NEW YORK – Last week, Etihad’s (EY) Airbus A350-1000 made its inaugural flight to New York (JFK). Take a look at how the airline is implementing its latest inflight products into the A350 experience.
The airline’s first A350 debuted on a showcase flight to Paris (CDG) in March and has been operating medium-haul flights to Mumbai and Delhi. Now, EY’s five A350s will additionally fly to JFK and Chicago O’Hare (ORD) to couple the new aircraft with the airline’s flagship U.S. routes.
The aircraft and its interior are the culmination of the airline’s work to develop a premium, sustainable inflight experience while featuring the latest technologies available in the industry.
Commenting on the inaugural flight of the A350 to New York, Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer said, “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.”
Etihad’s Understated Elegance
In a brief interview with Airways, Terry Daly, Executive Director Guest Experience, Brand, and Marketing at Etihad laid out the airline’s thought process in designing the interior of the A350.
Commenting on the decision not to install a first class product on the A350, he said, “It’s always a delicate one if you go first-class or not, whilst its a great image, is quite difficult to make work financially, so we’ve decided to go with a two-class configuration in our A350s, and our future ones will be as well.”
He continued, “But when you look at the business class product that’s on here now, with the privacy door, the space you get, it really is of a standard that first class was ten or fifteen years ago.”
Daly also didn’t rule out the possibility of a premium economy product in the future, but detailed the extra legroom economy seats as a good option for passengers.
In relating the core of Etihad’s inflight experience, he said, “We take Emirati hospitality, something that’s stylish, and if you look at this cabin, you can see that it has a style to it but it’s not screaming; it’s understated elegance. Those are the themes that we’ve taken through in terms of the values that we have.”
Etihad has taken COVID as an opportunity to overhaul its inflight products, and Daly described the process, saying, “To get something that lifts the quality, looks great, and is cost effective is quite a task, and for that, you need time. COVID gave us the time to really think it through.
He continued, We will have some news on business class in the near future, but we’re not revealing them yet. We’ve gone down a similar path to really use the opportunity of time to think through what we’re doing in the future.”
The Economy Experience
During a tour of the aircraft, EY’s guest experience managers stressed the importance of retaining a premium experience for all passengers, even in economy. Here’s how they were able to accomplish that.
The aircraft’s 282 economy class seats, with 31” of seat pitch, and the 45 ‘Economy Space’ seats, with 35” of seat pitch, are equipped with a headrest wing, allowing passengers to comfortably rest their heads without being in a window seat.
The seat wings also provide an additional layer of privacy, which has become an essential point of interest of travelers across all cabins.
Additional features of the economy class seat include a bi-fold tray, tablet holder, and a 13.3” HD screen, which is fitted with seat controls and USB charging ports.
The screens also allow for bluetooth connectivity, a relatively new innovation in the aviation industry, and has been utilized by other airlines, including United Airlines (UA) on some of its latest aircraft.
Evolving Soft Product
Etihad’s soft product has also rapidly changed, with additional upgrades expected to be implemented later this year.
Features of EY’s economy class experience include complimentary meals with up to three choices, multiple meals and snacks depending on flight length, and an amenity kit with socks, eye shades, and toothbrush offered on longer flights.
By the end of the year, EY will bring back metal cutlery, and implement a new economy dining tray which uses no single-use plastics, and recycles all components using a closed-loop system.
This means that all of the tray’s various elements will be grinded down and remade by a local source.
Etihad will also offer 35 percent larger pillows with a 200 thread count cotton cover, which is paired with a blanket.
The Business Class Experience
Etihad’s A350s are fitted with 44 Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seats, customized with the airline’s signature color palette and finishes in a 1-2-1 configuration.
Other operators of the Super Diamond seats include British Airways (BA) as their new Club Suite, Hong Kong Airlines (HX), and China Airlines (CI), among others.
Without center overhead bins, the business class cabin is quite spacious, and is enhanced by warm mood lighting that matches the airline’s color palette.
Privacy takes a front seat in Etihad’s business class cabin, with doors and privacy partitions for seats in the center of the cabin.
The Super Diamond seats recline to become a fully flat bed of 79 inches, which is comparable to many first class products.
Each seat also has a built-in wireless charging station that allows passengers to charge up to three devices at one time.
Notably, EY, along with Japan Airlines (JL), are the only two airlines to offer dine-on-demand services for their business class passengers, a feature that EY’s product managers say are a favorite of many travelers.
Featured Image: Etihad Airways