Etihad Airways Business Class Review: Abu Dhabi to Chicago-O’Hare

Business class passengers enjoy suite-style seats and direct aisle access on long haul international flights.
Published
Profile photo of Ramsey Qubein
Written by Ramsey Qubein
Profile photo of Meg Lee
Edited by Meg Lee
Assigning Editor
Fact Checked

Many, or all, of the products featured on this page are from our advertising partners who compensate us when you take certain actions on our website or click to take an action on their website. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Taking off from the Zayed International Airport's recently opened Terminal A in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, was a special treat, especially considering I was flying on an Airbus A350-1000 in Etihad Airways’ business class, which offered sliding doors at each seat.

From on demand a la carte dining to a new triple-level lounge in the airport, traveling aboard Etihad, one of the national airlines of the UAE, is a unique way to learn about Emirati culture while also enjoying top-notch service.

Etihad's many partnerships with other airlines puts award flights more easily within reach for those who want to redeem their points and miles. Here is what to expect when traveling business class with Etihad.

The airport experience

Etihad offers chauffeur service in Abu Dhabi for business class passengers, which was easy to book online. My personal driver arrived right on time to take me from my city-center hotel to the new terminal. The driver dropped me off at the business class check-in area, which was bright and airy.

(Photo by Ramsey Qubein)

There was a short wait, and an agent from the first class check-in area flagged me over to check me in. All in all, check-in took two minutes. In addition, there were comfortable seating areas and even refreshments to enjoy before heading through security.

(Photo by Ramsey Qubein)

Terminal A, which just opened in November 2023, is bright and airy. It showcases enormous windows and an undulating roof sculpture that looks like the shape of the region's desert sand dunes.

After a little shopping, I made my way to the terminal's new Etihad business class lounge, which has three floors.

Etihad business lounge in Abu Dhabi

Once I arrived at the Etihad Airways lounge for business class passengers, I asked the friendly check-in agent which floor they recommended and made my way to the suggested top floor. A full-service bar and buffet setup proved an interesting way to pass the time.

My flight was departing at 3:05 a.m., which was a difficult time to stay awake for, but surprisingly, I was hungry and helped myself to the large selection of salads and curries on offer. When it was time to board, there was no extra security check, and I was in my seat in minutes.

The business class seat

The 1-2-1 layout in Etihad's business class meant the seats have spacious side counters and wireless charging surfaces, which worked brilliantly.

(Photo by Ramsey Qubein)

Several storage compartments allowed me to keep my belongings in order, and the enormous touch-screen monitor in front had a wide range of movies and TV shows. Even with a flight duration of 14 hours and 30 minutes, I had barely enough time to even scratch the surface of entertainment options.

(Photo courtesy of Etihad Airways)

The best part of the seat was the sliding privacy door that was unlocked by the crew after takeoff. This keeps movement in the aisle from disturbing passengers while trying to rest. I kept mine closed most of the flight except when eating.

(Photo by Ramsey Qubein)

Waiting near my seat was a large pillow, padded seat cover, blanket and beige Acqua di Parma amenity kit. It had hand lotion, lip balm, eyeshades and socks. Cushioned noise-reducing headphones were wrapped in a compartment to one side with a bottle of water.

I appreciated how often the crew offered to refill my water bottle, as I prefer to stay hydrated in flight.

Meal service

Etihad offers a dine-on-demand service, and I struggled to decide when I wanted to eat and when I wanted to sleep.

Not wanting to miss out, I decided to try a light snack after takeoff and ordered the Arabic mezze with a glass of Chardonnay plus an acai bowl for dessert.

Just what you want at 4 a.m., right?

(Photo by Ramsey Qubein)

It was quite tasty, and I liked how my flight attendant brought out a bowl of warm nuts before serving my food.

After the light snack, I reclined my seat into bed mode and slept for four hours. My plan was to sleep for eight or nine hours and then have a larger meal before landing, but I could not stay asleep.

So what do you do on an Etihad flight when you can’t sleep? Eat again!

