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My review of Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment, the second time around

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This is my review of Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment on a flight from London to Abu Dhabi.

My article yesterday reviewed the Etihad First & Business Class at Heathrow – click here for that.

With the possible exception of the First Class Suites on the Singapore Airlines A380 fleet, there is little doubt that Etihad’s First Class Apartment on its A380 aircraft is one of the top experiences that any frequent flyer would want to try.

When I flew it back in 2015, however, I was in two minds about it.   It started badly when my house keys slipped out of my trouser pocket and into the mechanisms of the seat, requiring it to be taken apart to retrieve them!  I had also chosen a bad seat which was not directly next to a window and – with no in-suite lighting – my 40-something year old eyes struggled to read.

Taking the flight for the 2nd time was different.  I left my house keys in my hand baggage and I picked a suite (3A) where I was immediately adjacent to the window.   How did I find it this time?

Etihad’s official A380 First Class Apartment website is here and it is worth looking there for ‘official’ photographs and more service information.

Etihad A380 first class review

The Apartment

There are no two ways of putting it.  The apartments are huge in the context of anything else you may have flown.  It is impossible not to be impressed if you have never been in one before.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment review London to Abu Dhabi

The suites are arranged in a 1-1 fashion on the top deck of the A380.  It is the only A380 seating on any airline which is 1-1.  The Residence, which comprises a bedroom and a separate living room, is to the left at the far end, in a space where Emirates puts its 2nd shower.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment review London to Abu Dhabi

The apartments are so big that you cannot actually photograph them in one shot.  One side is made up of a 6 foor 10 inch long couch but which, on a night flight, flips out to become a surprisingly wide bed.

(If you watch the video below, you can see the seat unfolding into bed mode.)

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment review London to Abu Dhabi

On the other side is the wide seat:

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment review London to Abu Dhabi

and a cabinet which includes a large mirror and various toiletries.  You are given an almost-empty Christian Lacroix branded bag and you simply take whatever bits and pieces you want and pop them in.  Unlike Qatar Airways First, which had (now discontinued I think) Armani-branded products when I last flew it, these are not heavily branded.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment review London to Abu Dhabi

In a drawer under the mirror is a small selection of soft drinks:

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment review London to Abu Dhabi

More appealing was the tray left for me containing a welcome note, a hot towel and some dates.  The champagne was Billecart-Salmon’s 2007 vintage which sells for around £40 – Etihad does not push the boat out with the food or drink:

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment review London to Abu Dhabi

The chef was soon along to offer me some welcome arabic coffee:

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment review London to Abu Dhabi

I also received a bag containing Etihad pyjamas:

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment review London to Abu Dhabi

As it turned out, I still hadn’t picked the perfect seat.  Whilst I was in 3A and directly next to the window this time, I was still facing backwards.  A better seat is 2A where you are both forward facing and directly next to the window.

The seats I do not like are those where the mirror / toiletries cupboard is next to the window, blocking out light from the seat which is directly adjacent to the suite door:

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment review London to Abu Dhabi

I also don’t like the darker leather on those seats which makes the apartment feel more oppressive.

Power was an issue.  I was expecting to find a UK / Middle East plug socket but there wasn’t one.  There was a USB charger so I could keep my phone topped up.

Wi-fi was chargeable – I paid $12 I think for three hours.   It would have been good to be given it for free as a First Class passenger.  At least their wi-fi provider now accepts PayPal, which meant that I didn’t have to search for a credit card.

But but but ….

This is a huge space.  And yet ….. it is a bit odd to fly it on your own.  On a night flight I would have set up the bed and would have appreciated the sleeping space and the privacy.  On my own, on a day flight, it seemed like too much space.

With only nine suites – and there were only two of us actually flying on that day – even the crew don’t come along very often.  You are very much alone, which might not be what you want.  It obviously isn’t a great hardship, sipping champagne and watching your big screen TV for 7 hours, but it is rather solitary.

It is worth noting that Etihad does not allow guests from other cabins to visit First Apartments.  You cannot book the rest of your family into Business Class and then have them join you.  In some ways, it is simply too much space for one person when used on a day flight.

It is still very cool though 🙂

The shower and bathroom

People always ask about the showers ….

