Etihad Vs. Qatar Business Class — Which Is Better?

American AAdvantage miles can be redeemed for travel on Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways. Flying on them is among my favorite uses of AAdvantage miles, and both airlines are reasonably good about releasing premium cabin award availability (though it can vary based on route, season, etc).

So all else being equal, which is better — Etihad or Qatar Airways longhaul business class?

Admittedly there are many variables here, as both airlines fly several types of planes, with products varying by plane. Furthermore, they operate different routes, so this is perhaps most useful if you’re connecting, and not originating or terminating in Abu Dhabi or Doha.

With that in mind, which airline would I choose in business class? Here are my thoughts, in very general terms:

Seats: Plane Dependent

This is probably the trickiest category to judge, as the airlines have so many types of seats. In general, Etihad has staggered business class seats throughout most of their longhaul fleet.

Etihad-Business-class

Etihad-Business-Class

That’s the case on their A330s, A340s, A380s, 777s, and 787s. The A380s and 777s have more modern products, but it’s the same general design.

Meanwhile Qatar Airways has a huge variance in their products.

On their A330s and A340s they have angled flat seats, which I’d absolutely avoid (fortunately they mostly don’t fly these on “true” longhauls). That being said, they are starting to reconfigure their A330s with reverse herringbone seats.

Qatar-Airways-First-Class-A330-02

Qatar-Airways-First-Class-A330-01

Meanwhile the 777s have fully flat seats, which are spacious and comfortable, but you still have a seatmate in all cases.

Qatar-Airways-777-1

Qatar-Airways-777-Business-Class-01

Meanwhile the A350s, A380s, and 787s have reverse herringbone seats, which are fantastic, probably my favorite hard product out there.

Qatar-Airways-A350-Business-Class-01

Qatar-Airways-A350-Business-Class-30

So if I were to prioritize hard products, I’d go in the following order:

  • 1st choice: Qatar Airways A350, A380, or 787
  • 2nd choice: Etihad Airways A380 or 787
  • 3rd choice: Etihad Airways A330, A340, or 777
  • 4th choice: Qatar Airways 777
  • 5th choice: Qatar Airways A330 and A340

Keep in mind that most of Qatar’s US routes are operated by 777s, though with Qatar’s US expansion next year, we’re finally seeing some A350s enter service to the US.

Food: Qatar Wins

I find that Qatar’s catering is a step up from Etihad’s. While Etihad has a dine on demand concept, they do often run out of food, in my experience.

Etihad-Business-Food-1

Etihad-Business-Food-2

Etihad’s food is solid, while I’d say Qatar’s catering tends to be exceptional, among the best out there in business class. The food is delicious, and the plating and presentation tend to be exceptional.

Qatar-Airways-A350-Business-Class-62

Qatar-Airways-777-Business-Class-30

Still, you won’t go hungry on either airline (actually, on Etihad you sometimes may). 😉

Service: Etihad Wins

While the Middle Eastern carriers in general have pretty inconsistent service styles due to how diverse their crews are, there’s definitely a big difference between Etihad and Qatar crews.

Service on Etihad can be inconsistent, though on a good day you’ll get a charming, engaging, attentive crew. At the same time I’ve also had service on Etihad which was sloppy and disinterested.

In my experience on Qatar, on the other hand, I find that the crews lack personality. Or perhaps more accurately, their personalities are suppressed. Qatar has such strict policies that staff live in constant fear of being reprimanded, much more so than at Emirates or Etihad.

I’ve just never been “wowed” by service on Qatar, while I’ve had some great service experiences on Etihad.

Wifi: Etihad Wins

This is an area where Etihad wins hands down. They have wifi throughout virtually their entire longhaul fleet, and it’s among the best international wifi out there. It’s reasonably priced, and offers unlimited data usage at a flat rate.

Meanwhile Qatar Airways doesn’t have wifi on their 777s, which are the backbone of their longhaul fleet. They do have wifi on their 787s, A350s, and A380s, though it’s more expensive and I’ve never been impressed by the speed.

Wifi is something that’s really important to me, so this is something I perhaps prioritize more than others.

Etihad-Wifi

Bottom line

Ultimately if you’re able to score an award ticket on either airline, you’re in for a treat. Etihad gets the edge for service and wifi, while Qatar gets the edge for food. The best seat depends on which plane you’d be flying. But truthfully in many of the above cases, the differences are marginal.

I’d say my top pick would probably be the Qatar A350, A380, or 787, followed by any Etihad plane, followed by the rest of the Qatar fleet.

If you’ve flown Etihad or Qatar business class, what was your experience like? Which airline do you prefer?

