The first week of February 2016, I traveled to the Maldives and enjoyed one of the best holidays of my life. You can read my trip reports here:
- Trip report: Etihad A380 First Class Apartment from London to Abu Dhabi.
- Review: Soneva Fushi, the Maldives’ most exclusive hotel.
- Review: Soneva In Aqua, the Maldives’ first floating villa.
- Trip report: Qatar Airways A380 First Class from Doha to Paris.
Today (February 10, 2016): Trip report: Etihad Airways A380 First Class Apartment London (UK) to Abu Dhabi (UAE)
On January 29th 2016, I flew First Class on Etihad Airways from London’s Heathrow Airport (UK) to Male International Airport (Maldives) via a stopover in Etihad’s hub in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates). The flight from London to Abu Dhabi was operated by Etihad Airways’ flagship plane, the double-decker Airbus A380. So far, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates has only five A380s in its fleet, deploying them on routes from Abu Dhabi to New York, London, and Sydney (Melbourne will be added soon). Etihad Airways pushed luxury to a sky-high new level and revolutionised First Class with the introduction of the ‘First Apartment’ concept on its A380 superjumbos. More than just a seat, the First Apartment has a large leather armchair and separate bed of more than 6 feet. There is even space to walk around after closing the privacy doors. As you can imagine, the experience was mind-blowing, and I will try to describe the journey as detailed as possible so that you get an idea of what it feels like to travel onboard Etihad’s Airbus A380 in First Class.
The flight itself was delayed by 4 hours, making it an overnight, red-eye flight instead of a day flight. I was probably the only passenger (together with my travel companion) who was very happy with the delay, since I had a scheduled layover of more than 8 hours at Abu Dhabi for my connecting flight to the Maldives, and the delay resulted in a considerably reduced waiting time at the Abu Dhabi airport. In addition, Etihad dealt very well with the delay, as I was contacted by email, by text message, and twice by phone to give me updates about the flight.
Etihad Airways features in my top 10 lists of the most luxurious First Class suites in the sky, the best airlines for longhaul Business Class, the world’s best Business Class airline lounges, and the most delicious airline food.
- Trip: LHR-AUH
- Airline: Etihad Airways
- Aircraft type: Airbus A380-800
- Flight Number: EY20
- Date: January 29, 2016
- On time departure: no (6 pm instead of 2 pm)
- On time arrival: no (4.30 am instead of 1.30 am)
- Miles: 3432
- Flight time: 6 hours 30 minutes
- First Class Apartment: 3A
- Price of ticket: 280 USD + 40.000 AAdvantage miles
In this review (more information & photos below my slideshow):
- Etihad Lounge at Heathrow
- First Class cabin
- First Class Apartment (+ best & worst seats)
- Other inflight experiences (crew, lavatory, shower, WiFi, bar, chauffeur service)
- My verdict (score)
1. ETIHAD LOUNGE AT LONDON HEATHROW
Etihad Airways has its own lounge at Heathrow International Airport. The lounge is located in terminal 4, in front of gate number 10 (from where its Airbus A380s depart), and one level below the Skyteam lounge. It is accessible to both First and Business Class passengers, who share all the facilities. Upon arrival at the lounge’s reception desk, I was escorted by one of Etihad’s travel agents into the lounge, who showed me around and explained the lounge’s features (and they did the same for all other passengers, which makes you feel very welcome).
The lounge is adequately sized and features the same decor as Etihad’s flagship lounge in Abu Dhabi, which I have previously reviewed here. The lounge is divided into 3 main areas: one seating area with plenty of comfortable chairs, a trendy restaurant with bar, and a room where the buffet is displayed and which features some more comfortable lounge chairs. There’s also a small business center, a spa (more on that later), a kids club, and a prayer room. Although the lounge features floor-to-ceiling windows, the views are not great since the space is located in the basement of the terminal and since there is an additional corridor between the lounge’s windows and the outside windows (making the lounge quite dark).
After having a look around and taking some photos, I took a seat and a server took my drink order. There are always several servers walking around in the lounge, so you never have to get up to get a drink. Afterwards, it was time for lunch. There was an excellent buffet, with several cold options to choose from (e.g. sandwiches, wraps, salads, humus) in addition to some hot dishes (e.g. chicken breast, penne arabiatta). However, I decided to go for the a la carte menu and had a terrific meal: Hirayli cod loin, with pineapple & chili salsa and basmati rice.
