I flew on Etihad Airways new A350-1000 inaugural flight from Abu Dhabi to Paris on 31 March 2022.
Etihad Airways have a total of 20 A350-1000 on order (12 firm order +8 options). Etihad first showcased their A350 during Dubai Airshow in November 2021.
My trip started early morning in Abu Dhabi International. You can submit vaccination documents prior to your flight to be "verified to fly".
The Business Class lounge food and beverage has returned to the pre-pandemic level. A full breakfast buffet is on offer.
I went to the gate early before the departure. There are the usual celebrations at the gate before takeoff, aviation enthusiasts and media were busy taking photos and videos of the new plane
The Etihad A350-1000 has 44 Business Class Suites and 327 Economy Class seats with total of 371 seats.
A total of 5 A350-1000 will be entering service with Etihad this year.
Every seat faces forward with direct aisle access. The Business class seat, with a width of over 20”, converts into a fully-flat bed of 79” in length.
The first 5 rows in Economy (45 seats) has extra 4" space (35" seat pitch) as Economy Space.
Standard Economy seat has 31" seat pitch.
2 Senior (ex A380) captains are in charge of today's flight to Paris.
Flight time was 6 hours 50 minutes, cruising at 36,000 ft with speed of Mach 0.85
The pilots showed me the latest touch screen technology on the A350-1000 cockpit display. See the demo on the video.
The new terminal of Abu Dhabi can be seen during take-off. There is still no firm date of opening although I was told it is 99% ready. One of the consortium partners has financial difficulty so the opening of the new terminal is delayed.
I checked out all the seat functions in the new Etihad Business Class suite. It has a sliding door to enhance privacy. The product is almost identical to British Airways A350-1000. The seat manufacturer is Collins Aerospace Modified Diamond Seat.
When in full recline, the seat is long enough for me without my feet touching the wall in front. The footwell is of reasonable size but your leg may hit the table on top during turning. The seat cushion and padding is adequate.
The seat has 2 USB outlets. (standard USB and one USB-C)
During the flight, I interviewed Etihad Aviation Group CEO Tony Douglas about the A350 operation and the future of the Etihad A380.
I was a little disappointed with the speed of the service. It took almost 4 hours to finish the meal after takeoff. I was sitting in second row from the last and the service was slow. The A350 Business Class cabin is a huge one but the galley is in the front so the service took much longer to reach the end row.
I also explored the Economy Class cabin. There are tablet holders and Bluetooth-enabled headset connections. So you can use your own headset to connect to the entertainment. I particularly like the winged headrest.
At the end of the flight, a flight certificate is given to every passenger on the flight.
I think Etihad's A350-1000 product is an improvement over the current product but definitely not revolutionary. If you compare it to their B787, there are no more rearward facing seats on the A350. The privacy is also elevated.
However, due to the giant cabin of 44 Business Class seats on A350-1000, I'd recommend to seat in the forward section so you can receive the service first. It took more than an hour to reach to the end row in Business Class on my flight.
The airline doesn't think there will be a future for First Class, so it is focusing on Business Class. Etihad does not have Premium Economy.
The new Etihad A350-1000 is currently flying on short haul routes from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai, Delhi, Jeddah, Cairo and Istanbul for crew familiarization before entering long haul service to New York and Chicago in July. A total of 5 A350-1000 will join Etihad's fleet this year.