Etihad Airways pearl business class: a review update

Hi Frugalistas!  The last time I flew Etihad Airways Pearl Business Class it was good, but not great.  Memories of a rock hard croissant at breakfast and very poor service in transit in Abu Dhabi left this loyal Etihad customer a little disillusioned.  Have they redeemed themselves?  Read my review update from my recent trip to Istanbul and Paris.

Etihad Pearl Business Class service on the ground

The Sydney check in is always friendly and efficient, and this time is no exception.  As it’s an evening flight, thanks to my express lane pass I’m through Immigration and security in no time – the airport is very quiet.

What I am delighted to see is that the brand new Etihad First & Business Class Lounge has literally just opened.  It’s a spacious lounge with separate seating and eating areas.  It’s also incredibly well staffed – even by the time we board there seem to be more staff than guests.  There is an a la carte menu as well as a buffet filled with tasty offerings.  A waiter pours me a glass a Mumm and I settle in to enjoy the ambiance.  The amenities are all down a separate passageway and include a children’s playroom, a prayer room and the loos.  The ladies includes a large shower room very similar to the one in the First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi.

In Paris, it’s a similar story.  There’s a brand new lounge for First and Business Class guests just opened.  A little larger and with slightly different décor to the Sydney lounge it’s also a pleasant surprise when I arrive at Charles de Gaulle.  I enjoy waiter service for coffee, and serve myself a light breakfast of good quality pastries and yoghurts from the buffet.  A full a la carte breakfast is also available in the dining area.

Transiting in Abu Dhabi is a far more pleasant experience this time round.  I enjoy my mini facial in the Six Senses Spa on the way over.  But the biggest surprise for me is on the return journey – I’m invited to use the First Class lounge (I’ve got my fingers crossed for a flight upgrade too!)  Always less crowded than the Business Class lounge, I spread out on a comfy sofa, read the Australian weekend papers and have a light dish of Arabic mezze – yum!

Etihad Pearl Business Class inflight

As a solo traveller I appreciate the layout of the Business Class seating.  Every seat has aisle access, and because of the staggered configuration, choosing a window seat is like having your own separate cubicle (sort of a Business Class suite, if you like).  A lie flat bed is a given, along with comfy plump pillows and a plush “comforter” that doesn’t leave fluff all over your clothes (one of my absolute airline bugbears).

One thing I have noticed on Etihad is that while the service is always friendly and attentive, for some reason it always seems even more so on the shorter legs. The charming and smiling Miguel who looks after me from Paris to Abu Dhabi makes the almost 8hour flight “fly” by. On this trip I’m treated to universally good service.  On the flight from Abu Dhabi to Sydney I promptly fell asleep half way through my post take off champagne.  I woke an hour later to find my glass topped up waiting for me – so thoughtful.

Etihad’s entertainment system is easy to operate and always has some sort of special feature.  When I flew they were celebrating Shakespeare’s anniversary.  A very eclectic range of films of Shakespeare’s plays is on offer, in addition to a reasonable selection of new release, classic films and TV shows.  Live news broadcasts have also been added, so I enjoy BBC World and Al Jazzerah English for a bit of relief.

While I was impressed with the Korres amenity kit on my last trip, I was disappointed that it came in a very plain, utilitarian plastic bag.  This time around, Etihad is back on form with a pretty brown amenities cosmetic bag.  There is a card inside indicating the design and fabric is a traditional UAE design made as part of a charity project to keep local crafts alive.  I appreciate the bag, and also the thought behind it.  The Korres amenities are the same, and I enjoy them all.

Etihad Pearl Business Class Food and Drink

As always the menu on Etihad is appetising.  Western and Middle Eastern offerings and some lighter choices are available.  While I normally munch away happily on four course meals, and big breakfasts, this time I settle for smaller meals and try a few snacks.  I’m delighted with one light breakfast – rich Middle Eastern yoghurt with granola, and a warm jam donut and croissant.  Not a rock hard croissant in sight, it’s a perfect “light” breakfast.  Coffee is good and plentiful.  Served on its own it comes with a chocolate, a chocolate cookie and a madeleine – perfect for a midnight feast!

