My review of Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment (Part 2)

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This is the 2nd part of my review of Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment on a flight between London and Abu Dhabi.

Part 1 of my Etihad A380 review is here and my review of the Etihad lounge at Heathrow is here.

Etihad’s dedicated A380 First Class website is here.

Food and drink is a key part of the First Class experience but it is an area where Etihad falls a little short.  I still think that Lufthansa and SWISS serve the best First Class food in the sky.

My welcome drink was Billecart-Salmon 2007 Vintage champagne, which is about £40 in the shops.  The NV Rose was also available, which retails for around £60.

The wine list is equally unexciting.  The Craggy Range sauvignon blanc, for example, is £14.99 in Waitrose.  A typical red from the list, the Marques de Murrieta ‘Reserva’ rioja is around £14.  Whilst price and taste are not always aligned in the wine world, I would expect something a little higher end in First Class.

Breakfast in Etihad’s First Class Apartment

As we had a 9am departure, breakfast was served first.

You can’t knock Etihad’s presentation.  The crockery is lovely and really complements the food.  Even a croissant, an omelette and various accompaniments looks classy in the right hands.

Etihad First Class Apartment A380 food drink

That said, they could only offer me a cheese omelette – no meat was available – and no pain au chocolat were loaded, only croissants.

If you didn’t want eggs (cooked however you wanted them), the breakfast options were limited to a fruit platter and cereal.  As I’d just eaten in the lounge, I ordered mainly to check out the quality.

Etihad First Class Apartment A380 food drink


Etihad has pioneered the concept of a ‘proper’ in-flight chef.  By ‘proper’, I mean a chef who can actually cook you pretty much whatever you want – from a defined list of ingredients kept onboard – as opposed to the Turkish Airlines ‘chef’ which is simply a standard crew member who is made to dress up!

It started badly, when the chef asked me to place my lunch order immediately after take off.  This was before I had even had breakfast.  I was even asked to confirm which wine I wanted to drink four hours later with my lunch.  This felt a bit odd.

The a la carte lunch menu is good:

  • foie gras, with plum, beetroot, chanterelles and thyme jus
  • Gulf mezze
  • chickpea soup
  • tomato soup

followed by …

  • lamb loin, wtih celeriac, root vegatable, jus
  • chicken breast, with beluga lentil, baby carrot, ratte potatoes, sauce foyet
  • chicken biryani
  • sea bass with baby turnip, beetrot, radish, asparagus, potatoes, fish veloute
  • pocino and parsnip risotto

followed by

  • ‘Textures’ of beetroot jelly, marshmallow and micro sponge
  • chocolate and pistachio sphere with mascarpone and orange
  • cheese selection
  • ice cream

In reality, whenever I fly Etihad the chef proposes something different which he recommends as his signature dish, and I agree to it.

In the end, I had an amuse bouche of egg and parmesan pannacotta:

Etihad First Class Apartment A380 food drink

skipped the appetiser, had a lemon jelly ‘palate cleanser’:

Etihad First Class Apartment A380 food drink

followed by the crispy chicken chefs special! :

Etihad First Class Apartment A380 food drink

and the chocolate desert:

Etihad First Class Apartment A380 food drink

It looked great and tasted good, although it wasn’t necessarily ‘high end’.  Of course, you don’t necessarily want ‘high end’ either but Etihad could raise its game.  Emirates has a token caviar dish, for example, as does Lufthansa First Class.

The on-board bar

Last time I flew the Etihad A380 I was very impressed by the on-board bar.  You still can’t argue about the style and the space.

You can’t also can’t argue, unfortunately, about the fact that it is TOO DARK!  See below, if you can:

Etihad First Class Apartment A380 food drink

and with the flash on:

Etihad First Class Apartment A380 food drink

If you look at the video you can see how dark it was.  I went down there and it was deserted.  I had taken a magazine with me but reading was impossible.  There was no-one else there at the time, even though the bar is also accessible to business class passengers.

It is a world away from the light, airy spaces that are the Emirates and Qatar on-board bars.

Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment in video

You can see more about the food and drink, plus the on-board bar, in the short (only 2 min 13 secs!) video I shot.   This is the same video I linked to yesterday, if you watched it then.