I went to the galley to see if there were snacks available. Sure enough, a display of potato chips, chocolate bars and fruit was laid out. I grabbed a few snacks and informed the flight attendant I also wanted to order something more substantial.

Another glass of wine soon arrived along with a tray of lentil soup and a side salad. It was served at the perfect temperature and with a slice of lemon to squeeze onto it.

After this, my next course arrived, Indian paneer curry. Other options on the menu included a roasted chicken dish and local Emirati grouper fish.

(Photo by Ramsey Qubein)

Etihad has a new partnership with Armani Casa to supply its cutlery, dishes and glassware from the brand. It was very elegant and had the appearance of a fine restaurant.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Interestingly, Etihad uses trays in business class rather than putting the dishes one by one on the table like its peers. Still, this made the service more efficient for the flight attendants and did not detract from the presentation.

For dessert, I ordered the cheese plate, which had cheddar, brie and blue cheeses with fresh fruit. After working a little on my laptop, I reclined my seat again to doze until landing.

(Photo by Ramsey Qubein)

The details

I loved how the crew was from different parts of the world. In addition to the Lebanese flight attendant who took care of me, the purser was from Thailand, another flight attendant in my aisle was from Egypt and the pilot was from Ireland.

Etihad has a very international crew, and its uniforms, in hues of beige and purple, made them look like runway fashion models.

The bathrooms were clean and tidy the entire flight, and they had Armani Casa toiletries, although I was surprised and disappointed there were not more products like shaving or dental kits on display.

Another bummer was the lack of air nozzles at each seat, as the cabin was rather warm.

(Photo courtesy of Etihad Airways)

One unique feature about U.S.-bound flights from Abu Dhabi is that the airport has a preclearance facility. This means passengers complete U.S. customs and immigration formalities before boarding, allowing them to land in the U.S. as a domestic passenger.

Unfortunately, the new airport terminal meant that not all U.S. flights were eligible yet for this service, as the U.S. officers worked only during the morning hours. This added some extra time to my itinerary when arriving at Chicago O'Hare International Airport, but normally, this is an excellent reason to connect on Etihad in Abu Dhabi versus other area airports.

How to book Etihad business class

Redeem points and miles

In addition to paying cash for Etihad’s premium cabin, members of its own Etihad Guest loyalty program can redeem miles for the experience.

The airline uses a distance-based chart, which means the number of miles you need varies by flight. This flight clocks in at more than 7,000 miles, which means a business class seat requires 110,000 miles in each direction.

Transfer travel rewards from airline partners

Another popular way to enjoy business class is by redeeming American Airlines AAdvantage miles, as Etihad is one of the carrier’s partners. A one-way business class flight from the U.S. to Abu Dhabi costs 70,000 miles based on its partner award chart.

You can also boost your Etihad points supply by transferring rewards from three credit card programs: American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Miles and Citi ThankYou Rewards.

Smart cards for Etihad flights
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on American Express' website

Rates & Fees
Citibank ThankYou Premier Credit Card
Citi Premier® Card
NerdWallet Rating
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
NerdWallet Rating
Annual fee

$695.

$95.

$95.

Earning rates

• 5 points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, on up to $500,000 spent per year.

• 5 points per $1 on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

• 1 point per $1 on other eligible purchases.

Terms apply.

• 10 ThankYou® points per $1 spent on hotels, car rentals and attractions booked through the Citi Travel site.

• 3 points per $1 on air travel and other hotel purchases.

• 3 points per $1 on supermarkets.

• 3 points per $1 on gas stations and EV charging stations.

• 3 points per $1 on restaurants.

• 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.

• 5 miles per $1 on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.

• 2 miles per $1 on all other purchases.

Horizontal scroll

Etihad impresses on ultra-long-haul flights

Etihad offers an impressive business class product on the A350-1000. If you can’t redeem miles to fly on one of the airline’s first class A380 flights (complete with in-flight shower), this is the next best thing.

To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.

The information related to Citi Premier® Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service."


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.