My review of Etihad’s Boeing 777 First Class Suite

This is the final report from my recent Middle East trip.  Earlier articles covered the Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 4 hotel, the Etihad lounge in Heathrow Terminal 4, the Business Class Studio on the new Etihad A380, the Jumeirah At Etihad Towers hotel in Abu Dhabi and the Etihad Premium Lounge in Abu Dhabi.

This article is my review of flying the First Class Suite on an Etihad Boeing 777.  Whilst I came down on the one and only Etihad A380, my return flight was in First Class on the more common 777:

Etihad Boeing 777 business class plane

I wrote this article about how I booked my ticket using American Express Membership Rewards points.  This flight was roughly 55,000 Etihad Guest miles and just £14 of tax – and that included a chauffeur car at both ends.

Etihad Boeing 777 First Class Suite 1

Etihad has joined Emirates, Singapore Airlines and others in introducing ‘suites’ into First Class.  (My review of the Singapore Airlines First Class Suite is here.)

What this means, basically, is that your seat has a door – albeit a door that is about four feet high, so anyone walking past can see over it.  It has no real practical purpose as far as I’m concerned, and I never close them.  Here are some shots of the seat.

Etihad Boeing 777 First Class Suite 2

I was in 2A by the window (it is a 1-2-1 layout) but I also took some shots of the middle pair.  In terms of personal space, it is not substantially bigger than the Business Class Studio on the A380.  That is not to take anything away for the First Class seat here – it is more a sign of what a fantastic product Etihad is now running in business class on the A380.

Etihad Boeing 777 First Class Suite 3

There is a cupboard inside the seat for handing jackets.  There are NO overhead lockers, oddly, and I was told to put my hand baggage under the ‘buddy seat’ under the TV – it only just fitted and it was only a small bag with two days of clothing.  The seat was wide, comfy and easily controlled using a touch screen.

Etihad Boeing 777 First Class Suite 4

Even though it was a day flight, pyjamas were provided.  I covered the IFE and internet in my review of the outbound flight.  There is no on-board bar on the Boeing 777’s, sadly!

Etihad Boeing 777 First Class Suite food 1

I want to focus on the food because it gives you an idea of what Etihad is trying to achieve.  It starts with a welcome tray containing a letter from the cabin service manager, a hot towel, some dates (which I didn’t take) and champagne (which I did), as you can see two photos up.

I recommend you look beyond the food and look at the crockery, cutlery and place settings.  Etihad made a substantial investment in this area in 2014 and it has really paid off.

Etihad Boeing 777 First Class Suite food 2

The quality of the champagne was better than Business Class but nothing to get excited about.  There was a 2004 Gosset (£70 RRP) and a £35 rose from Jacquart.  The wine list featured bottles selling for a modest £15-£20 per bottle based on the sample I checked.

Etihad Boeing 777 First Class Suite food 3

The food started well with an unannounced duck and vegetable rice roll (above).  We then hit trouble.  Of the four slightly odd appetisers – potato and cauliflower soup, celery and stilton soup, marinated prawns and mezze – the only one I fancied, the prawns, was ‘out’.  Not incredibly impressive.  I went for the potato and cauliflower soup as a fall back and, to be honest, it wasn’t bad.

Etihad Boeing 777 First Class Suite food 4

The headline main courses also looked odd on paper – a lamb, chicken or fish biryani, a trio of lamb or baked garden vegetables with mozzarella.  However, the plane has a dedicated on-board chef who came to my seat and asked what I wanted.  Not being overexcited by any of the three options above, we created something together from a long list of grill items.  I ended up with salmon on creamy mashed potato – and it worked well.

After my main course there was a ‘surprise’ extra chocolate dessert:

Etihad Boeing 777 First Class Suite food 5

Followed by what I actually ordered, which was the warm rhubarb tart:

Etihad Boeing 777 First Class Suite food 6

If you look back at my reviews of the first class food served by Lufthansa and Swiss, the Etihad offering is not in the same league.  Looked at objectively, though, everything I had was tasty and well prepared – it was just lacking the ‘wow’ factor that a bottle of Dom Perignon or a sprinkling of caviar brings to the proceedings.

Comparing First Class on a 777 to the new Business Class Studio on the A380 is difficultThe A380 has a totally different First Class product (the ‘Apartment’) which is well ahead of the Boeing 777 First Class Suite in terms of space.

To confuse matters, the version of the First Class Suite being installed on the new Boeing 787 aircraft – currently flying only to Dusseldorf – seems slightly different to the version I had.  There is a dedicated page for the Boeing 787 Etihad First Class Suite here.

My 777 First Class seat cost 25% more miles than my A380 Business Class Studio and I think that is fair.  As 2015 moves on, Etihad is aiming to run an ‘all A380’ service from Heathrow which will mean that you are unlikely to have to make this decision.  If you can see an A380 First Class Apartment available for redemption then you should, without a doubt, take that.

Overall, I was impressed by what Etihad has achieved.  Like Qatar, they are now running a very mixed fleet of A380, B777, B787 and older Airbus aircraft (Qatar has new A350 aircraft as well!).  Of the Middle East ‘big three’, I would say that (on the A380) Etihad has the edge in terms of seating and ambiance, especially with the amazing bar.  Qatar has the best food and easily classiest lounge at Heathrow.  Emirates offers consistency – with so many A380 aircraft in the air, you are highly likely to get what you book and the overall mix of lounges, food and seating is good.  As long as pick – and don’t get swapped out of – the right aircraft, any of the ‘big three’ will serve you well.