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.


As I said yesterday, Etihad’s A380 First Class is something that you really should experience if you get the chance.  The sheer scale of the First Class Apartments is worth trying.

The food and drink, however, didn’t match up.  It is better than British Airways manages to serve in First Class, as it should be with a dedicated chef, but it wasn’t hugely better than you’d expect from your average branch of, say, Cote.

It is worth noting that there was only one other passenger on my flight in First who may or may not have paid for a ticket.  My return flight on Emirates was 75% full despite having a larger First Class cabin, although you never know how many of those are mileage upgrades, oversell upgrades or Skywards redemptions.  The Etihad product has been available now for couple of years and I would have expected loads to have picked up by now if they were ever going to.

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

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  1. Genghis says:

    I thought you’d be a textures of beetroot jelly for pud kinda guy? 🙂

    • dgsupersonic says:

      Rob, I presume you meant “palate cleanser”, unless you were doing some painting in First Class?

      • the real harry1 says:

        well that would have been palette so Raffles was more right than wrong

  2. “The Etihad product has been available now for couple of years and I would have expected loads to have picked up by now if they were ever going to”
    This is the great unknown with the middle esst carriers, they are pushing the boat out to attract custom but how sustainable is the model and how many aircraft/airlines can be sustained.

    It’ll be interesting to see.

    If we see ME3 scaling back over time perhaps it will validate BA’s policy of moving to a lower cost base.

    Time will tell.

    • Etihad’s premium product will always be at a disadvantage until transfers at AUH get sorted out – getting through ‘security’ at peak times for transit is one of life’s more unpleasant travel experiences, the whole airport very much reminding me of being back in the 80s/90s. I forget the exact percentage of transit passengers through the UAE/Qatar, but I believe it’s up to 70% (?), so transit ease is a material issue in a straight EK/EY buying decision when prices are the same.

      • George says:

        I quite agree. After an absolutely flawless flight to AUH in December (which incidentally was full in Business and First) the transit security was awful, so much so that I’d seriously consider going through immigration and then departing next time. It really took the shine off the whole experience.

  3. Having flown EY in F a few times from/to the US, the on board chefs have been pretty useless. Rob, I know you’ve said that they are proper, but my experiences have been that they are nothing more than a flight attendant with fancy apron. Like the ‘nannies in the sky’. Rubbish.

    Asked for Sunny side up eggs, couldn’t do it. Asked for steak medium-well, nope. Asked for French fries, again, sorry. Asked them to make whatever they wanted….out came the same things as in the menu.

    Agree on the wines as well.

    The Asian carriers have EY beat.

  4. O/T Rob – no bits today, so posted here, pls delete if too off topic. Given your analytical business background, in a few more days time once the dust has settled, I’d be interested to read an article with your insight on the CEO’s handling of events, United’s shares dipped a cool billion, then he issues a more human apology, who’s that aimed at, passengers or institutional shareholders…?

    • callum says:

      The “billion dollar loss” is just media sensationalism. Not only did it make back most of the loss, but it wasn’t even that big in the grand scheme of things. A billion sounds like a big number, but their share price varies by similar amounts all the time (and is currently doing pretty well if you look back at its history).

      I’d therefore say it’s aimed more at passengers – which seems to be too little, too late given the people upset about this won’t be happy with pretty much any feasible response. Though given I don’t see the big deal of this (United messed up and let too many people on, the passenger himself and the security officers are solely responsible for the violent aspect of this – the only noteworthy part) perhaps my insight for public relations isn’t particularly useful!

      • Except for the fact united should have kept upping the compensation and it should have been money not vouchers. They still had a part to play in this mess

      • Yes, you don’t understand public relations. People don’t think that a paying customer who simply wanted to fly in the seat he paid for has done anything wrong. If he’d been drunk, or aggressive, before being told he had to leave the plane it would be an entirely different response.

        I’m sure you are right about the share price, but what you’re missing is people’s reaction to that news, which is ‘good – they deserve it’.

