Review

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment Overview

Possibly the world's best First Class cabin, with a vast amount of space. A great way to burn your points, if you have enough.

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I had the chance to sample Etihad‘s unique First Class cabin in one of their small fleet of Airbus A380’s late last year – and it blew me away.

Travelling in Premium Economy, Business or First Class for me is all about the seat – as a tall guy with long legs, I really value the space and comfort, much more so than food, wine or champagne. Etihad First Class Apartments really delivered.

It’s unlike any other seat or cabin I’ve experienced, and we’re fortunate to have two cities in Australia receiving daily service – and the ability for those with larger Velocity balances to redeem their points for it.

Etihad’s A380 Fleet & Routes

First Apartments, as opposed to regular First Class, are only available on Etihad’s Airbus A380 fleet, which currently service the following destinations from Etihad’s Abu Dhabi hub:

  • Sydney 1x daily (increases to 2x daily from 29 October 2017)
  • Melbourne 1x daily (until 28 October 2017)
  • London 3x daily
  • Paris 1x daily (seasonal summer service from 1 July to 28 October 2017)
  • New York 3x daily
  • Mumbai 1x daily (until 30 June 2017)

How to redeem points for Etihad A380 First Class

There are three key primary loyalty programs whose points can be used for Etihad redemptions:

  • Velocity Frequent Flyer
  • Etihad Guest
  • American Airlines AAdvantage

Here’s how the pricing in terms of points stacks up:

Route (one way, First Class)Velocity pointsEtihad Guest milesAAdvantage miles
Perth - New York203,000238,152100,000 + 115,000^
Melbourne - New York203,000241,862100,000 + 115,000^
Brisbane - London203,000216,170100,000 + 62,500^
Sydney - Abu Dhabi152,500128,780100,000

^AAdvantage redemptions on Etihad flights between two different regions, e.g. South Pacific and Europe, require booking two separate awards.

Velocity and Etihad Guest are both flybuys points transfer partners. Velocity, of course, has many, many points earning options in Australia, including all major banks and a number of Velocity-branded or -linked credit cards.

Etihad Guest has less visibility in the market but Etihad Guest Miles are transferrable from American Express Membership Rewards or Citi Rewards as a Citi Prestige cardholder, and flybuys, as mentioned before.

There’s no AAdvantage-linked credit card in the market in Australia but AAdvantage miles can be earned via cards linked to both Membership Rewards and Diners Club Rewards – for American Express Membership Rewards, you can transfer to AAdvantage via Starwood Preferred Guest.

AAdvantage will usually always win when it comes to taxes and fees – they should be minimal. Etihad Guest charges substantial fees but without the additional surcharge imposed by Velocity. Velocity’s Etihad surcharges are very high, and increase for each additional sector you add into your itinerary, making one-stop return itineraries to Europe expensive in terms of out-of-pocket costs.

The Cabin – Etihad’s First Class Apartment Seats & Seat Map

The nine First Apartments are located at the front of the upper deck of the Airbus A380. They are arranged in a 2-2 configuration, with a walkway for direct aisle access to window suites.

The First Class cabin also features the three-bedroom The Residence, with its own private bathroom and shower.

The nine First Apartment passengers share two bathrooms and one inflight shower.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment Seatmap

Seatmap for Etihad A380 First Class Apartment

Six of the nine Apartments are interconnecting, meaning you can lower the wall to share a meal or chat with a travelling companion.

Here’s the promotional video from Etihad:

Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment Seats

The First Apartment is supremely private – each passenger can be closed in their suite with a set of high sliding doors, which are more than a metre or so away from the seat itself near the window.

The seat faces a large, 24″ in-flight entertainment screen and is where you would dine, get some work done or recline to enjoy a movie. Opposite the seat is a long bench on which another passenger can join you to eat, or you can use as a foot rest.

Each seat has several windows and a large console on which you can place drinks, snacks or belongings.

While on the other side you’ll find the controller for your inflight entertainment – the screen itself is too far away to reach without getting up from your seat.

You can store your carry on luggage under the bench.

Instead of the seat itself fully reclining, the bench itself folds out into a separate 6’10”-long bed. This let me have the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had inflight, racking up around 8 hours solid rest.

There’s an abundance of storage, with drawers and shelves all around to help with keeping your things neatly stowed. I found most of them unnecessary – I don’t tend to unpack on a plane, but maybe others do?!

The seat and other Apartment controls are handled by a dedicated touch screen, complimented with some physical buttons. A second screen is found at the head of the bed so you can control lighting without getting out of bed.

The First & Business Class Bar

The onboard bar is located in between the First and Business Class cabins.

There’s room for around six guests, and is really useful for Business Class passengers – but given the amount of space you have in First Apartments, I can’t see many First Class passengers using it much unless they know people travelling in Business Class too.

There’s a range of premium wine and spirits on display in the bar for you to choose from.

