Flight Review: Etihad Boeing 787 In Business Class From Abu Dhabi To London Heathrow

I made a short trip to Abu Dhabi with Etihad in late October, flying from London Heathrow on an Airbus A350 and heading back on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. We’ve previously covered the business class experience on the A350 this year. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to focus on what the 787’s offering.

On the ground

Before making my way to my gate at Abu Dhabi International Airport, I ensured I took some time to visit Etihad’s business class lounge, which was only a short hop away from the gate in Terminal 3. A heads-up – I don’t suggest taking photos of the lounge from the outside. A security guard wasn’t comfortable with me taking the below photo on my phone and asked a series of questions before calling a colleague to give the green light.


Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

Nonetheless, once inside the lounge, it was peaceful and quiet. The staff inside were more than willing to accommodate me, even offering to take my photo to mark the occasion. I’ll cover the lounge more in-depth in a future piece, but I’m glad I had the chance to grab a turkey bacon and eggs breakfast before making my way to the aircraft.

Fueled up, I walked to the gate, where I was held up by a second security checkpoint that went through all my belongings. I understand the necessity to double down on security. However, this check was far more thorough than the normal customs security process. The workers went through both my bags, physically looking inside before asking me to turn on my devices for them to check. I was then physically searched and patted down before being scanned for a check on any suspicious materials.

All in all, I feel this procedure was out of place for the gate area. It’s something I feel would have been better placed elsewhere in the terminal, perhaps just before the gate lounge, as it caused a queue to get into the area, and I suspect would cause some delays due to passengers thinking they made it to the gate in time only to find themselves going through a rigorous search.

Etihad Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

After the search, I endeavored to pass through the heavily congested seating area that was blocking the boarding gates. There was a slow-moving line, even for business passengers. The economy line was moving faster than the business one as there was only one person dealing with the business passengers, causing a hold-up whenever there were queries.

Etihad Line

Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

Boarding on

The jetbridge was a little congested, but nothing I didn’t expect with a popular route. We steadily walked through the bridge to board the widebody. The mood was all change once on the Dreamliner. I was pleasantly welcomed by flight attendant Sarah Spaldi, who was leading the business cabin that day. She proudly informed me that she was from Italy and would be taking care of me during the flight.

My initial reaction was that there was plenty of room on offer. It was easy to move around and pass by other passengers and flight attendants amid the 1-2-1 configuration, even when stowing my luggage and preparing the seat.

As soon as I settled, I was offered a choice of beverage. My first choice was the cold lemon and mint drink that the crew cited as the airline’s signature. I must say it was the most refreshing and delicious beverage I’ve had on an aircraft. The balance of zest and sweetness got the onboard experience off to a great start.

Flight EY25 was conducted by registration A6-BLQ, a 787-9 that joined Etihad’s fleet in September 2017. While the plane was slightly older than the A350 I flew on while heading to Abu Dhabi, it still felt fresh. After all, it was only produced five years ago.

The aircraft left Abu Dhabi at 10:38 GST. The flight attendants made sure that there were no glasses or other items wobbling about when departing, notifying us that we will soon fly off. Overall, the taxi and takeoff experience was smooth, offering a fantastic view of the coast when heading out to the sea.

Etihad Boeing 787 Business Class View

Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

Time to eat

The cabin crew offered a choice of either having food service soon after departure or waiting until later. I was keen to eat first so I can sit back and catch some rest. Subsequently, the first meal was served on the tray that pulls out from the side panel that’s near adjacent to the IFE screen.

It’s important to note that I’m gluten intolerant, so my food offering would be different from that on the standard menu. I’ve had some hit-and-miss experiences in this field over the years, with some airlines unsure what to provide while others phone it in.

I’m not too fussy myself, but I think of those that regularly fly business class and expect a premium service only to be handed something that had minimal effort put in.

Thankfully, Etihad’s offering in this department is on the better end of the scale. The salad starter was accompanied by a heaping of hummus, which is one of my favorite vegetarian options. Seriously, I could eat a whole bowl of hummus by itself. Today, I could taste the freshness, which was supported by the rest of the salad.