        I actually booked non-refundable economy United flights to New York at the weekend, and am now regretting it. It doesn’t matter that I know I wouldn’t end up in a situation like that – I’d take the compensation, lose a day of my holiday and chalk it up to bad luck – I just don’t want to fly an airline that treats its customers so badly. It makes BA look positively saintly.

        • Callum says:

          I was more false modesty than anything! Not agreeing with customers doesn’t mean I can’t pretend I do. I’m well aware it’s a PR disaster, I just don’t agree it should be.

      • Miguel says:

        “I don’t see the big deal of this (United messed up and let too many people on, the passenger himself and the security officers are solely responsible for the violent aspect of this – the only noteworthy part)”

        Have to respectfully disagree on this one.

        A ticketed passenger who is already seated should not be (forcibly) removed on account of the carrier overbooking the flight. That’s what civilised societies invented queuing for: to prevent disputes like these, when there is surplus of demand, from being resolved by resorting to violence.

        Under normal circumstances, these issues are resolved at either the check-in counter or the gate, once the carrier has figured out they have more passengers than seats. The last passengers to arrive at either are the ones more likely to be bumped off the plane in case the flight is overbooked (and not enough people volunteer to fly another time in exchange for compensation). They never make it to the plane. Quite simple.

        If United did not figure out that they had 4 extra crew members (not even passengers, for crying out loud) who needed seats on that flight before boarding was complete, then United are entirely to blame for both mismanaging their overbooking processes and putting crew ahead of passengers.

        Technically, the last people at the gate were the crew members, so they should’ve been the ones not flying. United should’ve made alternative arrangements for them to be where they had to be, when they had to be. (I can only assume all jump seats were taken by then, otherwise the crew members could’ve used those.) If that flight was really the *only* option, then the only reasonable thing for United to do would’ve been to keep upping the compensation (in real money, not vouchers) until they had the requisite number of volunteers. But they chose to call the police and have a passenger ruffled up instead.

        To staunchly defend that “you either volunteer or we’ll take you off the plane, using whatever means necessary,” like Muñoz has done, is disgusting and defeats the whole purpose of “volunteering” – nothing voluntary about that!

        Anyway, just my 2¢, let’s see what insights Rob has to offer.

        • Callum says:

          Hysterical nonsense like “United chose to have the passenger ruffed up” makes me want to dismiss your whole argument! You know full well that no one there WANTED that, let alone the company itself.

          Its highly unlikely they even considered it would be a possible scenario given a) the majority of people comply with the police and b) the police are generally competent enough to remove trespassers without injuring them.

          While the trigger of his absurd behaviour was United’s fault, if a belligerent man choses to fight the police then that’s on them. Tens of thousands of people were offloaded last year (granted virtually all of them before the seat), they didn’t try and fight the police – a fight you will NEVER win, regardless of whether you have the moral right or not.

          So to summarise, if you blame United for handling an overbooking situation badly I’d agree (though that’s not especially abnormal for a US carrier). If you blame them for the violence then it’s not even something my mind will “agree to disagree on”!

          • the real harry1 says:

            yep why didn’t they just say $1500?


            $2000? [hand goes up at last!]

            would have been a lot easier & cheaper

          • I think the voluntary offload bribe is a max of $1350, the maximum is set by the FAA I believe.

          • Miguel says:

            Callum, the problem is there was no belligerence from the passenger. United called the police to enforce a purely commercial decision. That is excessive and overreaching. No unruliness on the passenger’s behaviour whatsoever, despite Muñoz’s initial claim. No “fighting” back by Dr Dao, just United calling on police to take the role of bouncers. Nobody’s safety was put at risk except that of Dr Dao’s. Those are the facts. Of course I blame United, but both for poorly handling a refusal to transport (definitely *not* overbooking or denied boarding, the guy was already seated, so your contention of “trespassing” is factually and legally wrong) *and* for instigating unwarranted violence. No matter how adamant Dr Dao was when insisting there was no reason for him to be deboarded, United’s reaction (& CPD’s) was exaggerated. That’s why I take issue with the whole incident.

  5. Andrew says:

    Is it dine on demand or are there set meal times – i.e. could you have started with the lunch instead of breakfast?

    • It is dine on demand even in business. The chef thing is hardly a new idea, Ansett had them on the SYD-HKG run in the mid-1990’s and they were good!