Service: Food & Drink

Here was the menu on my flight:

and the wine and drinks list:

All food service is dine on demand, so you’re best to think through what and when you’d like at the beginning of the flight to both secure the options you’d like and make the most of your time in the air.

In my case, I went straight to bed, then woke up for breakfast and followed it up with a meal service a few hours later.

Breakfast cereal and pastries

Pastries

Fruit platter

Coffee

Negroni – a great pick me up

A few hours later, I kicked into the full Etihad First Class dining experience.

Arabic Mezze

Dessert

Inflight shower and amenities

Each suite has a lit vanity mirror:

Complimentary travel bags are provided by Christian Lacroix and skincare products by Hungarian brand Omorovicza.

You can make your own amenity kit from the vanity – which is great if you want to avoid waste and taking excess stuff home, and the opposite if you’re a hoarder… just grab everything!

Inflight Shower

Somewhat the pieces de resistance, Etihad has a single shower for First Apartments passengers which can be reserved or requested during the flight for a single 5 minute shower (water time). The shower itself is hot and strong and an amazing way to feel more human while inflight.

Etihad Premium Lounge Access

In Sydney, Melbourne, New York JFK, London Heathrow and Paris, you’ll gain access to the Etihad Airways First & Business Class Lounge.

In Abu Dhabi, Terminal 3 hosts both a First Class Lounge & Spa and an Arrivals Lounge.

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Summing up – Why choose this flight?

If you have a stash of Velocity points to burn, and don’t mind paying their fairly outrageous surcharges, then this is an amazing experience to sample.

If you have points with American Express Membership Rewards or Citi Rewards that you can transfer over to Etihad Guest, you will be able to pick up a redemption at a higher points price than Velocity, but saving more cash. Take your pick, really, it all depends how points-rich you are.

Either way, this is definitely an experience worth saving points for – I doubt many people would be able to justify paying the many thousands of dollars for a paid airfare, but to be able to redeem points and have the same experience was, as you can imagine, awesome.

Comments Expand Comments

  1. LLO

    Yep, thanks to you champs I did MEL-AUH in style. Worth every penny of the measly 60k AA points before the massive devaluation. Best part was the wet shave in the arrivals lounge and then chauffeur driven all the way to Dubai. Nice experience but I prefer EK in F.

  2. Managed to book two seats for my wife and I on 23 March 2017 in Etihad 1st Apartment using AAadvantage miles which I purchased during a 140% bonus sale. We are both very excited and looking forward to our trip. Thanks to Keith for his website and advice otherwise we would not be sampling the best at an affordable cost (around AU$5000 instead of full fare of AU$23500). We are flying to Abu Dhabi but do not get the chauffeur service, no prob when we are saving nearly $20,000!! Meeting a cruise ship in Dubai. Flying back from Genoa to Sydney using Avianca Lifemiles, business class Brussels Air & ANA (purchased for around AU$3300 during a promotion).

    Cannot recommend this site and Keith enough, he has opened up premium flights to us at near economy fares, thanks mate for all the advice and information.

    Subscribe to this blog to receive e-mails detailing offers on purchasing and redeeming miles at the best rate.

  3. Con

    Its really very nice Did F 777ER MEL-AUH then F a30 Apartment 4A AUH-JFK last November – food was great from MEL-AUH and reasonable AUH-JFK Alon in F MEL-AUH with fantastic staff and chef -lemon sorbet between courses without asking and very attentive service, including knowing when to allow you some peace – not all of us expect servants fawning over us -AUH First lounge very good smoking room free haircut at First Spa but no F ground services unlike Thai Swiss and Lufthansa First A380 in First Apartment good – fridge full of soft drinks and full in F except for The Residence Don’t expect anyone from the Gulf states to be flying in F – they’ll be on their private jet or flying Qatar F Etihad has a definite clientele – I was lucky enough to redeem this for a conference in NYC November 2016 using 150 K AA miles before the devaluation -its a lot more hype and not so special – don’t get me wrong -the shower is great and it was nice to shower an hour before landing at JFK TSA Precheck is very useful at AUH and the smoking rooms in F lounge and nea rthe USA Departures lounge are good Its not Lufthansa or Swiss First – especially Lufthansa who have exoteric service, food , lockers and amenities in F on board and also on ground.
    Its also a particularly tiring way to fly to USA from Australia via AUH 2x 14 hour stints with no ground service when connecting at AUH from F to F don’t make for a happy chappy. The shower is great but fundamentally its not worth it – on the way back redeemed with AA I nF on Cathay JFK-HKG- HKG-MEL C-MEL-ADL QF C Les miles better overall travelling experience –
    Bototm line if you have the miles to burn like I did at the time just do it! Otherwise use ur UA miles for last minute Lufthansa F redemptions on a solid exoteric product!

  4. MattJ

    Excellent review! And very surprised it’s on 203,000 VA points from Aus. Are you able to advise the tax $ amount needed to be paid?

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