The Etihad business class guide: everything you need to know

Whether you're tending to business in the Middle East or taking a longer journey, here's your guide to Etihad business class.

By Chris Chamberlin, August 21 2019

With a network spanning the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas, Etihad Airways flies to over 80 destinations, with most flights offering business class seats and service.

Here's your guide to the Etihad business class experience, including airport lounges, chauffeur services, and of course, the business class flight.

In this article:

What is Etihad business class?

With up to four classes of service offered on Etihad flights – economy, business class, first class, and on Airbus A380 journeys, The Residence – business class is the choice pick of travellers balancing comfort and cost, with a fully-flat bed on the vast majority of flights yet without the higher price tag of first class.

As Etihad doesn't have premium economy, merely 'Economy Space' which provides more legroom in a standard economy seat, the difference between economy and the next-best service, business class, is significant.

Five reasons we love Etihad business class

1. Complimentary chauffeur service in the UAE

While Etihad has made some changes to its chauffeur-drive service over the past few years, it remains available in Abu Dhabi and the broader UAE, including for those beginning and ending their journey in the country, as well as those who've booked a UAE stopover as part of a journey between two other cities.

Etihad chauffeur-drive service in Abu Dhabi
Etihad chauffeur-drive service in Abu Dhabi

This is available on most Etihad business class fares, except for the lowest-priced Business Saver tickets and on flights booked using frequent flyer points, whether they were Etihad Guest miles, or points from partner programs such as Virgin Australia Velocity.

For passengers connecting through Abu Dhabi on an eligible fare, chauffeur-drive is available when the ticket includes a stopover in Abu Dhabi, with the various government taxes and fees paid as part of the ticket, and can be booked up to 12 hours before pick-up.

Alternatively, the Etihad Arrivals Lounge in Abu Dhabi also has a chauffeur-drive desk, and may be able to assist in booking a driver to whisk you from the airport to your hotel when you're ready to leave the lounge.

2. Etihad's Airbus A380 Lobby Lounge

Nestled on the upper deck of Etihad's superjumbos and shared by business class and first class passengers, The Lobby is a social space where you can interact with fellow travellers: either over a quick drink or a longer meal.

The Lobby, open to business class, first class and The Residence passengers on Etihad's A380s
The Lobby, open to business class, first class and The Residence passengers on Etihad's A380s

With access to satellite TV and a large 32-inch screen nearby, it's also the place to be during many UK and European football matches.

Executive Traveller review: Etihad's A380 Lobby Lounge

3. Fully-flat beds, direct aisle access on every long-haul flight

Whether you're travelling on board Etihad's older aircraft like the Airbus A330s and Boeing 777s, or the newer birds in the fleet like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380, you're guaranteed both a fully-flat bed in business class and direct aisle access on every long-haul flight, without exception.

Etihad Airbus A380 / Boeing 787 Business Studio business class
Etihad Airbus A380 / Boeing 787 Business Studio business class

On a small number of 'regional' routes from Abu Dhabi to nearby destinations in the Middle East, you'll instead find domestic-style reclining seats, as these flights are too short to warrant anything more – but beyond that, even the six-hour daytime flights from the UAE to Europe feature flatbed seating.

4. You can dine anytime

In Etihad business class, you're not bound to conventional meal times: such as after take-off and closer to landing. If you'd rather head straight to sleep and enjoy breakfast in the middle of the flight, or stay up working before tucking into a late dinner, you can.

Dining in Etihad's Boeing 787 business class
Dining in Etihad's Boeing 787 business class

This can also be a great way to reduce the effects of jet lag, by adjusting your journey to match the time zone of your destination before you've even arrived.

5. You can earn Velocity Gold in one return trip

Although Etihad maintains its own Etihad Guest frequent flyer program, flights can also be credited to partner schemes like Virgin Australia's Velocity Frequent Flyer – through which one return Etihad business class trip from Australia to Europe can elevate you from being an entry-level member right up to Velocity Gold.

That gives you a year of perks to enjoy not only with Etihad, but also Virgin Australia and its other partners like Singapore Airlines and Delta.

The only catch? You also need to take four Virgin Australia VA-coded flights each year to earn or retain Velocity Gold, but codeshare flights on partner airlines count towards this goal, and as Etihad flights can be booked as VA codeshares, you wouldn't even need to step aboard a Virgin Australia aircraft to reach this target.

Three tips before you fly business class on Etihad

1. If you can, aim for Airbus A380, Boeing 787 flights

As above, all Etihad long-haul flights offer fully-flat beds and direct aisle access, but you'll find the airline's newest Business Studio business class seats on its Airbus A380s and Boeing 787s.

Relax in Etihad's Boeing 787 business class
Relax in Etihad's Boeing 787 business class

These represent a significant upgrade over what you'll find on the airline's other aircraft, with noticeable differences like a larger and crisper TV screen, through to smaller touches and refinements to the design of the seat: all of which combine to make for a more comfortable journey.

2. There's an arrivals lounge in Abu Dhabi

Whether you're breaking a longer journey in the UAE or Abu Dhabi is your final destination, a business class ticket provides access to Etihad's arrivals lounge at Abu Dhabi Airport.

Etihad arrivals lounge, Abu Dhabi
Etihad arrivals lounge, Abu Dhabi

Here, you can freshen up with a shower and a bite to eat to begin your day, or catch up on emails and other work with complimentary WiFi. When it's time to depart, the lounge team can help facilitate a chauffeur transfer to your hotel, home or office, if chauffeur-drive is included with your fare.

