Trip Report: Etihad Airways (B787-9) Business Studio ORD-AUH

The Details

  • Flight: EY150
  • Aircraft: B787-9
  • Class: Business
  • Seat: 9E and 9F
  • Route: Chicago O’Hare International (ORD)-Abu Dhabi International (AUH)
  • Distance: 7,686miles
  • Flight Time: 13hrs 11min
  • Departure: 7:09PM
  • Arrival: 5:40PM (+1)

The Preflight

This trip was the first time that my significant other and I would be travelling internationally since the COVID-19 pandemic started 14 months ago. We were both super excited but also a bit anxious due to all of the travel restrictions in place around the world.

Our final destination, the Maldives, required a negative COVID-19 PCR test with 72 hours of departure, proof of tourist accommodations and return tickets, as well as a health declaration form that we had to fill out within 24 hours of departure. We spent the previous three days scrambling to get our tests and making sure we had all of our requirements completed before arriving at the airport.

We decided to get to O’Hare three hours before our scheduled departure time in anticipation of long lines at check-in for document checks but found the check-in area fairly empty. Check-in took about 10 minutes with the agent verifying all of our documents and ensuring we were cleared to fly into the Maldives.

We both had TSA PreCheck and quickly made our way down the lines to the deserted security checkpoint.

Etihad Airways offers their premium class passengers access to the Air France/KLM Lounge at O’Hare which is also part of Priority Pass. To say that this was an average lounge is an understatement. It was terrible.

The lounge was one long room that lacked restrooms (the nearest one was outside in the terminal).

All of the windows were covered by black boards and the lounge had zero natural light. Half of the power outlets did not work and the tables were packed very close together.

Drinks options included various canned juices, sparkling water, Coke products and tonic water. Alcohol options included beer, rose, chardonnay, and sparkling wine. Cold food items included sandwiches, carrots, yoghurt, and fruit cups. There was also a self-serve espresso machine.

Other snack options included chips and bars.

Hot food choices included cup noodles and oatmeal.

There were also three types of red wine and various liquors.

My significant other and I spent a good hour and a half in the lounge which thankfully had fast Wi-Fi before making deciding to walk around the terminal a bit before boarding was scheduled to begin.

Our flight was aboard one of Etihad’s B787-9s, registration A6-BLI. She was delivered brand new back in July 2016 and was painted in the “Choose Saudi Arabia” livery.

Boarding began promptly at 6:15PM an hour before our scheduled departure time of 7:15PM. All passengers used door 2L for boarding.

Gate agents verified our PCR test again and also incorporated facial recognition in the boarding process.

The Seat

Etihad currently has two configurations onboard their B787-9s. One configuration features eight first class seats in addition to 28 business and 199 economy seats. The other configuration only has 28 business and 262 economy seats. Our aircraft was the later type and the 28 business class seats were all in one cabin between doors 1 and 2.

The Business Studio seats designed by Zodiac and Stelia are arranged in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration. The window seats alternate being close to the aisle or window while the seats closer to the aisle also face backwards.

The center seats alternate between being closer to the middle or the aisle. We were seated in row 9 which meant our two seats were closer together in the middle while also facing forward.

The seat itself was very roomy and had an excellent amount of space.

The touchscreen inflight entertainment screen was built into the seatback in front. The definition and responsiveness were excellent.

Below the screen was the massive foot cubby. This pictures doesn’t really do the size of the foot cubby justice but I had more than enough room to lie flat completely straight (I’m 5 foot 10 inches for reference).

Below the footwell was a small storage space perfect for shoes.

Right next to the entertainment screen was a coat hook.

Below the coat book was where the tray table was stored. It popped out when the release latch at the bottom was pulled.

The tray table was absolutely massive although it was a single piece instead of a bi-fold.

Closer to the aisle was the table top space.

The table top surface area very large. Built into the wall was a mirror that also double as the seat controls, a remote with screen, and two USB ports.

The seat control options included the ability to adjust recline, forward movement, lumbar support, firmness. There was also a massage function. At the seat there were also a total of four separate lights which could have their brightness adjusted as well.

Below the table top were buttons to adjust firmness, toggle the reading flights, as well as two pre-set seat options.

I did feel that the entrance/exit to the seat itself was a bit narrow. In addition, my seat lacked a privacy shield which meant I could fully see the passenger in 9C across the aisle from me.

The seat itself was 22 inches wide and offered a total of 73 inches of sleeping length when fully flat.

Just next to the seat was a beautifully designed mood lamp and a small reading light at the top.

The armrest doubled as the cover to a storage bin and offered additional table top space. There was also a literature pocket.

Inside the storage bin was a deep pocket perfect for headphones and tablets, a shallow pocked and another pocket which fit a water bottle.

Below the armrest was a very small storage bin which I used for my glasses. The headphone jack was also located below.

Just below the literature pocket above the floor was a universal power outlet.

Since we were in the two seats closer together in the middle of the cabin, there was a privacy partition which could be raised and lowered. The bottom half of the partition was rigid and did not create a full double seat (such as like on Qatar’s QSuites).