The lounge’s main area also features a Six Senses Spa, where Etihad Airways’ First and Business Class passengers are entitled to a complimentary, 15 minute spa treatment to ease travel stress, prior to their flight. I had a back massage in a face-down massage chair (no need to take your clothes off) and it was very good. Treatment reservations can only be made on the day of travel at the spa reception.
The flight was scheduled to depart at 2:05PM, but as explained above and due to late arrival of the incoming aircraft, the departure was delayed until 6 pm. When it was time to board, it was only a 2 minute walk to the gate.
2. FIRST CLASS CABIN
When I boarded the plane, I was immediately escorted by one of the flight attendants to the First Class cabin which is located on the forward upper deck of the A380.
The single aisle First Class cabin on Etihad’s A380 has a genuinely residential feel and looks amazingly stylish in predominant smoothing beige tones with some dark wood touches. Two beautifully crafted walls frame a small corridor leading to the forward staircase and contain the sliding entrance doors of the Apartements. The lighting patterns in the ceiling projects Arabian mosaic-like figures on the walls and floor, adding to the overall relaxing atmosphere.
Etihad Airways’ A380 First Class cabin is the industry’s first ever single aisle cabin on a wide body aircraft, and it features nine First Apartments in total. There are 5 First Apartments on the right side of the cabin (with 2 lavatories in the front), while the left side only features 4 First Apartments. This asymmetry is explained by the fact that the missing 5th First Apartment and lavatories on the left side of the cabin are replaced by the Residence (featuring a private living room, separate en-suite shower room, and a bedroom with a double bed).
If First Class is out of your range, the other cabins on Etihad Airways’ A380 are very comfortable as well. The 70 Business Class Studios, set in a 1-2-1 configuration, are located on the upper deck of the A380, behind First Class, while 415 Economy seats are located on the main deck .
Click here for the seat map of this Etihad Airways’ Airbus A380.
3. THE FIRST CLASS APARTMENT
The First Class cabin has 9 First Apartments in total: 5 with a rear facing seat (1H, 3A, 3K, 5C & 5H) and 4 with a forward facing seat (2C, 2H, 4A & 4K). The Apartments 3A, 4A, 3K and 4K have their seats located next to the window, while in the other Apartments, the seats are located close to the aisle away from the window, making it more difficult to enjoy the views during take-off and landing. Six of the First Apartments (3A & 4A, 3K & 4K, and 1H & 2H) are interconnecting, with a divider that can be lowered to join rooms, which is perfect for when you’re travelling with a companion or when you want to invite another First Class passenger to join you in your Apartment for a meal or a meeting.
Each First Apartment has the same amount of space and an identical layout. It features a wide armchair in addition to a separate ottoman, both upholstered with the finest Poltrona Frau leather. At first, I was puzzled as to where to store my carry-on luggage, since the Apartment does not have overhead bins nor clearly visible storage areas. It turned out your carry-on luggage needs to be stored in the space below the ottoman.
Let’s start with the very comfortable recliner seat. It is equipped with in-seat massage and a pneumatic cushion control system. The seat has two arm rests: one holds the tray table, while the other holds the Apartment and inflight entertainment system controls. With the push of just a button, you can change the position of both the ottoman, raise or lower of the window blinds, and control the light settings for a variety of lamps situated within the Apartment. Next to the seat, there’s a minibar, stocked with a premium selection of beverages, as well as a cabinet which holds the noise-cancelling headsets.
In front of the seat, you find the Apartment-wide ottoman, which is multifunctional. You can use it as a footrest when watching TV, or it can be used as an additional chair when you want to dine with two within your Apartment. The ottoman can also be opened up to become a separate 80.5 inches (205 cm) long fully flat bed. When you are in need of some sleep, the flight attendants will pass by for a luxurious turn-down service: the ottoman will be flattened out into a bed, and the flight attendant will cover it with a decent mattress, duvet, cotton sheets and two pillows. If you are traveling in one of the interconnecting Apartments, then you can lower the divider and enjoy the comfort of a double bed.
In each Apartment, there’s also a vanity unit which features a variety of toiletries, a lit make-up mirror, and the amenity kit (more on that later).
What are the best First Class seats on Etihad Airways’ Airbus A380? Click here for a seat map.
- If you are traveling with a partner, then choose 2 adjoining Apartments that can become one space when lowering the divider in between them: 3A & 4A, 3K & 4K, or 1H & 2H.
- If you like to look out of the window, then choose one of the Apartments where the seat is located right next to the window: 3A, 3K, 4A or 4K.
What are the worst First Class seats on Etihad Airways’ Airbus A380? Click here for a seat map.
