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My review of Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment – the best First Class product in the sky

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This is part 2 of my review of my recent Middle East trip, which started with a visit to the Plaza Premium Lounge in Terminal 4 and a (not reviewed) revisit to the Etihad lounge.

This article is my review of the First Class Apartment on the Etihad A380, flying from London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi.  This is a totally different product to the standard First Class Suite on the Etihad Boeing 777 aircraft which I reviewed earlier in the year.

I struggled to choose between the First Class Suite on the 777 and the Business Class Studio on the A380.  The First Class Suite is basically a standard sized First Class seat which just happens to have a door, which I never closed.  The A380 First Class Apartment is something entirely different.

Etihad has a special part of its website devoted to the A380 First Class Apartment.

When you enter the plane and turn left, this is what you see.  First Class is situated in the nose on the top deck.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment seat review

You need to remember that this is a one-aisle cabin.  On an A380.  Which is a very wide plane!

There are nine First Class Apartments, four on the left and five on the right.  The ‘Residence’, the small private apartment, is at the front on the left.  There are two toilets, one of which includes a shower, on the right.

(The genius of The Residence is that it uses dead space – it occupies the area of one First Class Apartment plus the space where Emirates and most other airlines have additional toilets.  Whilst Etihad admits that it only sells it occasionally, it isn’t costing them any revenue when it is empty and the PR ‘halo’ is of course fantastic.  You can see my photos from a mock-up of The Residence in this article.)

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment seat review

When I walked into the suite, I genuinely went ‘wow’ in my head (the words may even have have popped out!).   In terms of, well, ‘wow factor’ this is is.  There is no other First Class product that comes close, the nearest is probably the the Singapore Airlines First Class Suite which I reviewed here.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment seat review

We are talking about a suite which could easily seat six people.  Easily.  OK, it would be a bit like sitting on the back row of the bus, but you get the point!

(Before you get any ideas, maximum legal occupancy is three because there are only three seatbelts.  Etihad does not allow guests from other cabins to visit.)

It even had its own make-up mirror:

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment seat review

The washbag you see in that photo is empty.  Interestingly, Etihad has decided not to win you over with luxury branded toiletries – Qatar, as you will see in a few days, gave me a bag of Armani products whilst Singapore Airlines has a deal with Ferragamo.

You can just see in the picture that there are some small-brand toiletry items in the sides of the mirror – you are meant to fill your bag with any that you want.  I ended up leaving the bag behind and just taking a toothbrush and toothpaste.  I was also given a sleep suit, even though it was a day flight, which I used as pyjamas in the hotel!

The only other facility inside the Apartment, apart from the large TV, is a small soft mini-bar:

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment seat review

The names of the senior crew members were shown on the TV which I thought was a nice touch:

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment seat review

Obviously this is a stunning space to have to yourself for seven hours and only a curmudgeon would find something to complain about.  So I will, just to prove that nothing is ever ‘perfect’.

The base of the seat slopes backwards.  You can see this clearly in the 2nd photograph.  This had unfortunate repercussions – when I sat down, all of my coins and my house key shot out of my trouser pocket and slid down a gap between the back of the seat and the cushion.  There is no access to this area for the crew.  We thought that I would have to wait in Abu Dhabi for a maintenance team to take the seat apart but we managed to reach through the mechanical parts of the seat and find the key.  The money had rolled away but losing the key would have been a nightmare.

Because of the gap between the seat and the sofa / bed, it is difficult to get comfy.  Putting your feet on the sofa / bed is tricky because it is a long way away!

The apartments have different layouts to maximise use of space.  In mine, as you can see in the picture, I had no view of the window when seated.  I was facing forwards.  The row behind me faced backwards but the seat was next to the window.  The row behind that had both a seat by the window and faced forward.  I moved to that row after take off.