Etihad Boeing 787 Business Class Cuisine

Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

For the main course, the serving was chicken, vegetables, and boiled potatoes. Admittedly, the chicken was a little dry at first. Still, it was nothing a little Tabasco sauce couldn’t fix, which was soon handed out with a little mustard.

Etihad Boeing 787 Business Class Seats

Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

Sarah explained that the team usually gives bread with the main meal, but there was no alternative option today. On the outbound, I was given plenty of gluten-free bread, but I guess they forgot to pack it for the return.

Etihad Boeing 787 Business Class

Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

The red wine accompanied the chicken well, helping me to relax after a busy few days. I also tried the white dessert wine to round off the meal, which I chose as a replacement for the fruit platter I was offered. I bet this wine was just as sweet as the fruit that I would have had, nonetheless.

Etihad Boeing 787 Business Class Wine

Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

A moment to explore

Now was the time to appreciate the seating. The warm accents along the cabin are complemented by the mood lighting, especially in the form of the locally inspired side lamp. This lamp provides several different strengths of lightning at the touch of a button and can also be fully turned off. No matter which tone is set, it’s not too overpowering for fellow guests.

I used the lamp to provide ample light to see what was in the bags that were placed on the desk. There’s a post-COVID travel kit that consists of alcohol gel, two wipes, and a face mask.

Etihad Boeing 787 Business Class Kit

Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

I was more interested to see what’s in the Acqua di Parma amenity kit. The Italian lifestyle and fashion outfit’s class is a great fit, but there are only two small products of the brand inside the pouch – a moisturizing cream and a spray sample. They were accompanied by an eye mask and dental kit.

I stowed all the items in the side storage bin where the headphones were found. These headphones were plugged under the opening of the storage unit, meaning that there were no uncomfortable wires to deal with over my body despite not being a wireless headset.

Catching some shut-eye

I swiftly went into lie-flat mode with the touch of a button via the side controls before watching Bad Times at the El Royale on the IFE screen.

Etihad Boeing 787 Business Class

Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

The screen is a little far away when lying flat, but this problem is solved by the touch-responsive controls.

This was probably the easiest-to-navigate controller I’ve dealt with when flying, as the rest are far too fidgety. Here, it was easy to choose, pause, and mute the content I was viewing.

I got a little sleepy, so dimmed the famous 787 windows that can be adapted by the buttons underneath.

Etihad Boeing 787 Business Class Windows

Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

The windows soon blacked out, and I fell asleep while listening to Phil Collins’ greatest hits via the IFE. I’m not so tall, and the length of the lie-flat seat felt as long as my bed at home. There was also plenty of room for turning to get into the right position for a proper kip.

The final approach

Waking up around an hour before landing, I was soon treated to the final meal service.

Etihad Boeing 787 Business Class Meal

Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

The salad was a little underwhelming as the cuisine on the A350 was slightly more action-packed, as can be seen in the photos from that flight below.

Approach and landing was as smooth as ever, and I happily caught a glimpse of a former British Airways Concorde after touching down at Heathrow. EY25 landed at 15:08 BST.

Etihad Boeing 787 Business Class Window

Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

I can’t imagine many better ways to spend seven hours and 30 minutes across the Middle Eastern and European skies. There were some teething issues, and I did miss the increased privacy of the A350, such as its tall sliding doors. However, once on board, most of my concerns were quelled. I had a significantly relaxing time that was topped off by attentive service from Sarah and her team.

There will be advancements made to the soft product in business class in the coming months following Etihad’s partnership with Armani. We’ve already seen glimpses of what it’s like for the UAE carrier to collaborate with Italian fashion houses. The new initiative will be the icing on the cake for the on board product.

What are your thoughts about Etihad’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner business class? Have you flown in this cabin since its introduction? Let us know what you think of the aircraft and its offering in the comment section.

Simple Flying flew as a guest of Etihad.

  • Etihad Boeing 787-9

    Etihad Airways

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Abu Dhabi International Airport

    Year Founded:

    Tony Douglas

    United Arab Emirates

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