  6. I asked for meat at breakfast and was offered fake bacon as the only choice.

    • Genghis says:

      That’s what you get flying an airline based in a Muslim country. Just like my Jewish bank serves beef sausages and there’s no bacon sarnies. The BA beef sausages on LHR-TLV, TLV-LHR aren’t great either.

  7. the real harry1 says:

    What’s that cheeky sausage doing there, then? 🙂

    Is it veggie?

  8. Food on etihad has gone down hill dramatically in the last 24 months!
    Chef is a gimmick.
    Food quality-presentation-amount all have diminished substantially.
    Wine is very poor and BA First is much better in this area.

    We now fly emirates as etihad are cost cutting on a daily basis, shame as it was once not that far back superb.

    • I’d agree here but not so much as to pay Emirates an extra £1000 over 3 of us to fly.

      When the differential moves nearer to zero (or heaven forbid in Emirates’ favour) then we would consider a switch. However, I find the Etihad family account very useful and I don’t see Emirates having the same functionality.

  9. OT – thanks for any help (normally always Ghenghis who comes to the rescue!)

    Was hoping for some clarification if possible. I’ve earn’t my companion voucher when holding the BA Premier Card, when it was credited to my BAEC account I downgraded to the normal amex to get the rebate. Since then I’ve held the normal card but wanted to cancel, when speaking to Amex they told me I would be forgoing the voucher as even though it had been issued I would not be able to use it as when I make the booking I would have to use the exact card/account that it was earned with. Can anyone verify if this is the case?

    I had intend to apply for a Amex Platinum Card then another BA Premier before actually using my redemption, would I be able to use either of these cards to pay the taxes and surcharges for example, or does it have to be the account specifically that the companion voucher was earned with?

    Small other question, think I’ve hit my 7k Lloyds target, anyone know where I can check if the voucher is there or not?

    Thanks if you taken the time to help!

    • The voucher will stay in your BA account after you cancel. You need to use an Amex when you book but it doesn’t have to be the same one so if you open a platinum or another BAPP then you can use those.

      • Genghis says:

        Correct. There have been stories about an extreme minority losing the voucher but I have always done it no problem. As Sam says, you can use any Amex (directly issued or MBNA / Lloyds). Remember you get 3 avios/£ on BA spend with BAPP so a good tactic I employ is for me to say earn the voucher and then spend £1k on my wife’s card for the next voucher and to earn c.3k avios.

        If you’ve hit the £7k spend on the Lloyds voucher, you’ll receive an email to let you know. The voucher then sits in your account under ‘My account->Vouchers. Unfortunately there isn’t a counter so you don’t easily know how much you’ve spent apart from doing the calcs with your statements.

        • The Original Nick. says:

          Lloyds Avios upgrade voucher will show up on AW too.

        • Thanks Genghis, tried to send a Mongolian version but guess the comments are filtered for language content!

        • Optimus Prime says:

          I can confim this too.

          Last weekend I called Amex bluff and cancelled my BAPP. Vouchers are still available on my BAEC account.

      • Thanks Sam

  10. “My welcome drink was Billecart-Salmon 2007 Vintage champagne, which is about £40 in the shops. The NV Rose was also available, which retails for around £60.”

    Where can you get the 2007 vintage for £40? I think that price quote is a touch low. Wine-searcher shows a landed price of about £60.

    • Choons says:

      James Nicholson in Northern Ireland has the 2006 for around 44 before taxes, fwiw

  11. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    Surprised to see such negative comments on the EY F food. I was very impressed by my single experience in late 2015, perhaps it’s not what it was. Onboard chef was definitely a proper chef. Had the pleasure of the chef enthusiastically giving us a tour of the 777 kitchen – amazing what they can turn out in such a tiny space. Great food, beautifully plated and definitely had a real feel of ‘we can cook you whatever you want’. Still my best airborne dining experience to date and lightyears ahead of BA F.

    I think the ‘high end’ comment is a bit unfair – seems there was ‘token’ foie gras to match the token caviar you propose.

    • It is definitely a great experience, and bearing in mind where it’s being cooked it’s very high quality.

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