The light level is very, very low indeed.  With a 2pm departure, it was dark outside within an hour of take-off.  To all intents and purposes, this is a night flight in Winter!  Even with the very few apartment lights all turned on, I was struggling to read.  On long haul flights, reading is what I tend to do.  As usual, I ignored the onboard wi-fi and I ignored the in-flight entertainment and worked my way through a week or so of books and magazines that had built up at home.

If you want to sleep, the sofa turns into a separate bed.  The reason this is a different colour to the photos above is that I had changed seats by this point due to the lack of light in my original apartment:

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment seat review

Don’t take my complaints above too seriously.  This is a stunning space – I felt a bit sad that I was on my own, to be honest.  It is almost embarrassing to compare it to the standard British Airways First Class seat.

Since the Etihad devaluation, this has become a more expensive miles redemption via Etihad Guest.  When I booked it was 55,000 miles one-way from London to Abu Dhabi, which included chauffeur transfers at each end.  It will now cost you almost 88,000 miles each way plus the new fuel surcharge.  This is still astounding value compared to using 80,000 Avios for British Airways First Class one way, with no chauffeur service!

A better deal, as long as you book before the March 2016 devaluation, is using American Airlines miles.  You only need 40,000 AA miles to book the First Class Apartment from London to Abu Dhabi one way.  You don’t even pay the fuel surcharge when using AA miles and availability is identical to booking via Etihad Guest. You could buy the AA miles you need for a modest sum via their current promotion.

Tomorrow I will continue my review of the Etihad A380 First Class Apartment with a look at the food and drink on board.

PS.  Since I know someone will ask, this is what the inside of the shower looks like.  I did not partake ….

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment seat review

My review of the InterContinental Abu Dhabi hotel - it is good news and bad news!
Etihad opening up FOUR business class studios on the A380's ex-London
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  1. “The only downside is that you don’t get the chauffeur service when redeeming via AA”

    Yes, you do. Maybe you are mixing EY up with EK? EK restricts chauffeur-drive only to those tickets issued by EK or QF (so AS miles users are out of luck).

  2. I’ve got the chauffeur on both arrival and departure from AUH using AA miles.

  3. Looks stunning, I am SO excited for our flight in feb! By the way, I booked with AA miles and have prebooked the chauffeur both ways no problem (the return is direct to Manchester in business).

    Anyway, the value you get for the AA miles in particular is unbelievable, buy the miles now in the promotion and book yourself a cheap jolly on this, I doubt you will regret it!

  4. Does anybody knows how American/Etihad charge for lap infant on this? I have enough miles to book First class for me and my wife but not idea how they will treat my 8 months old baby. Thanks.

    • Dannyrado says:

      It’s been 3 years since I did this, so forgive me if I’m wrong. But I think AA insist on charging 10% of full fare for the baby.

      It may be easier to book yourself a ticket using a miles. And mother and baby a ticket using etihad points, I think that’s what I did.

      • I booked with Etihad miles before baby was born, having been told that I could book the baby once he was born.

        Now they refuse to let me book with miles for the toddler and are insisting I pay cash.

        Anyone have any advice?

      • I believe Etihad infant fares are actually 15%. And the subset of fares AA can book is limited so it’s 15% of a very big number. I gave up on the idea!

    • Goglobalnz says:

      I’ve been wondering the same, hopefully someone knows. My toddler would love running up and down that aisle…

    • Carlos
      AA charged me 10% miles for the infant seat last year. AA call center rep generated the PNR for 2 adults and then asked me to call Etihad UK to generate a separate ticket for the infant and then link the infant ticket PNR to my PNR. Etihad told me to ask AA to generate the infant ticket but eventually I got it done through Etihad. They charged me 80£ for a London Bombay return reward flight for business class.

  5. I have just booked some seats fir October next year and looking forward to experiencing the service and suite 🙂

  6. Even post devaluation, at 62.5k AAdvantage miles, that’s still quite a steal for the Apartment.

    • Plus, you can maximise that, because the 62.5k zone includes the Indian Subcontinent. So anyone heading for Mumbai, for example, a route which will also have the A380 rostered on, could get great value out of the award.