- If you don’t like to be seated in a rear facing seat then avoid Apartments H1, 3A, 3K, 5C and 5 H.
Etihad’s First Class amenity kit is located in the vanity unit when you board the plane. The amenity kit bags are inspired by the rich heritage and artistry of the Emirati people and feature the patterns of Sadou, a colourful, centuries-old Abu Dhabi weaving craft.
The bag itself is empty as all the toiletries are conveniently placed in small cabinets alongside the lit make-up mirror. Here, you will find luxurious fragrances from New York brand Le Labo and its fresh and sensual Bergamote 22 range, including hand balm, lip balm, facial moisturiser and a refreshing towelette. Dental kits, socks, eyeshades, earplugs, mints, pillow mist and pulse point oil are also provided.
In addition, First Class passengers also get a black pajama and slippers, and a welcome letter from the cabin manager.
Etihad is one of the few airlines that has onboard chefs (recruited from Michelin-starred restaurants around the world). No wonder that the food, an exquisite seven-course tasting menu with amuse bouche, granita and pre-dessert tasters, was delicious. The Mezoon Grille menu, available to Etihad’s First Class customers only, featured a variety of premium produce, including beef, chicken, lamb and seafood, along with a range of delicate sauces, sides and delicious desserts, all of which were prepared to order. In addition, the fine bone chinaware, cutlery and crystal glassware completed the excellent fine dining experience at 40,000 feet.
I choose the following items from the menu, all of them tasting excellent:
- Amuse bouche: Middle Eastern style chicken salad.
- Chickpea Soup, with Arabic spiced ratatouille.
- Starter: marinated prawns, with Quinoa and wake salad, and red pepper sauce.
- Grapefruit sorbet.
- Entree: US rib-eye steak, with steamed green beans, creamy mashed potatoes, and garlic and herb butter.
- Pre-dessert mini-choclate mousse.
- Dessert trio of berry and cinnamon frangipani, apricot cheesecake, with passion fruit meringue, chocolate mousse.
Before landing in Abu Dhabi (at 4.30 am local time), I also ordered some fresh fruits and cereals.
Each First Class Apartment has a swiveling 24-inch (60 cm) flat-screen, which features hundreds of hours of on-demand entertainment. You can watch more than 300 TV shows as well as more than 100 movies, ranging from blockbusters to timeless classics and representing all corners from the world (Hollywood, Arabic, European, Indian and Asian Cinemas). Etihad Airways’ inflight entertainment system also features live TV channels (e.g. BBC, CNN). The flat-screen can be tilted so you can still watch TV when you are lying in your bed.
7. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# CREW: Etihad’ cabin crew is famous for the delivered onboard service and this was no different on this flight. The cabin crew was professional and friendly (addressing me by name, and presenting themselves individually before take-off). All requests were dealt with promptly and cordially.
# CREW UNIFORM: the crew was wearing very stylish uniforms by Italian designer Ettore Bilotta, which were introduced last year in celebration for delivery of Etihad’s new A380 and B787 aircraft. The chocolate-brown, purple and orange colours are part of the rebranding of Etihad Airways, which is headed by Australian James Hogan.
# LAVATORY: Etihad Airways’ First Class cabin on the A380 has 2 lavatories in the front of the plane. Both lavatories have a lovely design and feature Le Labo Begamote 22 toiletries. One of the lavatories also features a fully equipped shower room. Each First Class passenger has access to 5 minutes of running water in the shower, although you can turn on and off the water supply as many time as you want.
# BAR: Etihad Airways has installed a lounge on the upper deck of the A380 between First and Business Class, designated ‘The Lobby’. The latter is an intimate space that is more resemblant of a lounge in a boutique hotel than an airplane cabin, and it is the perfect spot to relax or socialise with other passengers. It seats up to six guests and is fitted with seatbelts, power supply, connectivity ports, and a widescreen TV (so you can watch a live game or sporting event with other guests).
# FLIGHT PATH: normally, the flight path from London to Abu Dhabi goes straight over Syria and Iraq, but the plane detoured around the current ISIS conflict area by flying over eastern Iran.
# CHAUFFEUR SERVICE: one of the great things about flying Business or First Class with Etihad is the complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers. Chauffeur-drive must be requested online, up to 24 hours prior to your flight. It is so nice to be picked up at your hotel and to be whisked away to the airport in a minimum of time.
8. MY VERDICT
- Seat: 10/10
- Food: 8/10
- Inflight entertainment : 9/10
- Service: 10/10
- Cabin: 10/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9,6/10