Etihad Airways B787 Dreamliner business class Abu Dhabi-Barcelona
BACKGROUND Etihad Airways launched direct flights from Abu Dhabi to Barcelona in late November. The new service is initially operated five times a week by a two-class A330-200, before becoming a daily operation at the end of March; for the inaugural flight, Etihad rolled out one of its shiny new B787-9s and the Dreamliner will operate the route from February 22 (it will fly daily from February 25-28 for the Mobile World Conference). The evening reception was held at Capella dels Angels (pictured).
CHECK IN I arrived at Abu Dhabi International Airport just after midnight for my 0220 departure on EY49. Etihad is based at Terminal 3, which is where you’ll find the dedicated business class check-in area. It feels as though you’ve walked into a five-star hotel lobby, with slick service to match. Business class passengers are entitled to 40kg of baggage, two cabin bags with a combined weight of 12kg, and one personal item up to 5kg.
THE LOUNGE Business Class passengers have access to the Etihad Premium Lounge, or you can upgrade to the First Class Lounge & Spa, starting from $200 for two hours. I was fortunate enough to experience the latter option. You’ll find plenty to help you pass the time in the expansive lounge, which is located just after security. You can book a spa treatment or massage in the Six Senses Spa (guests are offered one complimentary 15-minute treatment), work out in the fitness room, or order something from the a la carte menu in the dining area. I had already eaten, so I headed to the relaxation room, where I sat back and zoned out in a squishy leather chair as soothing light patterns were projected on a wall.
BOARDING It was a bit of a trek to the gate, through a crowded airport, but the boarding process was fairly smooth. All passengers were handed certificates to commemorate the inaugural service, which was a nice touch.
THESE ATE ti had’ s business studio configuration on the Dreamliner features both forward and rear-facing seats, and I was seated in one of the latter. It was my first experience in a reverse seat, and it wasn’t at all unpleasant, despite the slightly odd sensation on takeoff and landing. The seat was cosy and cocoon-like, with a small divider for privacy. The ottoman was comfortably wide, with a storage compartment underneath. An 18.5inch entertainment screen offered a sharp viewing experience.
THE FLIGHT We departed slightly late, at 0248, and I was ready for sleep. The amenities bag featured the usual suspects; socks, an eye mask, and a dental kit, as well as hand cream and a perfume sample from Italian fragrance brand Acqua di Parma. Ear plugs were available on request. I managed around five hours of shut-eye, in large part thanks to the wonderfully soft quilted blanket provided, which just about made up for the lack of pyjamas. It was too late for a full meal service, but if you’re hungry you can order from the all-day menu which has nibbles such as a steak sandwich, carrot and fennel soup, and cheese and crackers. I decided to wait until breakfast, which was served around two hours before landing. Service was efficient but could have been a little warmer; for example, a coffee that I hadn’t asked for appeared on my breakfast tray, presumably to save time (it went to waste as I don’t drink coffee).
ARRIVAL We arrived slightly ahead of our scheduled 0715 landing, touching down at 0647 local time.
VERDICT Etihad’s business studio is a cut above their standard business class seat (which I experienced on the return flight in the A330). A decent night’s sleep combined with the practical arrival time meant I had a full day in Barcelona. The deployment of the Dreamliner in February will guarantee product consistency and more convenient travel options. Siobhan Downes