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 services the following destinations from Etihad’s Abu Dhabi hub:

  • Sydney 1-2x daily
  • London 3x daily
  • Paris 1-2x daily
  • New York 1-2x daily
  • Seoul 1x daily (from 1 July 2019)

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 York203,000272,498100,000 + 115,000^
Melbourne - New York203,000272,499100,000 + 115,000^
Brisbane - London203,000223,999115,000
Sydney - Abu Dhabi152,500136,249100,000

^Some AAdvantage redemptions on Etihad flights between two different regions, e.g. South Pacific and North America, require booking two separate awards.
*Updated with Etihad Guest minor award pricing changes on its own flights effective January 2018.

Note that another devaluation to Etihad Guest is scheduled to take effect from 30 June 2018 and Perth loses service to Abu Dhabi from October 2018.

Velocity is a flybuys points transfer partner. Velocity, of course, also 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.

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 Marriott Rewards.

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

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.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment

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.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment

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.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment

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

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment

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.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment inflight entertainment controller

For those looking to get connected while onboard, there is also a complimentary 90mb WI-FI for all first class passengers across their fleet.

You can store your carry on luggage under the bench.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment storage 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.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment lie-flat bed
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment

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?!

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment drawer
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment drinks
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment storage
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment

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.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment seat controller
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment control touch screen

The First & Business Class Bar

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

Etihad The First & Business Class Bar

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.

Etihad The First & Business Class Bar
Etihad The First & Business Class Bar

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

Etihad The First & Business Class Bar
Etihad The First & Business Class Bar

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.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment meal service
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment drinks
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment breakfast

Breakfast cereal and pastries

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment breakfast pastries

Pastries

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment fruit platter

Fruit platter

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment coffee

Coffee

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment Negroni

Negroni – a great pick me up

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

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment food
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment food
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment food

Arabic Mezze

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment food

Dessert

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment food

Inflight shower and amenities

Each suite has a lit vanity mirror:

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment inflight shower

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

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment inflight amenities

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!

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment inflight amenities

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 A380 First Class Apartment inflight shower
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment inflight shower
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment inflight shower
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment inflight shower

Etihad Premium Lounge Access

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

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

Our A380 First Class Reviews

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.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment overview was last modified: July 19th, 2019 by Keith