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Etihad 787-9 Business Studio

After spending more than we’d have liked in the cramped quarters of Malaysia Airlines’ Golden Lounge, it was time to head to the gate for our flight back to Abu Dhabi, EY417, and to sample the Etihad Business Studio cabin on this return leg.

Again, Kuala Lumpur International Airport performs security at the boarding gate – so beware if you’ve just bought a bottle or water; this also means that there isn’t any ‘priority’ security on offer, not that queues tend to be significant.

By the time we’d cleared security, boarding had already commenced, onto our Boeing 787-9 for this evening’s flight, with all passengers squeezing on through one airbridge.

Although this particular business class cabin is now being deprecated by Etihad in favour of the newer enclosed suite seating, I still remain a huge fan of these still relatively-recent Etihad business class seats.

Etihad Business Class

Sure, they lack closing doors – but they’re still very private all told, and you’d have to try to see passengers in the adjoining window seats or vice-versa.

Meanwhile the seats alternate between being closer to the aisle or farther from the aisle, ensuring those who need privacy can sit in closer to the window, while couples especially, can still sit together and converse easily – something that is becoming rarer with every new cabin iteration, including Etihad’s newest business cabin.

Etihad Business Studio - Couple Seats

There’s also plenty of storage and table space and – I believe – slightly more legroom than the newer cabin iteration as well, with very little in the way of a good night’s sleep; with the exception being the in-line airbag installed on the waist belt.

Etihad Business Studio - Legroom

A Champagne (or other refreshments, as you wish) was quickly presented with all the haste I need after a dehydrating walk to the boarding gate, while I perused the menu and contemplated whether I could fit in any more food after a solid 7-day stretch of stuffing my face.

Etihad Business Studio - Pre-Departure Beverage

While I believe Etihad is currently changing to a new amenity kit, waiting at my seat this time was the familiar, existing, Acqua di Parma orange pouch. As you can see from the picture below, this is the only way to see the passenger alongside the middle seat – peer awkwardly backwards, and even then, there is a partition in the window seats (you can just about make it out) that can be pulled slightly forward for enhanced privacy.

Etihad Business Studio - Layout

Again, a pillow, mattress cover and plush duvet was waiting in the footwell – and I didn’t waste too long getting my ‘bed’ installed for the night, despite an offer to help from the crew.

Speaking of which, one of my age old bugbears of Etihad (and Qatar, and Emirates) is that the crew can so often make or break a flight, and are so often very inconsistent. If there’s a standard service flow, I’m yet to figure it out because each flights' service seems to happen very often as and when the crew wish, and at entirely their own pace. This – as I’ve experienced it – often ends in ridiculous scenarios where the front few rows have been served their starter, are finishing it and asking for their main, while the fifth or so row onwards is still waiting for their starter; and the problem quickly compounds.

Not tonight! Our crew, led by the cabin manager who was visible and extremely proactive throughout, ran an incredibly tight ship – there was no wait for anything, the entire dinner service, including all courses, was complete well within 2 hours from take-off, each row across both aisles were served their meals both in unison.

The level of service on this particular flight was, for us, an Etihad once in a lifetime – it was absolute precision, with great hospitality. As many of you know, I often prefer to criticise, but this was really something – so much so that I actually complimented the cabin manager and told her that it had been amazing to watch; who seemed entirely surprised by the compliment.

As for the meal, I just couldn’t manage any of the main course options; after a week of eating, barramundi, wok fried chilli chicken or lamb biryani just wasn’t doing it. So I opted instead for a very delicious serving of chicken satay and the roast beef sandwich from the order anytime menu – along of course, with several glasses of wine.

Etihad Business Studio - Anytime Dining

After that, it was time for a snooze and with the military precision with which our meals were served, there was about 4 hours of napping to be done before waking up just as we began our descent into Abu Dhabi. Overall, this was a very enjoyable flight in – what I consider to be – very much still a leading business class cabin. But what truly made it memorable was the impeccable level of service throughout, that meant enjoying a meal and getting a rest was entirely possible within the sub-7 hour journey. If only all flights could be like this!

Reformed backpacker & former ultra-cheap traveller, Andy now atones for his past by overspending on premium travel experiences and failing at making the most of the miles & points game. Former expat now returned to Ireland, he is a product manager by day, and travel aficionado by evening and weekend.

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