Etihad A380 First Class Apartment: How Is It Holding Up?

Filed Under: Etihad, Travel
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Hello from New York! Yesterday I flew Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi to New York, which I booked using Etihad Guest miles (they’re transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou).

Earn Etihad Guest miles

I’ve flown the Etihad First Class Apartment several times before (including on their inaugural A380 flight), though at this point it has been over two years since my last flight on this plane.

I was curious to see how the product was holding up, given Etihad’s significant cost cutting, while at the same time adding some features in first class (like a caviar service on select flights).

So, how was my 13hr15min flight? Here are my initial thoughts, with a full trip report to follow:

Etihad A380 First Apartment cabin & seats

Physically, Etihad’s A380 first class cabin is one of the most stunning in the sky. It’s located at the front of the upper deck and has just a single aisle, with a total of nine first class seats, known as “Apartments.” Then there’s also the “Residence,” which is Etihad’s three room suite with butler service, though it’s typically empty. On this flight all first class seats were occupied, though the Residence was empty.

Etihad’s A380 first class is among the most spacious seats in the sky in terms of the square feet per passenger, and no doubt it’s an extremely impressive product. You have a massive seat, and then there’s a long bench along the other side of the suite.

This bench eventually turns into the bed when you want to sleep, though you can also use it to invite other people over to dine with you, etc. It was nice to be able to eat with Ford, though he’ll have you know that he’s staying neutral in the Emirates vs. Etihad vs. Qatar debate.

Then there’s a TV, which swivels so that you can watch it from your seat or bed. There’s also a vanity, a minibar, and more.

While it looks impressive and is a good product, I also think the space isn’t utilized that well. The bed isn’t that big, and it’s on the hard side. The seat itself only has very limited recline, so you don’t really have much middle ground between sitting up straight and fully reclining.

By comparison, Emirates’ new first class offers less total space per passenger, but I tend to think the space is better utilized.

Etihad first class food

Color me very impressed. As usual, Etihad had an onboard chef and an extensive dine on demand menu. They didn’t run out of anything on the menu, which I’ve had serious issues with in the past.

And Etihad recently added caviar service, which was very nice.

Service began with nuts, olives, etc. The champagne on offer was Charles Heidsieck 2006, and they even had the 2006 rose version as well.

Etihad’s caviar presentation is quite nice. I’m surprised they offer Russian caviar rather than Abu Dhabi farmed caviar, given that you’d think they’d want to inject some of their “home” into the product.

Then I had a delicious lobster appetizer.

For the main course I had the salmon.

For dessert I had pavlova.

The food really impressed me on this flight, and the addition of caviar better differentiates their first class catering from their business class catering.

Etihad first class amenity kits, pajamas, and more

Etihad offers pajamas and slippers from an Emirati designer, and I really liked these. They were light and comfortable.

Then the amenity kit was from Acqua Di Parma, with a solid selection of products.

There were also Bose headphones, which are among the best out there.

Etihad first class shower & The Lobby

As far as other amenities go, the Etihad A380 has “The Lobby,” which is a shared space between first and business class. Unlike on the Emirates A380, I don’t really get this concept. It’s not a traditional bar and most of the time I find it’s just empty, so I’m not sure I really get the point.

Etihad also has two lavatories at the front of the first class cabin, and one of them has a shower. Showering in the sky is one of the coolest experiences ever as an avgeek. However, if we’re going to compare inflight shower experiences, Emirates definitely has the edge, as their shower suite is significantly more luxurious.

Etihad first class entertainment & wifi

Etihad has one of the best entertainment systems in the sky, perhaps after Emirates, with hundreds of movies, TV shows, etc. There’s even live TV. You should have no problem staying entertained.

The one area where Etihad has gotten worse is when it comes to wifi. The airline used to let you buy a wifi pass for the entire flight for $20, though a couple of years back they started charging based on data usage, and now you only get 180MB of data for $20. That’s still not a bad deal, though not as good as before.

First class passengers do get 90MB of free data, which is a nice touch.

Etihad first class service

This is where I usually struggle with Etihad, because I find they have among the most inconsistent service of any airline. Some crews are great, while others aren’t, though a majority of crews are just mediocre, in my experience.

Well, we lucked out and had an excellent crew on this flight. The food & beverage manager (Albanian-Italian) and first class flight attendant (Filipino) in particular were very good.

