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Etihad Unveils First A380, B787 And New Uniforms

Etihad Unveils First A380, B787 And New Uniforms

Abu Dhabi airline’s first superjumbo and Dreamliner herald a fashionable new era

Etihad Airways has unveiled its first A380 and B787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, heralding what President & CEO James Hogan has described as “a new era of luxury and service”.

In one of the highest-profile events for the 11-year-old carrier, Hogan said both aircraft “will set the stage for the 11 years, and quite frankly, beyond”. The first A380 flight will depart from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow on December 27, which will be followed by Sydney, New York and Paris.

By the end of the first quarter of 2015, five Dreamliners are due to be in service, serving Dusseldorf from February 1, along with Washington, Moscow, Mumbai and Brisbane. Their entry dates have slipped which Hogan attributed to “minor certification issues”.

Etihad said Abu Dhabi-based FGB and The National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia is funding “a number” of the B787-9s and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank has provided financing for the first A380.

It was a bitter-sweet day for Airbus whose happiness seeing its first A380 delivery for Etihad will have been tinged by Hogan saying it has no plans to increase the 10 A380s it has on order – stating that the economics of the next-generation B777s and A350s meet its requirements. Last week media seized on comments that the A380 programme could be scrapped if more buyers are not found.

Coinciding with the deliveries, Etihad held a fashion show – surely a first in an airport hangar – in which 22 crew paraded sharp new uniforms designed by Italian couturier Ettore Bilotta. While a “warm chocolate brown” is used as the base colour, variations see deep purple for crew and lounge staff and burnt orange for ground crew and special services personnel.

Comment

While the fashion show was pure theatre, it reflected the occasion and Etihad’s ability to shake things up in the aviation industry.

Touring both aircraft, the Residence naturally took centre stage; walking into the front of the upper deck, you walk up 15 steps (economy either side on the lower level) and it’s the first apartment on the right.

Seeing it in its rightful place, after all the mock-ups, I was reminded how small it was – although it does cover 125sq ft, so the A380 has a habit of destroying conventional notions of scale. But even now I’m mindful we’re not saying the finished article – principally the key service element, the personal butler. The first class apartments’ ottoman comes out into the 80.5-inch bed and when you’re lieing down, the TV can be rotated round.

The lounge, with semi-circular-facing leather seating, which links first and business class, looks classy, with an encased bar behind. Much thought has gone into the overall design and connecting it with Abu Dhabi – from the Louvre-like touches on the floor, and the lights, to the wooden fixtures in the galley, which will help maintain a clean look.

The A380 business class is long (70 seats), not too dissimilar to Emirates’ in length, although broken up into sections. Design wise rows divide into forward and aft-facing (eg A, E, F & K all face forward). The beds are a little wider on the A380 than the B787. I particularly liked the ‘A’ window seats which give added exclusivity and feature huge 10kg stowage areas by your seat.

Business class on the B787 is considerably smaller (28 seats) but in that respect feels more intimate than the A380.

Economy passengers’ fixed wing headrests are a welcome innovation and the pitch seemed reasonable. Each seat offers good connectivity with a socket, USB and magnetic three-point chargers.

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