I am now keen to try Turkish Airlines and see how their plans to make it the ‘big four’ are coming along.  I will have to see what I can arrange as 2015 moves on.

If you want to see some additional photos from this flight, they are available on our Instagram feed.

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Comments

  1. I can’t wait to fly this F class, but have to wait until next year.

    Time to book it soon when dates become available.

    Dale.

  2. You seem somewhat underwhelmed by your experience with first here, as compared to excited by the A380 business class offering. For those who make lots of trips it seems like the 25% extra miles would not be worth paying for first on a 777. Anything to liven the “been here done that” is surely more of interest?

    • It isn’t a lot more miles though …. only 11,000 each way. It is possible that the new Etihad First Class lounge in Abu Dhabi be worth the extra miles in itself. But, yes, in a straight fight between 777 F and A380 Business, I would take the latter purely because the bar and the added A380-ness make it worthwhile. However, obviously A380 F is better than A380 J and B777 F is better than B777 J.

      With only three flights a day, you might find schedule and availability provides the decider anyway.

  3. Mr(s) Entitled says:

    If memory serves you haven’t flown the Qatar A380? Sadly I have not flown the Etihad A380 so cannot offer an objective comparison. But, I would be surprised if it was better that Qatar’s offering.

    My observation stems from the better food and IFE on offer plus a really good bar (subjective) but with a high end drinks list (objective).

    • The seating on the Qatar A380 is the same as Boeing 787 (except that the A380 has First Class) so it comes down to how good the bar set up is and whether they have improved the food to take advantage of the A380 ovens. Unfortunately, with so many combinations at the moment, it is impossible to keep up!

      I might try to do an Etihad A380 First / Qatar A380 First trip in the Autumn. However, I also want to do Virgin Upper Class on the new 787s this year as well …. and of course I want to try Turkish ….

  4. Eshaq Choudhury says:

    What is the likelihood of an a380 running on the Manchester route or an additional a380 running on the Heathrow route by December?

    • Etihad is 100% A380 from Heathrow by August …. however they are due to take one off in December to start the JFK route. Manchester is probably quite a way down the list unfortunately.

  5. JamesWag says:

    It is such a dissapointment that all partner redemptions with Avios are going to be at the BA peak rate year round.

  6. Let’s add a bit more confusion to Etihad’s fleet.

    I flew in F last week from JFK-AUH on Etihad but on a “Jet Airways” airplane which Etihad leases from Jet. Whilst this is disclosed, they also claim that the inside is all Etihad (hard product as well as food, flight attendants, etc…). And what a crock of nonsense that is!

    The food is 90% Indian. I like Indian food but also like a bit of variety on a 12 hour+ flight. The cabin interior is cloth seats (not leather), scratched all over the place, very rugged and tired looking. The flight attendants are all Jet with Jet uniforms (except for the F&B manager). The service is un-attentive. Oh, and the pyjamas are not the ones offered on “real” Etihad planes.

    But Etihad want the same amount of mileage as the evening flight which is an Etihad plane with the Etihad experience (not saying the experience is utterly brilliant though!).

    We were only 2 in F (out of 8 seats). Guess we should have known better!

    Etihad has this hodge-podge of a fleet that is annoying. Similarly with all the stakes in a bunch of airlines where there seems to be little cohesion / logic. They should spend more on staff training and consistency rather than on the “glamour” photo shoots and maybe they can start to compete with the others.

  7. Joemcluskey says:

    Gee. I don’t get how BA can’t follow up and present food in the same manner. Taste or not.

    BA’s food in J and F looks like it was prepared by my blind grandad.

  8. Great report Raffles as usual. The extra chocolate dessert you refer to is actually a palate cleanser (or a sorbet) which Etihad always serve between meals in First. I flew Etihad F twice last month and Qatar J class once. To be honest with you, I think the food is kinda similar (save for the laduree) despite Qatar’s meals being ‘designed’ by Michelin starred chefs. They’re both good but not outstanding. In terms of seat, this suite feels a bit dated, definitely incomparable with the A380 F which I’ve tried – huge and impressive! Looking forward to your review of Turkish next!

  9. Hi Raffles,

    Great review!

    Apologies for the off point question – I’m flying to DOH later this year to visit the inlaws – we are booking business with Qatar via BA Exec – we are then going to spend the last few days in Dubai.

    Coming back from dubai I was hoping to book business with Qantas (or Emirates using code share) But for the life of me I can’t work out how. When I look on BA Exec it only offers BA direct of Qatar back via Doha.

    Can you give me any ideas on how or if it’s not possible with Exec avios points?

    • You can’t book the Emirates codeshares. You can book the Qantas operated flights and the availability would show if it was there (although system bugs mean you can never book it, you end up calling).

  10. Follow up to my previous comment on 17 March. Am currently on Etihad’s new Boeing 787 from AUH to Washington in First. Much different experience than the Jet Airways one about a couple weeks ago. But even on this one, there are issues;
    – ordered the rib eye steak with vegetables and chips. Asked for medium-well and it came out “super well done”!
    – chips are stodgy….labeled as “oven baked french fries”. No…not at all.

    And one of the worst things is the windows – granted not Etihad’s fault on this I guess. They have this bloody automatic shade thing which supposedly gets darker or you can make it lighter. There isn’t the traditional shade you just lift up and block out. So here I am trying to get some rest and I have the moon directly on the head of my pillow! Have to use an eye shade but the cabin interior will never get dark. Absolutely one of the most horrible designs. People in Economy and Business are all complaining as challenging to sleep. There needs to be a major fix!