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

More articles by lucky »

Comments

  1. I would also factor in the fact that EY has a lot more F seats on long haul flights than QR and AA is good about upgrading your award if you’re booked in J and F seats open up. In fact, I’m not sure QR has any F service to the US. Also, aren’t both airlines pretty notorious for last minute equipment changes? I know my EY seat from DEL to AUH was just downgraded from F to J due to an equipment change.

  2. Recently flew on Etihad SFO-AUH-HKG the one wild card you didn’t mention was Jet airways being swapped on a few of the routes. Loved my Jetihad experience on the ultra-long haul from SFO-AUH. Crew was great, plenty of food and the herringbone allowed for great shoulder room and I liked the Indian menu. I enjoyed it better than the Arabic offerings on the a330 etihad menu to HKG. The dine on demand was great and if you wanted three dinner entrees they definitely would give it to you.

  3. I would also factor in the Qatar gives pajamas out in business class while etihad does not.

    Also maybe compare the two flagship lounges in AUH and DOH.

  4. I’m flying to South Africa in the spring with the outbound on Qatar and the return on Etihad so this is very timely. Thanks for the overview! I’m glad I’ll get to experience both :-).

  5. Thanks for the review. I’ve flown business class Etihad ORD to Nepal and Qatar IAH to Dubai both in the last 2 yrs and I somewhat agree. I enjoyed more the seat on Etihad but the service more on Qatar with the food being about equal. Did enjoy the pjs, dates and Arabic coffee on Qatar. Liked the cameras, front/below on Etihad. As far as lounges, Etihad had busy lounge but did have private rooms for naps. Qatar in the old terminal had a nice food spread. It’s a difficult choice which one to take next from DFW since both have service there. I’m leaning toward Etihad for their seats but I do want to take Qatar too to experience the new Doha terminal, tough decision.

  6. I’ve flown 4 segments with Qatar and have to say…I’ve yet to find this “exceptional” dining you speak of after my 8 onboard meals. Thank goodness their lounge has a ton of options!

    Highly recommend the A380 hard product though.

  7. I personally would rate the business studio a lot more highly than the traditional reverse herringbone. In many ways it’s almost first class (other than food and service). You also get pajama and chauffeur which you don’t normally get in business class.

  8. One huge negative for those flying Ethihad to the United States — you have to clear US customs at Abu Dhabi, which is a total shit-show and enough to ruin anybody’s day. ET can be good, but I’ll never voluntarily expose myself to US customs pre-clearance in Abu Dhabi.

  9. Ben,

    Does Qatar only have a bar on their A380? Or do they have bars on any of their other planes? How about Etihad, which of their fleet have a bar?

  10. Flew both 2weeks ago.EY has the better food for me, but QR has more comfortable beds. The EY380 bed is just horrible…way too hard, but their on-board cook makes the difference imo

  11. Hi Lucky,

    I just flied Qatar business last month. For DOH-WAW, I took A320, while for FRA-DOH, it was a330. Both of them are equipped with new business seats, which looked like the seat on 787 or 350, though it was 2-2-2 on 330, not reverse herringbone seats.

    I think these “new” business seats were very comfortable. I like them more than the ones on 777.

    You should give them a try some time. I would very like to hear from your professional opinion.

    Cheers,
    Anqi

  12. Qatar for me only 787, 380, 350 and at a pinch 777. Best Pj’s, amenities bag, then the Al Mourjan lounge. Since they have relegated onewoirld access to other minor lounges access to the Al Mourjan is only if you are on their metal. Oh Lucky you forgot to mention the champagnes served? I’ll take the Krug bus any day.

  13. @Kevin

    How did you manage to get Qatar and Etihad? I presume you ate using AA miles which only work on Qatar ( or through doha). How did you get Etihad

    Thanks

  14. Next year I am taking Qatar Airways new A350 flight from Doha to Boston in March. I’m glad they decided to use the new plane on this route over the Boeing 777.

    I wish Emirates would switch Boston over to the A380. It would be the first carrier at Logan to have A380 service. They currently are 777.

  15. I also have a South Africa trip coming up shortly with both QR business on the outbound and EY business on the return. Very excited!

  16. I like both airlines. If I’m travelling alone, I agree with your metrics of placing QR 787/a350/a380 up at the top. However, if I’m travelling with someone special, I prefer the old-style 2-2-2 seating in J. Perhaps I’m just used to that style of seating whenever i chat with a seatmate but that’s my preference.

    I agree with you that catering in EY can be improved.

  17. First of all, I love Qatars 777 J class product and I personally rank it up there with the 787s etc (#1). Great seats and service and much more room around you. I cant understand why it is suggested near bottom of the list.