My opinion of Etihad Airways Pearl Business Class

I really feel Etihad is back on track.  Having spent a total of 48 hours in their company on this trip, the inconsistencies in their offering seem to have been ironed out.  The new lounges in Sydney and Paris are a real delight – the old Air NZ lounge Etihad had used in Sydney was always crowded and ordinary.  These new lounges are better than the Abu Dhabi Business Lounge – more like the First Class Lounge in fact.

I’m looking forward to my next Etihad Pearl Business Class flight later this year.  I know I’m in for a good experience!

Author’s note:  I paid for my own flights on this trip.

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11 Comments on “Etihad Airways pearl business class: a review update”

  1. holysmithereens 26/05/2014 at 6:28 am #

    Thanks for the great review! I love Etihad and have been wondering about the newly opened lounge in Sydney. I was hoping they’d have the 6 Senses spa as well , but having one in Abu Dhabi transit is great enough 🙂 I appreciate the staggered seats in business as well, this is a very important factor that other major airlines overlook. The Kitchen Anytime feature is always a treat. I find the general observation to be the same – the service on board is usually great, but the airport service in Abu Dhabi is all over the place. If they can have that level of service consistent it would be great. I was at the Paris lounge October last year I wonder how different it is now?

  2. travellingmunk 26/05/2014 at 2:58 pm #

    Wow, It looks so good. I have been upgraded to business once on a flight from LA to London with British Airways – not nearly as good at this one, but still – Love the feeling of the business. Hope to get more of these trips in the future. The airport lounges I have never tested but I have been thinking of getting a membership. Maybe now is the time

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 26/05/2014 at 7:15 pm #

      For me, a lounge is a must have. Whenever I travel to Europe it’s a 20+hr flight with some sort of layover, so having access to a decent lounge is a godsend. Thanks for taking the time to drop by and comment

  3. irenelevine (@irenelevine) 26/05/2014 at 10:36 pm #

    Thanks for such a thorough review. Reviews like yours are so helpful in planning travels on new-to-us airlines.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 27/05/2014 at 6:08 am #

      Thanks Irene. Even if you don’t fly this airline I hope reviews like this give an indication of what to look for in an airline

  4. mariamichelle117 27/05/2014 at 5:40 am #

    I would absolutely love everything about this experience. It sounds like they treat everyone like royalty. I rarely fly anything other than economy at this point in my life which I hope one day will change 🙂

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 27/05/2014 at 6:10 am #

      Business class is definitely a treat everyone deserves at least once in their lives! Thanks for taking time to comment.

  5. Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque) 28/05/2014 at 3:53 pm #

    My Business Class experiences have been on Emirates, Air Canada and Philippine Airlines. The Emirates flight from Dubai to Perth, Australia was a good number of years ago, so it’s probably not fair mentioning it, but the Business Class lounge at the Dubai Airport was overcrowded and not comfortable. Our most recent experience was on Philippines Airlines—let’s just say, you sometimes get what you pay for (or don’t pay for). This was the least expensive Business Class fare I could find from San Francisco to Bangkok (with a refueling stop in Honolulu) and a plane switch and layover in Manila. We were in an aged 747 with all Arabic signs in the bathroom, so clearly the plane had seen service elsewhere. The entertainment system was broken and the seats didn’t lie flat. On the way home, the food was pretty inedible and the wifi in the Manila business class lounge didn’t work—-other than that….. Our best Business Class experience was Toronto to Tokyo on Air Canada. We had the little lay flat suite type seats you describe, and the food was very good ((MHO). The flights were, dare I say, enjoyable.

  6. Wow! Nice way to travel! When we fly it’s always economy (we’re budget travelers after all) and I just dread the experience because it’s uncomfortable on so many levels. I might actually look forward to a flight in the Pearl Business Class! Anita

  7. Jon 04/06/2014 at 3:50 pm #

    I love Etihad I have been flying with them for years now, try Diamond first one trip its very hard to go back to business after that! Its epic

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