Airline Review: Etihad Business Class Abu Dhabi to Zurich
Summary: Nick Walton checks out Etihad's business class product on the airline's 787 Dreamliner with a red-eye journey from...

Nick Walton checks out Etihad business class product on the airline’s 787 Dreamliner with a red-eye journey from Abu Dhabi to Zurich. 


With its extensive network, Etihad offers business travellers great service, cutting-edge aircraft and easy access to points across Europe, including Zurich in Switzerland.

Check-in/The Lounge

As I had already checked in for my Etihad Abu Dhabi-Zurich flight in Hong Kong, once I arrived in the UAE I made my way directly to the Etihad business class lounge, one of two at Abu Dhabi airport.

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The lounge closest to my departure gate, gate 8, is the smaller of the two. However, it’s every bit as elegant as its larger sibling, with an extensive hot and cold food selection, including sushi, Arabic mezze snacks, and sandwiches; a bar with a full offering of beer, wine and spirits, and ample lounge and café-style seating. It was very late so I decided to sit at a table least I slip off to sleep in a comfortable lounge, and hydrated as much as I could before making my way through the central atrium – which always reminds me of a set from Star Wars, to my gate.

Etihad business class review 787


The older gates at Abu Dhabi have not expanded to keep up with demand so when you have two flights departing close to each other the small pre-departure lounges become very busy, with long lines stretching back to the main concourse. It’s hard now, just a few months later, to imagine Abu Dhabi airport after almost every airline in the world has drastically cut its international network due to the COVID-19 epidemic and falling traveller numbers.  Passengers on my flight were sharing the space with a flight about to board for Istanbul. However, crew did their best to maintain order and before long I was making my way down the air bridge and onto another Etihad 787 Dreamliner.

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I quickly found my “business studio” seat, aft-facing 10G, and no sooner had I taken it than a senior member of the cabin crew, in an immaculate white jacket, offered me a glass of Piper-Heidsieck champagne with all the flair of a Parisian sommelier. He inquired whether I wanted to be woken for breakfast before our arrival into Zurich, and advised a departure time of 2.45 am.

At my seat was an Acqua di Parma amenity kit complete with an eye mask, earplugs, a toothbrush and toothpaste, socks and moisturizer in a striking yellow leather case, while a bottle of water and a pair of noise-reduction headphones were secured in a compartment beneath the over-sized armrest.

After a long taxi, we depart on time for the 6-hour 50-minute journey to Switzerland.

Etihad business class review 787

The Seat

As I’ve said before, I think the 22-inch wide Etihad 787 business class product is among my favourite Dreamliner seats. 10G, one of 28 lie-flat seats in the aircraft’s business class cabin, is the perfect marriage of privacy and usability, with enough storage for essentials, plenty of space for work, dining and sleeping, a crystal-clear personal monitor, and easy access to seat and entertainment controls, lighting and power ports.

I’m a guy who likes to have things at hand, whether it’s my own travel amenity kit, packed with solutions for a variety of inflight issues, or my Bose QuietComfort 35II headphones, my phone, my tablet, or a spare pair of socks, and the seat’s intelligent design allows for plenty of intuitive storage without sacrificing on aesthetics.

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I especially like the use of lighting. A touch-sensitive panel allows passengers to create their own mood thanks to a seat lamp with two different bulbs – one for ambiance and one as a reading light – and another dedicated to illuminating the expansive tray, which is stowed away within the forward seat shell rather in an armrest. The same touchpad controls lumbar support, the seat’s massage function, and its angle, while a touch-screen remote controls the entertainment system.

The seat is also extremely comfortable as a bed, especially when coupled with a nice, firm pillow and comfortable duvet, which is a god sent on these red-eye flights to Europe. There’s also room for one’s shoes beneath the ottoman which is great when you have size 14 loafers like me.

Etihad business class review 787


Like many passengers, I decided to make the most of the time I had to sleep and therefore skipped the dinner service, which included an Arabic mezze platter or a Balik salmon dish with cucumber, orange, red grapefruit and horseradish cream as an appetizer. This was followed with a choice of grilled chicken with mixed rice, snow peas, and a chunky tomato and olive sauce; braised beef cheeks with mashed potato, green beans, roasted carrots, and beef jus; prawn biryani with basmati rice; and penne pasta with chunky tomato and herb sauce, olive tapenade, and fresh basil.

I was content instead to sip on another glass of champagne before turning down the lights and slipping off to sleep. I managed to sleep most of the flight thanks to smooth flying and the 787’s comfortable cabin, which includes more oxygen and higher air pressure as well as mood lighting in the ceiling.

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As with my inbound flight, the Etihad crew were friendly, welcoming, attentive and, considering the time of night they were serving dinner, very discrete. Middle Eastern carriers are known for their service levels but even with that in mind I was very pleasantly surprised at how genuine and natural it seemed.

When I woke, as we were about to descend into Zurich, crew were upbeat and while efficient, they didn’t have that hurrying sense that some crews get in the last hour of a flight, and presented me with a coffee and a pastry with all the elegance of a waiter in a fine café.

Etihad business class review 787


The Etihad IFE system offers a comprehensive range of new release and classic flicks, as well as some great televisions shows, all presented through the large personal monitor, which is easy to navigate via its touch screen or the remote.

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What we Loved

Perfectly suited to mid to long-haul flights and especially red eyes like the Abu Dhabi-Zurich service, the Etihad business studio seat is among the best on the market.

What We Didn’t

Again, the cabin temperature was quite high, which can make it a little tricky to get to sleep.


With a cutting-edge seat, intuitive design and world-class service, Etihad offers a truly first-class experience for flyers in the airline’s 787 business class cabin.

Etihad Abu Dhabi-Zurich return in business class from AED6,797 (US$1,850) per person. 

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About the Author

Nick Walton

Nick Walton is Group Managing Editor of Artemis Communications, a leading boutique magazine and content solution company and publisher of The Art of Business Travel. A former travel editor of the South China Morning Post, he heads up the group's travel and lifestyle magazines, which include Alpha Men Asia, The Edition, Mirandus, Ikhlas, The Journal and Explorer Magazine.