Review: Etihad B787-9 Business (MLE-AUH)

After four wonderful days in the Maldives it was time for the next stop on our trip, Amsterdam. First we had to get there and I was excited for out flights on Etihad Airways and wanted to see how it would compare to our outbound flights on Qatar Airways.


To get from the Maldives to Amsterdam we had a variety of options with a variety of European and Middle Eastern carriers. With the Maldives being a popular destination, cash fares were high so I looked for various award options. Ultimately I found availability for two on Etihad, with a stop in Abu Dhabi, through Air Canada Aeroplan for 50,000 miles per person which I transferred over from Chase. Initially the Male-Abu Dhabi segment was scheduled to be operated by an A320 but, a couple months before our trip, the route was upgraded to a Boeing 787-9 featuring semi-enclosed suites.


We arrived at Velana International Airport via a seaplane transfer from the Westin. They drove us from the seaplane base to the main terminal and escorted us through the security line to access the terminal. There were a couple of people in the Business Class line but, after a short wait and a quick documents check, we had our bags tagged to Amsterdam and boarding passes in hand.

Etihad Business Class Check-In Male

We headed upstairs to passport control, which was a mess, unless you were a Maldivian citizen. There were signs for All Passports, Maldivian Passports, Flight Crews and First/Business passengers though only the first two were staffed. We hopped in the regular line to wait but after seeing a few people with J boarding passes use the Maldivian line, we figured out that they were processing First/Business pax in that line as well. Once we figured this out passport control was a breeze and there was very little kine at security due to the passport holdup. From there, we were off to the Leeli Lounge, Etihad’s (and most other carriers) contract lounge.

Passport Control Male Velana International Airport


I gave a (somewhat) detailed review of the lounge in a separate post but, with the seaplane delay and the time spent at passport control, we didn’t have much time to spend here. That may have been a good thing as the lounge is rather uninspiring.

a storefront with a sign on the wall
a group of people sitting in chairs
a group of people sitting in a room


We left the lounge five minutes before our scheduled boarding time and made the walk down to our gate. The gate was a short walk from the lounge and down a flight of stairs. Heading down stairs at an airport can only mean one thing, bus gate. Currently, every gate at Velana International Airport is a bus gate but, when the new terminal opens later in 2021, 2022, 2023 (yeah right) that should change. We arrived at the gate just before boarding began and, after a 2-minute wait, boarding began. Priority boarding was well enforced and we headed out to our waiting bus.

a group of people sitting in chairs in a large room
a man wearing a blue shirt and headphones standing in a line

Etihad Airways

EY 279

MLE-AUH (Velana International – Abu Dhabi International)

Seat: 5F (Business)

B787-9 (A6-BNB)

Scheduled: 7:55p-10:55p

Actual: 8:30p-11:24p

There was a separate bus for business class and, once all passengers were on board, we made the drive out to our waiting Boeing 787. Our plane was parked at the far end of the ramp and after getting off the bus, we headed up the airstairs and boarded through door 2L before turning left into the main J cabin.

Etihad Boeing 787-9 Exterior Male Velana International Airport

During boarding, there was a lot of loud conversation from the galley where a disgruntled employee was complaining to the FA about his downgrade on an upcoming flight and not getting to work the flights he wanted to work. At first, I thought he was going to be one of our flight attendants, but he ended up being a maintenance employee and thankfully left the galley prior to take off. I’m not sure if he stayed on board or got off in Male but I didn’t see him for the rest of the flight.