3. There's a first class lounge for Platinum frequent flyers

If your travel wallet boasts an Etihad Guest Platinum frequent flyer card, a top-tier card from eligible partner airlines such as Virgin Australia Velocity Platinum, or even an invitation-only card like Etihad Guest Exclusive or Virgin Australia Velocity VIP/The Club, Etihad's first class lounge awaits at Abu Dhabi Terminal 3.

Etihad first class lounge, Abu Dhabi
Etihad first class lounge, Abu Dhabi

Offering restaurant dining, spa treatments and more, it's the perfect place to unwind in transit or to begin your journey. Failing that, access can also be purchased with prices starting at US$100 for Etihad Guest Gold members flying business class or US$200 for all other business class (and economy) flyers.

Getting an upgrade on Etihad

Travelling on a paid Etihad Airways business class ticket? On flights with a first class cabin, you may be able to upgrade from business class to first class using Etihad Guest miles, by bidding for an upgrade using money or by purchasing a confirmed upgrade, usually at a higher price.

Etihad Airbus A380 first class 'apartment'
Etihad Airbus A380 first class 'apartment'

Some restrictions apply: namely, that upgrades aren't available on the lowest-priced business class tickets or on flights that were already booked using frequent flyer points – and in any case, upgrades are subject to availability.

For more information on Etihad business class upgrades, read our Executive Traveller guide.

Reviews on Etihad business class

Brisbane to Abu Dhabi: Etihad Boeing 787 business class review

Abu Dhabi to Sydney: Etihad Boeing 777 business class review

Abu Dhabi to Munich: Etihad Airbus A330 business class review

Abu Dhabi to Sydney: Etihad Airbus A340 business class review

Etihad lounge reviews in Abu Dhabi

Etihad business class lounge, Abu Dhabi Terminal 3

The airline's largest business class lounge – found in Abu Dhabi Terminal 3 – is considered by many travellers to be Etihad's 'main' lounge, with staples like buffet dining, bartender service and WiFi.

Etihad business class lounge, Abu Dhabi Terminal 3
Etihad business class lounge, Abu Dhabi Terminal 3

Building on that, you'll also find a day spa, although treatments here are chargeable.

Review: Etihad business class lounge, Abu Dhabi T3

Etihad business class lounge, Abu Dhabi Terminal 1

Over in Terminal 1, Etihad's 'other' business class lounge offers the same amenities, but in a smaller space. Depending on the time of day, this lounge can be much quieter than the lounge in T3, and as both terminals are linked airside, you can walk between them in 10-15 minutes.

Etihad business class lounge, Abu Dhabi Terminal 1
Etihad business class lounge, Abu Dhabi Terminal 1

While this may not be an option for passengers with shorter transit times – where it'd instead be most logical to use the lounge closest to the onward departure gate – with more time up your sleeve, it could make your lounge time more relaxing or productive.

Review: Etihad business class lounge, Abu Dhabi T1

Etihad arrivals lounge, Abu Dhabi

Located after passport control, baggage claim and Customs, Etihad's arrivals lounge features a familiar style as seen with the airline's departure lounges, but on a much smaller scale.

Etihad arrivals lounge, Abu Dhabi
Etihad arrivals lounge, Abu Dhabi

Originally, this space was home to an in-lounge barber. That feature has since been removed, although you'll still find showers available: particularly welcome after long overnight flights.

Review: Etihad arrivals lounge, Abu Dhabi

Al Reem Lounge, Abu Dhabi

Although Etihad welcomes its own Etihad Guest Gold members into its business class lounges in Abu Dhabi, Gold-grade members of partner airline programs including Virgin Australia Velocity are instead shunted to the separate Al Reem Lounge here – unless, of course, they're flying business class or even first class.

Al Reem Lounge, Abu Dhabi T1: operated by Plaza Premium
Al Reem Lounge, Abu Dhabi T1: operated by Plaza Premium

The Al Reem Lounge offers basic comforts like buffet dining, although shower facilities are limited, and when the lounge is busy, wait times can be lengthy.

Review: Al Reem Lounge, Abu Dhabi

Etihad business class FAQs

Do you get pyjamas flying Etihad business class?

Unfortunately, not any more. Previously, the airline offered these on business class flights of 10 hours or more, such as between Australia and the Middle East, but this amenity was withdrawn as part of broader cost-cutting measures, so now, pyjamas are BYO.

Does Etihad business class have WiFi?

Most Etihad aircraft offer inflight WiFi Internet access, although you'll need to pay for access and there's no complimentary allowance included for business class flyers. Pricing is displayed after connecting to the aircraft's hotspot.

Etihad Boeing 787 business class
Etihad Boeing 787 business class

Does Etihad offer chauffeur service?

As above, this is complimentary in the United Arab Emirates – such as to or from Abu Dhabi Airport – for many business class passengers, except those on the lowest-priced fares, or those travelling on bookings made using frequent flyer points.

However, free chauffeur service is no longer offered in any other city, except to passengers flying in The Residence, Etihad's better-than-first-class three-room suite, found only on its Airbus A380 aircraft flying to destinations such as Sydney, London and New York.

Does Etihad business class have showers?

Shower facilities are usually available in Etihad's airport lounges, accessible to business class passengers. However, shower facilities are not provided on board: that's a perk exclusive to Etihad first class on the Airbus A380, and for those flying in The Residence.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!