow
a bed with a blanket and pillows on a plane

Two Big Problems

Despite an excellent seat, comfortable bedding, delicious food, and good service, two major issues turned the majority of this flight into a deeply unpleasant experience.

Let me first preface this by saying that I consider myself a generally tolerant person and, having grown up with three younger siblings, am no stranger to noise. Still, my patience was pushed to its absolute limit on this flight.

That’s because I was seated one row in front of a couple with the most disruptive kid I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting on a plane. The toddler, who looked around 3 or 4 years old, didn’t seem to be in any sort of distress and thus wasn’t so much crying as he was squealing and screaming intermittently for around 12 hours of this 15-hour flight. These spontaneous minute-long eruptions of eye-watering noise (which earplugs did nothing to dampen) happened at remarkably consistent 10-minute intervals–which meant that the moment I was mercifully able to drift into sleep, I was woken once again.

The second issue was much less bothersome, but I think it’s worth mentioning because it’s also more avoidable. Basically, because I was seated near the back of the cabin, every time an economy passenger rang the call bell, a loud ding in the galley being me was let out. I had much bigger noise issues to contend with, so I didn’t mind much, but I’d still recommend choosing a seat towards the front of the cabin because this was fairly disruptive.

Honestly, the experience with the screaming kid could be the subject of an article on its own. But this is a review of Etihad’s business class on the A350, not a thought piece about the ethics of bringing badly behaved kids into premium cabins–so, for now, I’ll leave the discussion here.

A Small Snack

Unable to sleep, I ordered Punjabi samosas off the “All Day” portion of the menu as a small snack. They were absolutely awesome. I eat a lot of Indian food and like to think I’m pretty discriminating when it comes to samosas, so take me seriously when I say that this was among the tastiest airplane snacks I’ve ever had. They were crispy, savory, and sweet in a way that hit all the right notes.

a plate of food on a tray

Breakfast Service

About three hours before landing I gave up on any attempt to do work or sleep and ordered an Acaii bowl for breakfast. It was fine, but the real star of the show was the iced cappuccino I got to wash it down. 

a bowl of food and a glass of coffee


A major issue with this cabin is that there are just two lavatories for 44 business class seats. 

a diagram of a seat

Given how thoughtfully designed the rest of the cabin is, I just can’t begin to understand how Etihad thought it was a good idea to put so few toilets in the cabin, which effectively guarantees that there’s always going to be a line for the bathroom (which was the case throughout my 15-hour flight). Admittedly, there were two more toilets behind the business class cabin, but because these were shared with the 159 passengers in the forward economy class cabin, they also always had lines.

The lavatories themselves looked nice but were not kept particularly clean throughout the flight, presumably because their near-constant use made it hard for cabin crew to clean them regularly. Regardless of the reason, I’d expected much better than sticky floors and a pervasive smell of urine from lavatories in Etihad’s newest premium cabin.

a bathroom with a sink and a toilet
a group of bottles of liquid soap


I was served primarily by two flight attendants throughout the flight, and service was a mixed bag. One of them was absolutely lovely and a real privilege to interact with. The other was less impressive, often seeming distracted and disinterested. Of the three drink orders I made with her, all three were dropped, and her demeanor was curt and at times bordering on rude. When I enquired again half an hour later to ask again for a drink, I was met with sighs. This wasn’t unique to me, either–she seemed to go out of her way to avoid engaging with passengers beyond the bare minimum.

Landing and Arrival in Chicago

About an hour before landing, I ordered a mug of English Breakfast tea, which arrived with a square of Godiva chocolate and delicious Madeleine. While I enjoyed the drink, I was treated to a gorgeous sunrise 38,000 feet above Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If there’s a better view to take in with a cup of tea in the morning, I can’t think of it.

a tray with food and a cup on it in an airplane


Etihad’s A350-1000 business class product is undeniably impressive, with a beautifully designed cabin, comfortable seats, expansive entertainment options, and delicious food. But the flight was not without its shortcomings. The lack of lavatories for the business class cabin led to constant lines and less-than-ideal cleanliness. Service was also inconsistent, with one flight attendant providing exceptional service while the other seemed disinterested and unhelpful. The most significant issue was the disruptive toddler in the cabin, which made it nearly impossible to sleep or work comfortably, though I don’t fault Etihad in any way for this.

Addressing the issues with the lavatories and ensuring consistently excellent service would elevate this product even further, Etihad’s A350-1000 business class was, overall, top-tier and ranked among the best business classes on earth. Just remember to reserve a seat near the front of the cabin!

1 comment
  1. My guess based on your description of the toddler’s behavior and personal experience is that they are on the autism spectrum. It can be quite the challenge to travel with an autistic child. We try to take late/overnight flights where we can give our son medication to help him sleep for most of the flight.

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