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Review: Etihad Pearl Business Class AUH-JNB

a room with a computer screen and a refrigerator

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This is part of the Around the World 2015 Mega Trip

Review: Etihad A330 Pearl Business Class AUH-JNB

The flight from AUH-JNB is a Jet Airways configured A330 outfitted with Pearl Business Class. I was kind of wondering/hoping it would be the classic style, THE OG of Etihad business if you will, and not a Jet airways product. Having had a flawless experience on their new Business Studio Miles was verrrrrrry keen on seeing what the Pearl Business Class was all about.

Miles posing in the lounge before the flight

We boarded through the main gate and turned LEFT, YESSSSS turning left is the greatest feeling!!!! And BOOM! Etihad Pearl Business awaited us. =) Cha-Ching

Etihad Business Class Cabin

Originally we were supposed to fly on this flight June 21st. However, we took advantage of the ability that Aadvantage permits you to change the date of your flight and the cabin of service without incurring any change fees or redeposit fees ( which for other American tickets would be $150/ticket )

We ended up changing our flight while sitting at the Burj Al Arab having High Tea, as ya do. Side-note, the Burj staff is incredible, as is the whole experience of the hotel, but for our purposes it was the Free Wi-Fi and Skype that made it possible to move our flight up a day.


The Deets:

  • When: June 20th, 2015
  • Route: AUH-JNB
  • Duration: 09:30 – 16:05 ( 8hr 35min )
  • Plane: A330
  • Class: Pearl Business Class
  • Seat: 5E
  • Program: AAdvantage 45000 miles + ~$28
  • Value: Roughly $0.065/mile



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As was mentioned in the post regarding booking Etihad flights with AA miles you need to find guest business availability.


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Miles wanted right up in the IFE

Hold on Miles! We have to show the people the product first!!!! Jeez.

At check-in, we had requested two seats, in the middle, next to one another.

As it turned out, when we changed the tickets over the phone with AA we had lost our seat assignments. I’d also been up for roughly 30 hours at that point, and when I had gotten the Etihad Record Locator and called them on the phone to change our Chauffeur service (for the price of: ON THE HOUSE), I’d forgotten to pick seats. HOWEVER, the rep at the check-in counter was awesome, loved Miles (obv) and hooked us up. First row (which I love for the extra storage) and in two seats that a butte one another.

5E obvs

Not gonna lie, would be ‘super awk’ if I didn’t know Dave beeeeeecause we were RIGHT next to one another.

Seats for friends or couples
Cabin looking back

Champagne before I sit, please.

The classic striped Etihad seat and patterned pillow
Foot well.

The seat was very comfortable. However, it’s not even fair to try and compare this to the Business Studio. One, we’re on an A330 in a MUCH smaller cabin, and Two, the plane is considerably older. With that being said…I was very pleased. Our Purser, Samantha, was absolutely excellent. In fact, I think we had much more interaction with her than we did any of the other flight attendants. She had a certain passion for her job. The plane had been sitting on the tarmac for quite some time and as a result was piping hot. I mean, we were all a bit damp. It is Abu Dhabi after all and there was some issue with getting the air conditioner on. The funny thing was, I heard Samantha talking to the cabin crew (which the Purser oversees) and telling them to assure passengers that the aircon would be on ASAP. This was my opportunity

Ummm, excuse me, Samantha? Is there any way we could get the heat on…it’s a bit chilly in here.

The look on her face was priceless. She was literally speechless. It was so flipping hot in there and she HAD JUST had that convo with her staff and here I was in the first row complaining of it being too cold! HAHAHA Needless to say, I started chuckling and told her I was just kidding and just wanted to give her a hard time. She’s British and had a very clever come back. I think it cemented our relationship for the duration of the flight cause she was ON THE BALL with service. I think, far too often, people in premium cabins can be high maintenance, so after exhibiting a little playfulness, she wanted to make it nice for us.

Right before take-off we had the entire cabin sprayed. I mean some sort of aerosol was sprayed over the entire cabin. I’ve never had this done before until leaving Zambia for South Africa. My assumption was disease protection, but I felt like Tom Cruise in MI-5 holding my breath.

Same Amenity kit as our flight from IAD-AUH



Would you like another glass of Champagne? “How bout a mimosa?” SURE!



The service was impeccable.

Some other features of the seat…


Decent storage…Business Studio is a huge upgrade on this though
good plugs
IFE control was fine. Nothing outstanding but fit the purpose

The massage function on this seat was “spa-like” I almost needed to Ice afterwards.

Seat controls were great.



Dave, at 6’2″, looked en-utero while sleeping.

I had read a lot about the seats before taking this flight. The biggest complaint I read was about the footwell not being large enough to accommodate someone over 6′ tall. Well I wear a 12 shoe and it was certainly tall enough. However, once the seat was laid flat…I suffered the same complaint as so many: it was a little short.

Meal service was quick. I chose to eat while Dave chose to sleep. Which he did for 5 hours. Must not have been too uncomfy.

It worked in Dave’s favor, but I did find it odd that they blacked out the cabin. We left at 9:30 am. This wasn’t an overnight flight. Still not sure why the cabin was completely blacked out, although many passengers did sleep…so there ya go. I, however, ATE.

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Teriffic Arabic Mezze

Cheese plate
Incredible Arabic Ice Cream: Um Ali and arabic coffee.

The Um Ali ice cream was UH-MAZING! So glad I was talked into trying it.

Another thing that I really like about taking foreign carriers is that they have so many foods native to the country they’re based in. This ice cream will be something I track down in Los Angeles. It was incredible.

Now, with some champagne and port in my belly, as well as a huge meal, it was time, sweet time, for bed. BED?! What are you crazy? It’s like noon…

It was time to lay down like I was on my sofa on a Sunday and watch movies

Tucked in


Full Bed


Size of footwell
IFE had the same touch screen function. Nice selection of entertainment too

I ended up watching 2.5 movies on the 8 hour flight. It literally “flew” by. When Dave awoke, one of the flight attendants noticed and brought him his meal. He had the chicken which ultimately was a wiser decision than my fish.

We arrived right on time into JNB.

5E and 5F – super close – great for friends or couples or ‘frouples’.
Small but well serviced Business Cabin


If you look closely you can tell which lettering on the middle seats would suit you best. If it’s 5E and 5F for instance it would suit you well as a couple or friends. However, if alone and in the middle, having the extra space would be great and you should chose a row like 6C and 6D, which are technically aisle seats with the armrest to the center.

It’s interesting that these pods aren’t angled to the aisle at all ( they’re square to the cabin front).  My personal preference is the Herringbone configuration (head in, feet out) as it feels the most private. Having said that – I never felt exposed in these seats… which I would attribute to the specific seats we occupied as they had armrests to the outside which shielded us from aisle activity. I’d pick these again, or a window seat with armrest between the seat and aisle.

Fly the Business Studio if you can – they’re on the 787 and A380, but if you can’t…Etihad’s standard Pearl business class will certainly make you smile.

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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