Airline Review: Etihad Airways’ Dreamliner to Abu Dhabi
Summary: Etihad offers passengers world-class service and one of the best business class products in the region on its...

Etihad offers passengers world-class service and one of the best business class products in the region on its flights between Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi.


One of the most pioneering airlines to come out of the Middle East, Etihad not only has a modern fleet and extensive network, but its dedication to infight service have ensured it remains a byword for refined air travel globally.

Check-in/The Lounge

I checked in online using Etihad’s very user-friendly app but had to deposit my bags at Hong Kong International. Rather surly third-party staff member checked me in, forgot my lounge pass, and neglected to ask if I had recently travelled to China in light of the Coronavirus outbreak, although I could hear her colleagues asking other passengers. However, boarding pass in hand, I quickly passed through security, bound for the Hong Kong Airlines Club Bauhinia lounge, located near gate 25.

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Less flashy and far smaller than its sibling lounge, located at the new Midfield Concurse, this is a great little space and was virtually empty on my arrival. There’s a basic hot and cold buffet featuring dim sum dishes and glad-wrapped sandwiches, a bar with beer, wines and spirits, and comfortable café and lounge seating with views to the airport apron. It was also just steps from my departure gate, G24, making it very convenient.

At the gate, the stated boarding time of 5.30 pm came and went without comment and it wasn’t until 6 pm that the boarding process began, with passengers quickly boarding the two-class Boeing 787-9.

Once on board, crew served glasses of Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut champagne, and offer newspapers, magazines and hot towels before taking pre-dinner drink and dinner orders. Impressive levels of service were evident as soon as I sat down; there was a professional efficiency about the crew as we prepared for take-off, and afterwards, this turned into the genuine warmth that the airline has been known for, and which has been lost on some other Middle East carriers.

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We departed on our 8 hour 50-minute journey a few minutes behind schedule but with the promise from the pilot of an on-time arrival.

Etihad business class

The Seat

My window seat, 8A, on the port side of the aircraft, was one of 28 lie-flat business class seats, set in a 2-4-2 configuration that sees some seats facing aft and others facing forward. The “business studio” seat on the 787 is similar to those found on the airline’s A380 and is a symphony of curves and surfaces that at first look a little ungainly but quickly reveal themselves as intuitive.

The first thing you’ll notice is that there is plenty of surface area, which sets this 22-inch-wide seat apart from many others and makes it very functional for people looking to work or keep essentials close at hand. The next thing the curious will find is a great storage space under one of these surfaces – the cubby hole at elbow level has a pair of Etihad’s headphones and a bottle of water inside but there’s also room for the stylish Acqua Di Parma amenity kit (which was waiting at my seat and which featured an eye mask, earplugs, a toothbrush and toothpaste, socks and moisturiser) and other bits and bobs, including the bulky case for my own Bose QuietComfort 35II headphones.

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When you lift the hatch lid, you’ll also be able to easily access the headphone jack, which is located below the armrest. Located beside this jack is a space for an additional water bottle.

Etihad business class

Above the cubby hole is a stylish seat lamp that has two light settings that can either be controlled with buttons on the actual lamp or with a touchscreen built into the seat frame. This allows you to essentially set the mood of your own private space. This touchpad, which also controls lumbar support, the seat’s massage function, and its angle, is located above another expansive ‘table’ and next to a touch-screen remote that controls the entertainment system. It can also allow the user to look at other features or film or television show selections without interrupting the viewing on the main monitor, which is great for flyers like me who like to have an active flight map showing throughout the flight but also want to be able to watch a movie.

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Finally, the sizeable, sturdy tray ejects from within the seat frame, which means it’s not taking up space like on some A380 seats, and is double the thickness of most dining trays, making it very user-friendly for passengers looking to get some work done. The tray also comes with its own dedicated lamp, which is great if you want to be able to see what you’re doing without flooding the seat with light. This feature, along with three other light settings and a Do Not Disturb setting, is controlled by the same touchscreen pad. The seat also features an AC port and twin USB ports, which is especially good for flyers looking to stay charged.

Etihad business class

The seat itself is extremely comfortable and when combined with the small ottoman located beneath the 18-5-inch touchscreen monitor, makes for a very comfortable bed in the skies, especially when coupled with a nice, firm pillow and comfortable duvet. There’s also room for one’s shoes beneath the ottoman which is great when you have size 14 loafers like me.


The dinner service began with a well-mixed bourbon and soda and a bowl of warm nuts. What impressed me – and I know it’s something small – was how the crew replenished both when required, without being asked. It’s little things like this that stand an airline meal service apart from the others.

The mean began with the choice of an Arabic mezze platter consisting of hummus, stuffed vine leaves, Baba Ganoush, flatbread, and a hot samosa pastry; or char siu chicken with an Asian bulgur salad.

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For mains, we were offered a fillet of beef with gratin potatoes, French beans, caramelised onions and a garlic and rosemary jus; ginger chicken with egg fried rice and wok tossed celery and lily bulbs; grilled ling fish with Jade fried rice, pok choy, carrots, and imperial soy sauce; and aubergine and Parmesan mille-feuille with tomato salsa and rocket salad. The beef was perfectly cooked and tender, and with the silky potatoes and onions was the perfect comfort dish for an evening flight.

Etihad business class

I opted to match my steak with a glass of Yabby Lake “Red Claw” Shiraz from Australia, but other wine options included a Weingut Willi Brundlmayer Pinot Noir from Austria; a Catena Zapata ‘Catena’ Chardonnay; and a Zenato Lugana San Benedetto Trebbiano from Italy.

Afterwards we were offered a choice of artesian cheeses, and a selection of desserts ranging from a warm chocolate fondant with vanilla sauce; to a strawberry and rhubarb tart with vanilla ice cream.

In addition to the dinner menu, the airline also offers a range of snacks throughout the flight, including a beef sandwich with red onion, mayonnaise, melted cheese and rocket leaves; steamed crab roe, kong choi, and vegetable dumplings with soy sauce; and seasonal fruit.

I decided to skip dessert in order to get some sleep and as we cruised over Thailand, I converted the seat into a bed and was quickly sound asleep.

Etihad business class


As I mentioned, Etihad’s world-class service levels were evident very early on in the flight and remained throughout. In the business class cabin, a young Serb named Milosh, resplendent in his white dinner jacket, made wine selections and topped up drinks throughout the meal service and also ensured guests wanted for nothing throughout the evening. While having a nice seat and a new plane is great, it’s Etihad’s consistently excellent, intelligent and intuitive service that really stands the airline apart from its Middle East competitors, and many of its Asian rivals for that matter.


The Etihad IFE system offers a comprehensive range of new release and classic flicks, as well as some great televisions shows, and through this and my subsequent three flights with the airline, I consistently found films to enjoy on the large personal monitor. Navigating the system is also easy thanks to the separate remote.

Etihad Business Class

What we Loved

Etihad’s business studio product is a market leader in terms of design and comfort. Paired with great service, it guarantees a great experience at 40,000 ft.

What We Didn’t

I did notice that the cabin temperature was quite high, so I choose to sleep without the provided duvet. This might be more of a personal preference, but I love a cold cabin in which I can sleep soundly.


We have flown with Etihad before and on those flights, the service levels were impeccable, even when the hardware was a little dated. Now, with the airline flying the 787 Dreamliner on the Hong Kong-Abu Dhabi route, business travellers and ensured world-class comfort.

Etihad Hong Kong to Abu Dhabi in business class from US$2,060 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.