      • Can you transit in the Middle East on Etihad or is it only Qantas they allow this?

        AA has very odd routing rules and they do NOT publish them!

        • Yeh you can. I just got return to Mumbai all in a380 for 80K AA miles. Overnight transit in both directions.

          • Can you stop-over in AUH on that 62.5k redemption?

          • No, AA will have to price it as two separate legs, each priced independently off the redemption chart.

            Not sure if there are routing rules to apply to Etihad redemptions (via AA) — as long as you are paying miles off the published chart for each segment, they are happy.

  7. “This is a stunning space – I felt a bit sad that I was on my own, to be honest. It is almost embarrassing to compare it to the standard British Airways First Class seat.”

    We flew this for the first time back in August, then a week later flew BA F, which was the first time my girlfriend had ever flown BA F. This was pre Jennifer Aniston’s Emirates advert, and she walked up to one of the BA crew and asked her where the bar was, then looked so disappointed at the answer.

    Since then we have flown it twice more and will fly it and their B787 again on the way back from Singapore in a few weeks. I will agree that there are points to complain about (most of them actually related to what your next article on food/service will likely cover), but as a hard product it is quite phenomenal.

    • Agree with comments, but it just goes to show the huge variations in product between different airlines and how most people assume that what one airline does that the others also do. But all said, BA First was excellent for me, made even better by the cabin crew (turns out they lived nearby to me, which helps!). I’d contrast that with Emirates who have a great hard product but, in my experience, rather robotic cabin crew who don’t like deviation from standard protocol, even in business, or manage to take your food order wrongly. When the BA cabin stewardess said to my partner ‘not to worry, i’ll be mother on the flight’ i didn’t know what to think (!) other than you wouldn’t get that with another airline.

      • HI CV3V

        We had a great crews on BA F on both our outbound flight to NRT this October and return from HKG. The time,effort,care and attention offered by them was superb and could not be faulted.

        All ready looking at 2-4-1 BA F long haul trips with 10 hours flying plus and hopefully a 787-9 F Class flight.


  8. This looks amazing but personally I don’t have any desire to visit the Middle East. How many more miles maybe somewhere in the Far East?

    • Likewise, I’ll be happy if I never go to the ME in my life again, horrible, horrible part of the world, Oman looks OK, though

  9. Pat Butcher says:

    Lol did you miss the reading light rob? It is high up above where the remote is. Press it to make it pop out and it automatically comes on.

  10. I managed to purchase an upgrade to a suite for £700 for my dads recent flight to Australia. He said it was fantastic!

    when two of you are travelling and the wall between the cabins slides out and the single beds become a double! Genius

  11. Bluejosh says:

    I’m sure it’s just me being weird but it all looks a bit lonely and somehow soulless. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to give it a try someday, but “people watching” on a plane is all part of the fun for me and with this product that element appears to be lacking somewhat! I guess if you want company then head to the bar, eh. Plus if you’re travelling as a family I presume you have a suite each; I don’t suppose they have connecting doors do they like hotel rooms?

    • I agree – that’s why I never close the doors. On the other hand, on my Qatar F flight the guy sat next to me decided to watch videos on his mobile phone WITHOUT headphones for much of the flight ….. wouldn’t have minded being a few feet further away then!

    • If you want to people watch you could go and sit at the bar 🙂
      I think this site has done a fantastic job when posters are highlighting the fact it’s too private. Before I read this site I was sitting amongst 10 people all in a row( a bit of an exaggeration but you know what I mean) what we wouldn’t give at that time to sit in this suite 🙂

    • It’s not just you. I think it looks utterly depressing. I don’t really understand the obsession with total privacy on a plane – altho I may have resorted to physical violence with the bloke sat next to Rob on Qatar.

      • I think it looks a bit like the aircraft seat equivalent of the Qatar lounge in Doha…i.e. soulless and huge. But I wouldn’t complain if I had to sit there… :))

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