The Flight

Upon boarding, our flight attendants immediately greeted us and asked if we would like to have water, orange juice, mint tea, or champagne. Each passenger was also provided a wellness kit and an amenity kit.

Due to COVID-19, Etihad has introduced Wellness Kits which include PPE such as a face mask, gloves, hand sanitizer, and a fabric face covering.

There was also a standard Acqua Di Parma branded amenity kit. Contents included a dental kit, eye mask, socks, lip balm, hand cream, and a small cologne sample.

Each passenger was also provided a full sized water bottle.

The Etihad branded headphones came prepackaged and were OK. Not the best quality but still comfortable for the few hours I wore them.

There was also packaged bedding awaiting us at our seats.

The pillow was comfortable but unremarkable.

The comforter was heavy and warm. Unlike other Middle Eastern competitors, Etihad does not provide a mattress pad or additional pillows. In addition, Etihad has also cut pajamas from their business class service.

30 minutes after boarding, our flight attendants came by to take both our dinner and pre-arrival meal orders.

At 6:55PM the captain introduced himself over the intercom and gave a brief overview of our flight. The purser then introduced herself and welcomed all the passengers aboard. She also reinforced the need to have a face covering on at all times throughout the flight.

The boarding door was closed at 7:07PM and we pushed back two minutes later.

The taxi to runway 10L took 20 minutes and finally at 7:29PM we took off. There was a good amount of chop on the climb out from Chicago and service was delayed a full hour.

An hour after takeoff, the table was set for dinner.

The entire meal was served on a single tray including appetizer, main, dessert, and drink. The bread was served warm in a bag and the sides were covered in plastic. To drink I had a glass of the excellent Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut.

There was only one choice of appetizer which was an Arabic Mezze that consisted of hummus, tabbouleh, a stuffed grape leaf, and some olives. For my main I had a delicious lamb machbous with fragrant spices including cardamom and over a bed of tender basmati rice. The only dessert option was a mango cheesecake that was excellent.

My significant other went with the chicken breast served with potato gratin, asparagus, and tomatoes which she liked. The chicken was cooked perfectly and had crispy skin.

After we finished dinner, I decided to watch the air show a bit and then browsed the Etihad entertainment system. They actually had a good selection of both Western and international movies and shows. There was also live TV available.

There were two lavatories just behind the cockpit which business class passengers could use. While not the biggest, I appreciated how the flight attendants kept them clean throughout the flight.

Toiletries included Acqua di Parma branded soap and sanitizing gel.

After using the lavatory, I decided to get some sleep since it was now almost 10PM CST in Chicago. Etihad also does not offer any turn down service as I made the bed myself.

Again, I have to say that I really liked the size of the footwell. My size 11 feet could fit comfortable upright and I did not have to sleep on my side.

I also turned on the “Do Not Disturb” light which underlined the seat number.

As a poor sleeper on most flights, I was surprised to wake up almost six hours later as we passed over Genoa, Italy.

The moment the flight attendant noticed that I was up, she immediately offered me some coffee or tea. I had a black coffee that was served with a cold turkey sandwich, dates, chocolate, and nuts.

I also asked for another water bottle.

For the next three hours, I watched a movie and browsed the live TV channels. I also sneaked a peak out the emergency exit window as we were cruising over Turkey.

Two hours prior to landing, the pre-arrival meal was served. Again there was only one option for a starter and dessert.. The appetizer was a mixed salad with roasted fennel and grilled courgette (zucchini). Dessert was a decadent dulce de leche tart with sea salt caramel sauce and roasted macadamia nuts.

For my main I had the signature Etihad steak sandwich which was excellent. A warm pretzel bun was also provided. To drink, I had both orange juice and a cappuccino.

My significant other had a very fragrant rigatoni pasta with sautéed forest mushrooms in a parmesan cheese sauce.

I watched the airshow for the rest of the flight and wished I could look out the window as we passed over Iraq.

Flight attendants began prepping the cabin for landing 45 minutes prior to landing in AUH. The purser also came over the intercom and announced that the deplaning process would occur one row at a time.

We began our final approach into Abu Dhabi International at 5:26PM local time and landed on runway 31R at 5:40PM. The taxi to gate 60 took just nine minutes and soon we were on our way to security.

Thanks for the ride!

Since we were transiting Abu Dhabi, we made our way to the security screening instead of the immigration.

The security area for transit passengers was completely empty and we were through in under five minutes.

Since our layover in Abu Dhabi was almost eight hours and we could not enter the Emirate due to COVID-19 restrictions, we booked a stay in the transit hotel.

The room was very similar to a standard double room in any hotel. Upon entering there was a luggage rack, coat hangers, and a table with complimentary coffee, tea, and water.

The room itself was large and featured two full size beds. There was also a small table, chair, and television.

The bathroom was well stocked with toiletries, shaving kit, make-up kits, and had a shower with good water pressure.

We ended up both taking a three hour nap and with two hour until boarding was set to begin for our next flight, we headed to the Etihad Business Class Lounge.

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