On the way home, on Emirates, I finally cracked and agreed to have a shower, after having turned down the opportunity on my three previous Etihad and Emirates First Class flights.  I have it on video as well 🙂

The Etihad bathrooms are less than half the size of the Emirates ones – frankly, most people have smaller bathrooms at home than the Emirates A380 F bathroom! – and the shower wasn’t too appealing.

I did like the red mosaic tiling on the bathroom floor:

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment review London to Abu Dhabi

This is the best photo I could get of the shower, because I couldn’t get much of an angle:

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment review London to Abu Dhabi

Food and drink

I will cover food and drink in Part 2 of this review tomorrow.

What did it cost?

I booked my flight with Etihad Guest miles.

A one-way First Class Apartment from London to Abu Dhabi costs 90,341 miles plus £313.  This includes the chauffeur journey from your home to Heathrow and from Abu Dhabi to wherever you are going, including Dubai.

I had got 60,000 or so miles from a credit card sign-up promotion and associated spending a couple of years ago, and topped them up at 1:1 with some American Express Membership Rewards points.

Is it worth it?  Of course it is.  It would require 80,000 Avios for a similar one-way flight on British Airways in First Class and this product blows it out of the water, especially when you factor in the lounges and the chauffeur cars.

Etihad also partners with selected other airlines.  If you have American Airlines miles it is an exceptionally good deal – you need fewer miles and the taxes are lower as American does not impose the fuel surcharge that Etihad adds if you book direct.  You do not receive the chauffeur service if you book via AA, however (this is a new rule as of August 2016).

All three of the daily Etihad services out of Heathrow are operated with an A380 and it won’t be a problem finding availability if you book a few months ahead.  American appears to see the same availability as Etihad makes availabile to its own members.

If you get the chance to try this out then you really, really should.  Without prejudicing Part 2 tomorrow, it isn’t the best food or drink you will ever have in First Class but it is, overall, an amazing experience just to stretch out in all that space.

See the First Class Apartment on video

You will find a short video of the First Apartment experience below.  Unlike some flight videos which go on forever, we have kept this to a concise 2 minutes 13 seconds!

If you can’t see the link above, click here to visit our YouTube page.  You can also sign up to our channel on that page.

Part 2 of my Etihad A380 First Class review is here.

You can find out more about Etihad’s First Class Apartment on their website here.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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Comments

  1. Graham Walsh says:

    Looks great and a good value redemption for only 90k miles.

    Compared to my 73k + £400 to Shanghai in PE with Virgin at the weekend but that was return. I also didn’t like the afternoon meal before landing so they offered me a burger from Upper Class which was very tasty indeed.

  2. Looks a good value redemption.

    Comparing to my 73k miles + £400 for a rerun to Shanghai in PE with Virgin so not a bad experience in that suite.

    Slightly O/T on the way back from Shanghi, the afternoon meal was shrimp something or veg ravioli. I don’t eat shrimp and no veg was left so they were concerned that I didn’t have anything to eat so he said he would check with upper class. Came back and offered a Chicken Salad or Burger. I went for the burger and it was very good. My neighbour next to me was impressed when he saw it and was offered one too. Top marks Virgin.

    • Sounds like good, sensible service. Well done Virgin indeed. Shame we don’t really hear comments like this about BA – it’s all doom and gloom with shoddy service!

  3. Louise says:

    I had that seat last year to Abu Dhabi. Husband had 2A. Redeemed AA miles.

    We also found we were left alone, however we ordered drinks via the TV and they came quick enough

  4. What about couples, can they even see each other during take off and landing?

    • No, Very strange talking to each other over the 3/4 wall between apartments. We were the only 2 people in first.

    • No

      • They do have a divider you can lower between rows 3 and 4 for couples but only at the head end of the bench/bed so can’t see each other in the seats but can when you’re sleeping. I thought 4A/K were the only forward facing window seats?

  5. Rob, this sentence…

    With the possible exception of the First Class Suites on the Singapore Airlines A380 fleet, there is little doubt that Etihad’s First Class Apartment on its A380 aircraft is one of the top experiences that any frequent flyer would want to try.

    … reads grammatically as ‘you wouldn’t want to try SQ’. I’m sure this isn’t what you meant but it’s what it means syntactically! I think you meant to say ‘the top’ rather than ‘one of the…’.