    Second, I do agree Qatar 330 (I havent tried 340) is absolutely at the bottom of the list. The new seating (same as 787/350) is horrific on a 2+2+2 config. It only work on 1+2+1. If window seat need to get up, the one next to him need to be waken up and put his seat in landing/takeoff position and wait for the return. This is aweful for both on all flights, but especially on a red eyen.
    The older angled seats is not comfertable to sleep in, but I prefer them over the new one. So, avoid Qatar 330, no matter config.

  18. What about when we throw “Jetihad” up in the mix. I am flying their Business class in a few weeks and am making sure to set my expectations rather low. I have heard that they are just not up to par with the real Etihad experience or with Qatar. Though, thankfully, I will be flying those products on this trip as well.

  19. I agree with the comments about the Qatar 777 business seats. Much more room and comfortable. I don’t mind someone sitting next to me if there is more room to sleep. I am always banging my knees on the Qatar 787 and 380 tables while sleeping.

  20. I was underwhelmed by the QR A380 business seat as well – not much privacy and the tiny footwell is a real problem if you are a side sleeper. A center aisle seat on the lie flat A330 wasn’t any more private but felt much roomier. The ability to sleep well in the thing that is most important to me in comparing long haul travel options.

  21. Agree with the ranking. Qatar A330 seats ahould be avoided at any cost. They are super uncomfortable and have a major design flaw.

  22. Sometimes I wonder whether I fly the same airlines that are reviewed here. I fly Etihad a lot (long haul flights every month or so in either First or Business), and yet to encounter any run-out catering wise flying from Aus to UK or Asia (and back). I’ve also flown Qatar quite a bit this year and find the cabin crew generally quite decent (yet to find one cowering/walking on eggshells). Raving about Etihad’s WiFly also rings wrong in my experience – while I generally can get it to work on most of the enabled fleet, it’s always a shocker on Etihad’s A380 fleet and I’ve had flights where even trying to purchase access is almost impossible due to the system being down.

    * Crew wise I find Qatar generally better (although both can offer pretty meh crew).
    * Catering generally better on Qatar.
    * Ground experience can be pretty sad on both.
    * Hub lounges of both carriers are overhyped, with fail elements (service in Etihad Premium Lounges tends to be better than Qatar’s hub premium lounge – getting service in the main restaurant is very hands off) – neither offer decent napping spaces – and I wouldn’t recommend to anyone to spend more than an hour in either.
    * IFE is better on Qatar
    * While Etihad A380 First Apartment overhyped, the shower can be a decent plus (which Qatar doesn’t have)
    * Onboard lounge is better on Qatar
    * Qatar’s best seats tend to beat Etihad’s best seats for comfort
    * Etihad’s seat pillow awful, Qatar’s lovely

    That all said, given the variances of equipment across competing routes, usually you tend to have one ahead of the other (although sometimes not by all that much).

  23. So many posts, but one crucial assumption remains unchallenged—the idea that all EY seats on a given plane (e.g. 777) are the same.

    In fact, EY 777 window seats—the best of all the choices in the above post
    aisle seats—one of the worst
    middle seats—best for couples, not so great for others (there is a divider you can pull up from the floor, which is good)

    Moving to A320 services to India, I found QR to have better pitch and better service. EY’s high standard of US service is not maintained on shorthaul. But still, I avoid QR because of the seatmate issue on the 777.

  24. @credit You can indeed use AA miles for either EY or QR. QR is of course OW, and although Etihad is not, it IS a standalone AA partner. Only difference is, you cannot view their inventory online via AA & must speak with AAdvantage over the phone (or view through other portals). AA cancelled one sector in a three sector itinerary of mine coming back home to Australia from the US via the Middle East a few months ago & offered me EY on their 777 JFK-AUH in F, then AUH-MEL in J, also on the 777. I declined & went with another option as there was too much potential for aircraft swaps & the products weren’t quite to my taste for what I would have had to shell out.

    Have only therefore flown Y with QR from MEL-DOH on 777, then DOH-BCN in A321. Got to use the Al Mourjan lounge literally in the last week before they stopped OW Sapphires (I’m an AA Platinum) from using it and opened the OW Business lounge originally intended for them. It was jaw-dropping and am glad I got to experience. The service we received there on several fronts was quite incredible.

    However, I found the service onboard in Y to be exceptional and friendly, yet reserved; however, this is my foremost preference. They brought me & my partner our meals first before the entire rest of the cabin so we would definitely get our first choice (they must have been bereft of ANY elites on that flight!) and even on the A321 came specifically to me mid-flight to ask whether I “like to join QMiles” – they’re poaching mid-tier elites now! I declined of course, but remained nonetheless amused by the incident and saddened by how it made me feel a little “spesh” for five minutes!

    Looking forward on our next trip back from Europe to trying J or F on either QR or possibly EY though.

