Review: Etihad Business Class, Abu Dhabi – Male (Maldives)

Here I review Etihad’s lie flat business class seat for a regional flight from Abu Dhabi to Male (Maldives).

Previous installments:

  1. Introduction, overview, and costs
  2. Star Alliance first class and business class lounges, LAX
  3. Etihad First Class, Los Angles – Abu Dhabi.. the 3rd Longest Flight in the World!
  4. Premier Inn, Abu Dhabi International Airport
  5. Etihad’s new business class lounge, Abu Dhabi

About 35 minutes prior to departure time we headed down to our gate. Now, even though we were departing from terminal 3 (an upgrade from several past regional flights) it was still going to be a bus gate.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to an airport where I have such a high proportion of bus gates — even departing long haul to destinations other than the U.S., and as I found out on this trip even arriving from the U.S.

After a few minutes it was time to board. They called business class and Etihad’s top elite frequent flyers (not those of partners) who had a designated bus. Of course any business class passengers boarding later wouldn’t be on the business class bus — not that it’s better than the economy bus, though perhaps a few less people meant it was less packed and so marginally more personal space (although there wasn’t much personal space).

After an extensive tour of the airport we found our way to our aircraft.

On entry into the cabin I was presented with Etihad’s international business class product. I had only really ever seen it up close when departing an Etihad flight through a door behind the first business class cabin.

Traveling with my wife we chose center seats together. The seats are staggered so that one row is open to the aisle while the next has a table between the seat and aisle. I had the table. And that made the seat feel incredibly claustrophobic.

This feeling was exacerbated by the warning about getting trapped:

Window seats opening into the aisle would be my clear preference.

There was a menu and blanket at each seat.

    (Click to enlarge)

Seat storage is pretty limited.

Pre-departure beverages and towels were distributed. I merely had a glass of water (you can throw things at me now..).

And that’s when I… fell asleep. Long travel day, time difference, and a rocky sleep caught up with me. I honestly don’t recall the taxi out or even the takepoff. Next thing I knew, I had nuts at my seat.

My meal was attractive and tasty enough.

After eating I watched a little television and the flight passed quite rapidly. All in all a good seat, and good food, for a short regional flight.

We were on the ground in Male on time.

We came in beside an Emirates aircraft, and just after them, meaning we’d have a bit of a wait at immigration.

We took the brief walk across the tarmac to the arrivals hall. There we had fast track passes, though on this visit and the last one it was anything but fast. Once through immigration you collect your bags off the belt, and walk them over to customs nearby. Every bag gets x-rayed as it enters the country so don’t bring in any contraband! (Not even duty free liquor.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Love your reviews Gary! I recently had the same cabin on a ORD-AUH flight. Loved the window seat with direct aisle access. I loved the table in the aisle for privacy. Seats were very comfortable for sleeping.

  2. I flew this same route 2 weeks ago with my wife. I sincerely did not find anything special about this Pearl Business Class, there are several products out there better and I absolutely hated the bus ride to and from the plane to the terminal. As I mentioned on another comment, Etihad’s A380 might be a great product and deserves all compliments, but besides this aircraft they are not much better than most Airlines.

  3. Does Eithad release these regional rewards at a later date? I just booked a LAX to MLE trip but the AUH to MLE leg only had coach awards available. The trip isn’t until next year, so when should I be looking for Etihad to release these business class awards?

    Thanks for this blog post, it really helped booking my flights!

  4. @Nelson sometimes though not always. When is the trip? Etihad space goes in waves. They may open up space again, but they also may have already booked the only ones on the flight that they will and they are aggressive with upsell upgrades.

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