  6. Thanks for the advise on preferred seat numbers.

  7. Kevin Major says:

    A great review. Have to say it would be a nice experience, but one of the things I like most about travel is meeting people – or just being downright nosey and eavesdropping! Does just seem a little too solitary, and not great for couples or families. Looking forward to hearing more about the food/drink options.

    • Genghis says:

      I talk to my wife every day. We’ve got LHR-SIN tomorrow in 1A and 2A as I much prefer window seats and I’m looking forward to a bit of peace.

      • Are you staying in SIN genghis or going elsewhere?

        • Genghis says:

          Four nights in SIN. I like SIN so looking forward to it but Mrs G never been. We’re doing the breakfast with orangutans at the zoo. Two nights at Conrad (P&M) and two at intercon (AMB stay). Lots of hawker stand grub. Then onto Bali.

          • Sounds like a good trip. Might see you at heathrow then! I’m off to singapore too (then onto seoul)

          • Genghis says:

            You’re not on BA11 are you? Happy to guest you into the CCR if need be. Enjoy Seoul – it’s a great city. If you’ve not been before, eat yakiniku as much as you can.

          • Love the Conrad Singapore – such an amazing breakfast and great staff – enjoy!

          • Ah no i’m going a funny route. i’m positioning in munich tomorrow, my flight is at 20.30 and then im flying MUC-SIN-ICN on SQ… BA11 is at 8pm right…. maybe I might take you up on that guest into CCR then?!

          • Genghis says:

            Yep. If you’re interested contact me on twitter @genghis1232

          • pointsarb says:

            Hi Genghis,

            We are supposed to be going to Sin for the first time in Dec for Xmas/New Year (taking the kids to the Zoo and Night Safari etc) but were reconsidering due to Dec being the wettest month of the year?! In your experience, has this been the case as I think you are a regular visitor?

            If anybody else has any views on Sin in December too they would be greatly appreciated as we don’t want to be washed out with rain for our trip!

            Thanks!

          • Genghis says:

            The tropical climate means it rains all the time in Singapore but relatively, December is wettest. I’ve been in December before and remember it raining a bit but not to the level that spoiled my enjoyment of the city.

          • tweeted you genghis 🙂

          • pointsarb says:

            Thanks for the feedback on Sin in Dec Genghis 🙂

      • We also used to sit behind each other in First pre-kids, rather than side by side but in the middle.

      • rams1981 says:

        Ha lol. My mrs prefers us to sit together.

        • I sat in 3a and 4a, yesterday, as there is a divider, that opens, between the apartments.
          I had dinner with my daughter in one of our apartments. Mrs Yuff prefers business as she doesn’t like how spacious the apartments are. She accompanied my daughter into the shower( 9 years old) though, whilst she had a shower.

  8. Jonathan says:

    Hi Rob,

    I have about 50k miles but do you know:

    1) Mine expire in August, do the flights need to be taken before then or just booked before then?

    2) Can reward flights be cancelled and refunded?

    3) Just to confirm, I understand I just need 75 percent of the miles required for redemption and I can buy the rest?

    Thanks

    Jon

    • 1. Booked
      2. Can cancel but I guess (only a guess) miles expire immediately if you do
      3. Yes, think it is 75% but do confirm

  9. The “bar” is a great way to meet people. It’s open to first and business class but not over used. It’s not real a bar but a big round table with seats. Last time I was on there were 4 of us and we sat there for about 3 hours eating, chatting and drinking of course. The crew were amazing, they covered the table with plates of food and kept our glasses full.

  10. Billecart-Salmon 2007 is a lovely grande marque champagne that I doubt you can find in UK stores for less than £55 incl taxes so I think you are being slightly harsh on Emirates. IMHO they are being smart showcasing a delicious wine that is far better value for money than some other first class offerings of fancier flashier labels that are poor value for money. Perhaps when travelling First Class the expectation is for something over £100 a bottle, but for me I am very keen to have something different yet excellent, and might afterwards just buy myself at home for a treat, having tried it onboard. Perhaps BA could target their cost cutting similarly whilst still looking after their customers. £50 pays for perhaps 50 additional wholesale M&S sandwiches the other end of the plane.

  11. There definitely are plug sockets, they can just be a bit hard to find at times as the position of them changes depending on what seat you’re in. Last time mine was underneath the vanity cabinet. I’ve flown this plane about 10 times and I still struggle to find them each time.

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