  25. Ben, can you do a blog post that summarizes Qatar’s QMile program? With Qatar being a Citi Thank You transfer partner I am thinking about using QMiles for a return flight in business class from Kiliminjaro to Doha to Boston. At 85,000 miles it seems like a good option and award booking but I’ve found very little about the pros and cons of the program anywhere online. I plan to do a stopover in Doha with side trip to Dubai, which is why using AA miles is out. Thanks!

  26. My GF and I are going to Bangkok and Phuket from Copenhagen with Qatar in 2 weeks. We are very excited about our first premium flying experience. When we booked, the HKT-DOH segment was planned on a A330 but lately, it was moved to a 787, which seems very good news given the difference in the hard product.

    On the other segments (on 787 and A380), we really wanted a window so we chose window seats in front of each other. That being said, Qatar has moved our seat choice on the HKT-DOH segment (when it switched planes presumably) to 3E and 3F. We are wondering whether it would be worth it to also try the center seats (to eat together, chat, etc), or switch to window seats to maximize the massive windows on the 787. Would you guys have any thoughts?

    And yes, those are very much first world problems!

  27. @kieran – I agree, I’ve never encountered Etihad ever running out of food. It seems it happened once to Lucky, and he feels the need to mention it in every single subsequent review of Etihad ever. Obviously it’s not ideal that they ran out of food, but saying “they do often run out of food, in my experience” seems a bit disingenuous, and relies on a strange definition of the word ‘often’.

  28. I have never flown Etihad but recently flew Qatar in business class. DFW to DOH was 777 and DOH to DEL wax 787. I was very excited to fly the 787 for my first time but must admit that I ended up preferring the 777. I was traveling solo so took one of the middle seats. Having flown Iberia and American business this year and now Qatar 787, I don’t think I am a huge fan on the cubicle type seats. I really enjoyed how much more spacious the Qatar 777 felt over the 787. I also like facing forward instead of at an angle. I found the food on Qatar to be amazing.

  29. Hi Ben – Based on this and your other reviews, I am assuming you would take Qatar business class (A350/787) over BA first class. Is that right?

  30. Ive been lucky enough to be on most classes on Hk to europe routes. A big factor is the trasnit challenge.
    I find Dubai airport hard to navigate and QR new one pretty easy. Ethihad hub can feel a bit like saturday at the souk.
    So flight connection times etc also play a big part in most peoples decisions- QR fly to Edinburgh huge plus for me and currently work variable dep times to suit different pax.
    BA always have a technical problem on board and as a result i avoid.
    Emirate Business bar is great, love propping it up!

  31. I’m new to this and, based on this article, am selecting an Etihad 777 flight to Mumbai. My question is this: I’m booking through American Airlines which says “operated by Etihad”. I assume it’s the exact same thing but the difference between booking through AA ($6,000) and Etihad ($7,500) has me second guessing. Why such a price difference? Is it, in fact, the same flight/plane?

  32. You write that EY has staggered biz-class seating” on their A330s, A340s, A380s, 777s, and 787s. The A380s and 777s have more modern products, but it’s the same general design.” I think you mean the A380s and 787s have more modern products, not 777s. The 787 has the Business Studio which is the same design as the A380 (and newer than the 777 business class), while first class is basically the same as on the 777.

  33. I just flew yesterday from Ahmedabad to Abu Dhabi and From AUH to Chicago on Etihad using American Advantage miles. The business class seats they had reverse herringbone seats from AUH to ORD, but AMD to AUH it was just a 45 degree recliner which I would say not at all comfortable. The food was good and quite variance. The Flight Attendants were all pretty and from different countries like India, Romania, Scottland etc.
    I did get night suite, slippers and toileteris both ways. The lounge in AUH was excellent, while in AMD it was nothing but a on the street restaurant. They did not let me use the lounge in Chicaog, saying Etihad is not part of one world, just a code share partner, even though I flew international segment in business and the domestic was on AA in First class, which again was a joke.

  34. @Daryl and @Keiran I have flown the EY 380 JFK-AUH round trip last April. Both legs the crew was nice and friendly but not proactive. They were only giving pajamas to people who asked. And they did run out of food both the legs. The first leg I chose the halibut but instructed that I would like to eat later because there was too much turbulence when thu started dinner. And when I woke up they ran out of the halibut. But they did make me some fresh chicken entree. The return leg I slept throughout and they were literally out of entrees and gave me croissants when I woke up, even though I reserved a selection.

    @Vikram Gandhi, I am undecided between QR and EY, on an upcoming trip I have from ORD-DEL. I am leaning toward QR. As you flew EY in December, can you share pics for EY150/151 business class? Last I remember they had the sort of outdated light green theme. Also the flight is 777-300ER. So how is it that you got to fly a reverse herringbone layout to Chicago?

    Any advice on choosing between EY and QR, for a paid business claaa seat? Traveling with wife and 12 year old.

    Thanks

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