April 14, 2024

Etihad Airways focuses on style, sustainability and substance

Could Etihad win Cabin Concept of the Year 2023?

Airline: Etihad Airways

Launched: April-December 2022

Elements: Catering • Technology • Comfort • Interior Design • CSR

Etihad Airways has launched a thoughtful, holistic and ‘best-in-class’ approach to its guest experience, designed to set its new A350 experience apart.

The concept highlights how sustainability and style can go hand in hand. The A350 fleet is one of the most sustainable – with 25% more fuel-efficient engines – and the design team was tasked with creating an elevated inflight experience to match.

The goal was to design ‘remarkably thoughtful experiences’ inspired by Emirati hospitality while exploring opportunities to push the boundaries and improve service efficiencies in product, while continuing to lead in sustainability and quality.

To deliver the concept, Etihad’s partnered with global fashion brand Armani Casa to bring stylish but lighter tableware onboard, and worked with Buzz Inflight Products to focus on reusability and waste reduction and find closed looped recycling solutions for the enhanced Economy equipment.

With the roll out of this programme, Etihad aims to show that commitment to sustainability doesn’t mean compromising on the quality or the thoughtfulness of the guest experience.

Interior design

The A350 cabin interior has been inspired by Abu Dhabi with some industry-leading enhancements. First impressions come at a warm and welcoming space where the usual metal corridors of catering carts are replaced with a signature welcome zone featuring dark wooden panelling to hide the carts.

Business Class has a distinctly elegant and sophisticated style with touches of gold, stone, rich brown leather and soft textiles, and offers 44 direct-aisle access Business Suites with sliding doors that provide a high level of privacy. The seat converts into a fully-flat 79″ bed with ample storage. An adjustable bi-folding large table can be used in a variety of positions, and there is an integrated headphone hook.

Etihad’s iconic sconce lighting design is inspired by the shadows cast by Abu Dhabi’s palm trees. This signature lighting also projects palm tree frond shadows on the main entrance area as well as the wall of the lavatory where the familiar Etihad mosaic motif and full-length mirror create a premium feel.

The 327 Economy seats feature Etihad’s signature ‘fixed-wing headrest’ for better head support, bi-fold tray tables and net storage pockets. The chocolate leather headrest and charcoal fabric create a contemporary feel. The cabin also includes five rows of Economy Space seats for guests wanting more legroom.


Noise-cancelling headphones and an 18.5 inch TV screen in Business, and a 13.3 inch touchscreen TV in Economy provide access to the extensive inflight entertainment. Each seat features Bluetooth headphone-pairing capabilities allowing guests to use their own device. Additionally, the Business seats include a built-in wireless charging port and multiple charging sockets from the standard pin types to USB-C. Mobile and wifi connectivity is available throughout the aircraft.

The cabin lighting emulates natural ambient light and is designed to provide an optimum environment for sleeping and reduce the effects of jetlag. This is supported by the new dark-mode interface on the E-Box IFE.

The A350 offers the quietest cabin experience for a wide-body aircraft and also features dedicated prayer areas complete with privacy curtains and a screen showing prayer times and direction based on the aircraft’s current location.


The redesigned menu, offered across the cabins, features familiar favourites, the best of the UAE and flavours inspired by the destinations Etihad flies to, all presented on new tableware. The beverage offering has been upgraded and expanded.

The elevated Business Class experience features dinnerware and bedding designed exclusively in collaboration with celebrated designer Giorgio Armani and Armani/Casa. ‘The Constellation Collection’ tableware is inspired by the stars which have provided a guiding light and celestial navigation for the Emirati people for generations. The tableware collection features refined silhouettes with elevated contemporary finishes, mixed materials and embossed patterns. The use of multiple textures represents the cultural diversity of the UAE. The colour palette reflects the dark greens of the date palm trees, aquamarine of the mangroves and slate symbolising the modernity of Abu Dhabi. The cutlery is elegantly tactile with patterned handles bringing the unmistakable Armani/Casa experience directly to the guest. The signature Giorgio Armani branded salt and pepper pinch pots house condiments, and stirrers for cocktails and hot beverages are inspired by an aircraft propeller.

In Economy, the refreshed culinary offering is presented in elegant, sustainable, dining equipment. The reusable tray, platter, casseroles, bowls and their lids feature the signature Etihad facets. The stainless-steel cutlery sets are packed in premium quality napkins designed to fully contain the cutlery, eliminating the need for separate packaging. Bespoke bamboo stirrers, inspired by an aircraft wing, replace plastic stirrers. The smart design includes a marker guiding crew on how much to pour and speeding up delivery of service.


Also in collaboration with renowned luxury lifestyle brand, Armani Casa, the premium textiles range enhances the Business Class turn-down service to include a 20% larger pillow with matching pillowcase and duvet set in signature brand designs. Guests on longer flights receive the airline’s new innovative memory foam mattress, providing added comfort to the fully-flat bed. Designed as a dress cushion when not in use, this mattress requires no additional storage space and forms part of the standard seat dressing. The smart design also ensures simplicity in bed making.

The Economy upgrade includes new soft furnishings featuring a 35% larger pillow in a reusable soft fabric cover. This is complemented by a soft fleece blanket made from recycled plastic bottles for additional comfort on all flights.


Etihad’s first A350-1000 aircraft, named Sustainability50, carries a unique livery in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the federation of the UAE and Etihad’s commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It is part of a programme aimed at decarbonising aviation developed as a partnership between Etihad, Airbus and Rolls Royce in 2021. The Sustainability50 programme will see Etihad’s A350s used as flying test-beds for new initiatives, procedures and technologies to reduce carbon emissions, building on the learnings derived from Etihad’s similar Greenliner programme for the Boeing B787 aircraft. The new A350 has a highly efficient fuel consumption and CO2 savings supporting the airline’s goals to reduce carbon emissions and deliver an unmatched flight experience.

The Etihad and Armani/Casa tableware collaboration reduces equipment weight by up to 10 per cent, resulting in less fuel burn and fewer emissions. In addition, the full chinaware collection is produced locally in the UAE while the iconic gold stirrers replace all plastic stirrers.

In Economy, the new dining experience features reusable tableware made from recycled high-quality plastic, and eliminates the use of single-use plastic. The tray, casserole dish, side bowls and their lids as well as the platter are part of a closed-loop recycling system ensuring zero waste at the end of its life cycle. Bespoke stainless-steel cutlery and biodegradable paper cups complete the enhanced Economy dining experience while reducing single-use plastics.

Where possible, Etihad is also moving towards locally produced items which will further improve the overall environmental impact of operations. Working with their supplier, the closed-loop recycling programme is planned to be conducted locally within the UAE in the future that will lead to ~80% of the main tableware set being locally produced.

Will Etihad win Cabin Concept of the Year 2023? Join us in Hamburg on June 6 2023 as we unveil winners at the Onboard Hospitality Awards ceremony at the World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE).