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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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Comments

  1. Amtexfly says:

    Looks great. If Etihad ever get rid of the 2 year expiration date on miles I will definitely use them.

  2. OT – Have just booked flights to Miami using 190k miles and 2 x 241 vouchers for next year. Slightly better dates have opened up overnight, in same cabins both ways. How easy is it to move the flight dates? Can I call up and do it? Or do I need to cancel and start again, which I am loathe to do in case I miss them and then lose my original flights?? any thoughts please….

  3. I hope the transfer is included with AA bookings, it does show on my booking for AUH-SYD in April. For those looking at the taxes booking with AA 60,000 miles and £29.30 per person. Just hoping the 380 is not swapped for the 777.

  4. Fantastic flight Rob!
    I only have enough AA miles to book one way. I will be flying the other leg from/to DXB on BA with an avios redemption.
    Which is the best way to combine these flights? EY F outbound or return?
    I am thinking BA on the way out and return on EY F to experience the AUH lounge.
    Thanks

    • The EY F lounge in Abu Dhabi is STILL not finished. Given that the new terminal opens in 2017 you now need to question whether it will open.

      Until this opens I doubt it makes much difference. BA will have a brand new lounge in the brand new Dubai Concourse D very soon so both airlines will have decent facilities at both airports.

  5. Booked our LHR-AUH just before the devaluation using Etihad Miles. Looking forward to it next year.
    If you need to sit next to window or flying with a partner, 3A/4A and 3K/4K are best options since they are the only ones with the sliding door which open part way so you can sleep looking at each other, not quite the same as the ‘double’ bed on Singapore.
    Look forward to the next installation on food since wondering if they have introduced caviar yet!!!

  6. Andrew H says:

    Off topic – I have just received my 250 Aer Club avios bonus in avios.com!

  7. Massively OT but if anyone has been having problems with Award Wallet and Tesco it appears they have updated the login info to also ask for your clubcard no. You need to add this to enable login

  8. Looks fab, but I still would not detour via LHR to fly it when I can go direct from EDI. However, I hope they will deploy aa a380 to one or more of my Asian destinations once they receive further deliveries.

    • You know what …. I would do. Because you can. The 2pm A380 works fine for an EDI connection too!

      • The only flight I’m in the market for at the moment is BKK-EDI in October as I’m already fixed until then. So, I would need the flight in reverse. Also, would need to commit to it as my only way of funding it would be via purchase of AA miles now. Interestingly though the price at first glance does not look that much greater than my equivalent cost of CW with avios and this makes CW look like economy if we are honest.

      • Doesn’t that screw you a bit for lounges? No lounge in EDI. And return, no lounge in LHR?

        • EY use No1 lounge in Edinburgh but usually I clear security about 30 minutes before departure anyway. In LHR if I recall there’s now (orgoinb to be) a plaza premium arrivals lounge landside at T4, not that that helps much, and the new lounges at T5.

  9. An amazing review of an amazing product, thanks.

    PS Why on Earth would people put change and keys into their trousers pocket instead of safely storing them in their wallet or bag? (Also useful to speed up security screening at the airport for yourself and those behind you!). But it’s a separate question…

    • Um, some wallets don’t have a coins compartment…And most men don’t carry bags with them, generally, so it’s a habit to keep them in your trouser pocket, even if you are flying.

    • I have one key. That’s it. No key ring, just a key. Sits fine in my trousers!

  10. Hi..I have read on this blog that Etihad keep swapping around their planes.. out of the 3 flights per day from LHR..is there any particular one which has maximum chances of being an A380? Is this temporary? i.e has Etihad announced when they would be shifting back to an all A380 service from LHR? The product looks great and would definitely like to try it in 2016 as I have enough AA miles for a one way but I would be gutted if I don’t get an A380 !!

    • My flight was swapped. I was on the A380 at 9am on a Tuesday. This got swapped about 6 weeks before the flight, but luckily there was still a reward seat on the A380 at 2pm on Wednesday. (Even luckier, Qatar had a reward seat on Friday left too so I could push back my return by a day.)

      Even though I am Etihad Gold, they would not move me to the A380 on the Tuesday because there were no reward seats showing.

      There is nothing you can do about this unfortunately. I used to think that Qatar was terrible at this (and they still are) but Etihad was more reliable – that is no longer true.

      (After I’d booked my Doha to Paris A380 flight, Qatar announced that they were pulling the A380 from one of the two daily Paris flights. Luckily, it wasn’t the one I was on.)

      • Ok thanks. So looks like a game of ‘A380 roulette’!! So I guess I will be booking, praying and following up on the flight app you mentioned to manage my expectations in case of a plane change !!

      • So was mine, I must have got lucky as I had no status and they ‘opened’ up a seat for me on a flight that had all 9 F apartments takes (inc me). It was pretty busy!

  11. One day. One day !!!!!

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