I assigned us seats 5E and 5F which were forward facing “honeymoon” seats in what is technically the first row of the airplane. Etihad calls these seats their “Business studio” and it seemed to me like a stripped down version of Qatar Airways QSuites. We were shown to our seats by the cabin crew and I was very impressed with the finishes used as the cabin was warm and inviting. It’s worth noting that the odd numbered rows are forward facing while the even numbered rows are rear facing.

a plane with seats and a person wearing a mask
a tv on a wall

Though the seats were similar to the ones used on Qatar Airways’ A350, there were a few noticeable differences. First, there was no door. So, while the seats were private, they didn’t offer as much privacy as the QSuite. Also, the center divider lowered but wouldn’t go all the way down to make one shared bed.

a tvs and screens in a room
a seat with a pillow and a light on the side

Waiting at our seat upon boarding were a pillow, blanket, menu and wellness kit. There was no amenity kit on this flight which I found odd but figured it was due to the 3.5h flight time to Abu Dhabi.

a black bag with gold text
a medical supplies on a table

To the right of the large IFE screen was a table which is where the wellness kit was waiting. The IFE controls were also located here. There was a small touch screen display as well as a handheld remote that could pop out.

Etihad Boeing 787-9 Business Class IFE Controls

Underneath this were the seat controls as well as the controls for the reading light.

Etihad Boeing 787-9 Business Class Seat Controls

To the right of the seat was a large storage area that held a set of headphones as well as a bottle of water.

Etihad Boeing 787-9 Business Class Seat Storage


As boarding finished, our FAs came around with an option of orange or lime-mint juice PDBs. There was no PDB Champagne or any alcohol for that matter as the Maldives is a dry country. We ended up pushing back over a half hour late and we had a short taxi to the north end of the runway. We took off to the south and took a sweeping right turn over Male and pointed towards Abu Dhabi.

Etihad Boeing 787-9 Business Class Pre-Departure Beverage


With our delay on the ground I took the time to peruse the menu, which reads as follows.

a hand holding a menu
a hand holding a menu
a hand holding a menu
a hand holding a white card


Due to the short duration of the flight, the meal service began as we were still climbing out of Male. Champagne (which was the Duval-Leroy Brut Reserve) was served along with a bowl of warm nuts for starters.

Etihad Boeing 787-9 Business Class Champagne and Warm Nuts

I started with the Arabic mezze, which was served with butter, naan bread and a small breadbasket.

Etihad Boeing 787-9 Business Class Arabic Mezze

For my main I chose the filet of beef, which I accompanied with a glass of Bordeaux. Though the beef didn’t look great, it was actually very good. As you can tell from the photos, the ride across the Indian Ocean to Abu Dhabi was quite bumpy.

a plate of food on a tray
a glass of wine in front of a television

I rounded out the meal service with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Though the photos make it look partially melted, it was as hard as a rock. Once it melted some it was pretty good, and was made even better by a glass of Glenlivet Master Distillers Reserve Single Malt.

Etihad Boeing 787-9 Business Class Dessert


After dinner, I put my seat in bed mode and managed an hour and a half nap before waking up somewhere over the Arabian Peninsula due to turbulence. I took a quick trip to the lav and snoozed on and off until we began our descent into Abu Dhabi. On descent, the FAs passed out Fast Track cards for customs and transfer security and before long we were on the ground.

a screen with a map on it
a hand holding a book


We parked at a remote stand across from the Etihad Manchester City 787 and the J pax were escorted onto a waiting bus. We took a 10-minute ride around the airport before being deposited at the main terminal.

a group of people sitting in a bus
an airplane on the tarmac

Following the signs for Connecting Passengers, we made our way over to security where the Fast Track Lane was closed but, due to the low number of pax at midnight, we were through in minutes and off to the Etihad Business Lounge.

people in a hallway with luggage
a person on an escalator


As far as the ME3 goes, Etihad has long been the one that has struggled the most with how they want to position themselves so I was eager to check them out. While Qatar’s QSuite is still the clear leader among the ME3 business class seats, Etihad’s business suite slots easily into second place, given Emirates still has business class seats that don’t have direct aisle access. Though the flight was short, and there were some unusual quirks like the complaining staff and missing amenity kit, it was still a very pleasant flight and I would happily fly with Etihad again on their 787-9.

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