Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways Review

Our Rating : 5 out of 5

Our test involved three flights: two in economy, and one in business class from Geneva to the main hub at Abu Dhabi.

Etihad Airways have a short, powerful history. Established in 2003 as the national airline of the United Arab Emirates to become the fastest growing and award winning airline that it is in 2011. It operates to 66 destinations in 43 countries and has code share agreements with 26 other airlines servicing many more destinations.

In August, 2010, Etihad partnered with Virgin Australia, enabling passengers to travel throughout the Pacific Oceania region whilst saving fully reciprocal loyalty reward points and airport lounge facilities.


At the time of writing, Etihad’s fleet of 59 aircraft consists of A319-100s, A320-200s, A330-200s, A330-200s, A330-200s, A330-300s, A340-500s, A340-600s and B777-300ERs. The airline has orders, options and purchase rights for up to 205 new aircraft, the largest order in aviation history made at Farnborough International Air Show in 2008, including A380s and Boeing 787s.


The flight we tested being prepared at Geneva

First Class

Etihad Airways are outstanding for first class and were recognised, in both 2010 and 2011, as the best in the world at the Skytrax’s annual World Airline Awards in that category. Amongst many other awards, Etihad has also earned the ‘World’s Leading Airline’ at the World Travel Awards in 2010.

Each of Etihad’s Diamond First Class Suites is 82 inches (208 centimetres) long with Arabic-styled sliding privacy doors and a fully flat bed (6’8” or over two metres long) upholstered in Poltrona Frau leather. The in-seat massager, lumbar support and adjustable headrest make viewing the 23-inch personal television/video screen very comfortable. A personal mini bar, designer amenity kit, illuminated wardrobe with personal mirror and in-seat power sockets for laptop computers, iPod connector, USB ports, ethernet port and audio jack provide all the luxury you could desire. The first class cabin also boasts a luxury changing room with full length mirror, raised wash basin and leather fold-down seat. As if that is not enough, Etihad are introducing internationally acclaimed, onboard chefs dedicated to food service excellence in their first class cabin, enabling them to offer a five-star, restaurant-style service in the sky.

Business Class

Business class ticks all the boxes. A clever cabin configuration mixes single seats with paired seats. Single seats offer plenty of privacy, much leg room and easy to sleep with the fully flat beds, so no problem for your tall correspondent. On the narrow bodied aircraft, the seats do not go fully flat but have a 49 inch (124.5 centimetres) pitch and a “generous recline”.

A large television monitor with a good selection of the latest films and television programmes, free magazines and quiet cabins made for an easy flight. Add the mood lighting and the noise cancelling headphones and, with luck, you arrive before you know it!


Dining was a pleasure, with good choices of food available. If you still felt hungry, Etihad provides an open kitchen to eat whenever you wish, so snacks are readily available. Wines were well chosen and the Central Otago Pinot Noir was a safe bet.

Service was very professional. Nothing appeared to be too much trouble and all done with much grace.


A great feature for both first and business classes are the chauffeured limousine pick-ups and transfers; these take a lot of stress out of arrivals and departures. For economy passengers there are free coaches from Abu Dhabi to Dubai or Al Ain. Dubai is about 100km north-east of Abu Dhabi Airport and Al Ain is about 160km south-east of the airport.

Economy Class

A fully-occupied flight from Abu Dhabi to Sydney tested economy class to the maximum. The crew handled it well and provided a very professional and efficient service. Calls were answered, meals served, with wine at the same time (not something that always happens), and toilets were kept clean. Economy seats were acceptable but not a huge amount of leg room and not the best we have found.


A big plus on Etihad is the in-flight entertainment system which works well and all guests, as Etihad likes to call its passengers, were provided with high quality ear phones which imparted excellent sound quality.

Check in

Check in and ground handling was all efficient and no long queues or hassle. Bags came out fast at Sydney and Geneva. The worst part was Sydney Customs, but that is beyond the control of the airline. For premium passengers there is a priority lane which does save time at Sydney.

Abu Dhabi Airport and Lounges

Etihad’s main hub is Abu Dhabi, which is more manageable than Dubai, where Emirates operates from. Abu Dhabi International Airport has all of the shops and other amenities that you would expect of an international airport. These include duty frees shops, banks, ATMs, currency exchange, car hire desks, a 24-hour medical centre, a post office, a café and a mosque. If flying into Abu Dhabi after dark, the sight of the lit up city is quite spectacular!

The business and first class lounge in Abu Dhabi’s Terminal 3 has it all, including spa, full dining, showers and fast Internet connections. Gold level passengers have their own lounge, which is not so good and rather basic, in Terminal 1, although this is 15 minutes’ walk away from Terminal 3 where most Etihad flights land. It is, however, understood that Abu Dhabi Airport is undergoing redevelopment, including the building of a new terminal for a larger future capacity. For other airports Etihad uses mainly partner lounges and they vary in standard. The one in Brisbane (we use a lot) is a basic Air New Zealand facility and even more basic in Geneva.

Partners and Points

Etihad has 18 partner airlines which code share. The two big names are American Airlines and Virgin Australia. Points can be earned on partner airlines.


Overall we rate Etihad as an airline of choice. For economy passengers you can expect the best entertainment system, good food and professional service. For business and first class, expect to be well looked after and have very comfortable seats.

A bonus is that Etihad flights are often good value as they offer some very competitive prices and specials from time to time.

Etihad Images

Etihad Logo


Etihad Plane


First Class


Etihad First Class


Etihad First Class


Business Class


Etihad Business Class


Etihad Business Class Food


Economy Class


Etihad Economy Class


Etihad Economy Class






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