This morning saw the inaugural flight of Etihad Airways’ first Airbus A350-1000. The flight from Abu Dhabi to Paris was the first opportunity to experience a new Etihad widebody experience: an exciting prospect after its innovative A380 and B787 cabin designs rewrote the design rulebook.
If you have forgotten just how much groundbreaking design went into those cabins, follow these links for in-depth stories of Etihad’s A380 and B787 designs, including the opulent but surprisingly space-efficient Residence.
As with its A380s and B787s, Etihad’s A350 cabin interior design is influenced by its Abu Dhabi base, with a signature lighting scheme that emulates natural ambient light and the shadows cast by palm trees, creating a restful ambience. The airline says that the lighting, combined with the low cabin noise of the A350, creates an optimum environment for sleeping, which also reduces the effects of jetlag.
The 371-seat aircraft has 44 ‘Business Studios’ and 327 economy seats. The airline has not opted for a first-class cabin in its A350s, but perhaps the more surprising decision by Etihad is that it has moved away from bespoke seating to a catalogue option: the Super Diamond platform from Collins Aerospace. This reverse herringbone seat is well proven in service, with several airlines flying the model, including British Airways’ A350-1000s, Qatar Airways’ A350-900s, A380s and B787s, and American Airlines’ B787-9s and 777-300s.
A forward-facing seat with direct aisle access, a width of over 20in, a 79in-long fully flat and ample storage makes for a solid customer offer. Not quite as innovative as the alternating forward- and backward-facing business class seats of the B787s and A380s perhaps, but then nobody dislikes a forward-facing seat.
The airline has made the Super Diamond its own though, with a sliding door creating a private suite experience, and with no centre overhead bins, a real feeling of space is created in the business class cabin.
The decorative scheme is distinctly Etihad, with gold finishes on the trim and the lighting units, a stone effect on the side furniture, rich brown leather on the headrest and armrest, and soft textiles on the seat and sleeping surface. The bedding further reinforces the airline’s brand, with a signature brown duvet and a pillow cover that echoes the Etihad livery.
The experience is complemented by 18.5in IFE displays, noise-cancelling headphones, a wireless charging pad for devices, and Bluetooth headphone pairing. Business class guests can also choose from an à la carte inflight dining menu, and Etihad’s signature ‘dine anytime’ service on longer flights.
Aircraft Interiors International was due to review the suite on the inaugural flight and to bring you the full story behind the cabins. Unfortunately some flight issues arose, but we hope to resolve this soon.
The 327-seat economy cabin (in a 3-3-3 arrangement) includes 45 ‘Economy Space’ seats with an additional 4in of legroom. I cannot confirm the exact seat model yet, but Etihad has indicated it is the winner of a Crystal Cabin Award. Thinking back, I recall assessing Recaro’s CL3710 for the 2019 Awards, and it looks like a match. The CL3710 won the Passenger Comfort Hardware category.
Etihad says the seat was selected following extensive customer trials, based on comfort and sustainability metrics. The seats feature Etihad’s signature supportive headrest, with an ‘ear’ at one side that gives additional side support to the head, aiding sleep and adding a sense of privacy. The experience is enhanced with blankets, pillows and amenity kits on longer flights, as well as complimentary dining and beverages.
The star of the seatback is the 13.3in IFE display, complemented by USB charging and Bluetooth headphone pairing. Across both business and economy class, a new dark-mode interface has been added to the E-BOX IFE system to help reduce light pollution, which works with the cabin lighting schemes to aid sleep and help prevent jetlag. Mobile and wi-fi connectivity is also available throughout the aircraft.
Young flyers on Etihad will be kept entertained and quiet by the newly launched Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi themed family-friendly flying experience. The experience includes a special feature on the A350: an interactive flight map feature with Jurassic-age friends who will help children explore the maps.
A special aircraft with a green mission
This A350-1000 (registration A6-XWB) is the first of five set to join Etihad’s fleet over the coming months, to be deployed on short to mid-range routes in Q2, including Mumbai and Delhi, before being introduced on ultra-long-haul operations to Chicago and New York from July.
The aircraft has been named Sustainability50, with a unique livery in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the federation of the UAE and Etihad’s commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Formed as a partnership between Etihad, Airbus and Rolls Royce in 2021, the Sustainability50 programme will see Etihad’s A350s used as flying testbeds of new initiatives, procedures and technologies to reduce carbon emissions, building on the learnings derived from Etihad’s similar Greenliner programme for the Boeing B787 aircraft type.
The Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-powered A350 is one of the most efficient aircraft types in the world, with 25% less fuel burn and CO2 emissions than some previous-generation twin-aisle aircraft.
Etihad recently established a formal framework with Airbus to collaborate on sustainability across a number of areas including the promotion and commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuel, waste and weight management, and the development of data-driven analysis.
“We designed our sustainability programme as a vehicle for collaboration, and our strategic partnership with Airbus allows us to harness the sustainability credentials of the A350 through the Sustainability50 programme, as we work towards our joint objectives to reduce aviation’s impact on the environment,” said Tony Douglas, group CEO of Etihad.
He added: “The Airbus A350 is an absolutely incredible aircraft, and we are proud to introduce it into the Etihad Airways network today. Our teams have worked closely together to craft a product and travel proposition that will ensure every journey with Etihad is a choice well made – both for our guests and for the planet. With highly efficient fuel consumption and CO2 savings, the A350 will support our goals to reduce carbon emissions and deliver an unmatched flight experience for our guests.”