They were friendly, attentive, and professional, and I’d say they were among the best Etihad crews I’ve ever had (with the exception of the time I flew the Residence, of course!).

Etihad A380 first class bottom line

I was pleasantly surprised by how well Etihad A380 first class is holding up. This might have been my best Etihad first class flight yet — the crew was friendly, Etihad added a caviar service, and they didn’t run out of food.

My only complaints are how they changed the wifi to charge based on data usage rather than charging a flat fee for the entire flight.

Oh, and the US Pre-Clearance facility is still a mess. We were delayed on departure nearly two hours because of it. The reason? Initially because “the facility is quite busy today.” Don’t they have the same four US-bound flights most days?

Then even after that “a passenger who boarded got called back into the facility, so we have to wait for them to return and be cleared.” I’ll simply never understand the Pre-Clearance concept. Sure, in theory it’s nice to clear immigration before boarding your flight. What’s not nice is having 500 people wait because one person needs to be questioned, which I imagine is a common occurrence.

Etihad’s US-bound flights make American’s 767s look operationally reliable by comparison.

So overall I really like Etihad’s first class. I’d say I’m sticking to my ranking of the top first class products in the world, and rank this number seven(ish).

If you’ve flown Etihad’s A380 first class lately, what was your experience like?

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Comments
  1. Wondering, if redeeming Etihad Guest points better than redeeming AA advantage; is award availability better?

  2. Etihad was my first international first class experience so it has a special place in my heart. I’m happy to hear it is till a wonderful experience.

  3. Yes completely agree on pre-clearance making no sense at all. It just adds complexity and uncertainty on departure, forcing you to get to the airport much earlier than you otherwise would. The overseas immigration facilities never work as smoothly as the ones at US points of entry, in my experience. The Canadian ones make connecting to the US from a third country hazardous at best – you can forget about any tight connections.

  4. Had my first Aparments experience last year and despite all the talk about reductions in quality and service making me wonder beforehand if I’d made the right choice, it was one of the best flight experiences ever. I love the hard product – personally I find the complaints about the seat not reclining to be a bit picky…I was very comfortable – and the crew provided outstanding service. Sure it would have been nice to have chauffeur service but shouting for my own car service is still extraordinary value on a redemption flight.

  5. Pre-clearance makes sense from Canada as it allows airlines to offer flights to smaller US airports without CIS facilities. Doesn’t really make any sense from overseas airports as they are only flying to bigger US airports, right?

  6. “Then there’s also the “Residence,” which is Etihad’s three room suite with butler service, though it’s typically empty.”

    If theyre having money issues, why not price it so it sells?

  7. @ EricAstray

    I’m pretty sure that is Ford wearing that shirt and not Ben. It you read the last line in the paragraph above the pic it is a little tongue in cheek joke. I think it’s hilarious.

  8. Same thing can’t be said about the ground service. It feels more like poor business class than first class service. Lounge food is quite bad (no desserts apart from fruit!). And then boarding experience I had recently left so much to be desired.

  9. For all of those criticizing the Fly Emirates t-shirt, it is an official Paris Saint-Germain soccer club shirt.
    They have a huge marketing agreement with Etihad, thus the slogan on it.
    https://en.psg.fr/
    Oddly enough, the majority stake holder is the Qatari Investment Fund, which owned by the Qatari government.

  10. I came here to comment about Ford and his Fly Emirates shirt, but it seems others beat me to it 😉

  11. Great to see EY first apartments are still holding up! I’m surprised they didn’t run out of food despite the full first class cabin. I haven’t flown EY A380 recently but hope to do so later this year. Looking forward to reading your report!

  12. Flew the route two weeks back and felt the same – if anything, service is better now than the last time I flew them. I didn’t think the same about the Salmon main (I couldn’t eat a bite it was so dry and overcooked) but service was fantastic and despite its age the hard product has held up well too – certainly better than Asiana’s A380s.

  13. The shirt Ford is wearing in the photo is not what I noticed. I have to confess that I’m a traditionalist and don’t think short shorts are appropriate on an airplane especially in first class. YMMV

  14. @ AeRoSpaceman
    I actually think its fine and fun so I added a smirk face emoji at the end of my comment but seems like it got swallowed by the system

  15. Any luck booking these with AA miles? Hope they don’t go to *A soon, although I guess I’d be flying QSuites to Asia anyway.

  16. @ Mark — I mentioned the nationality, and not ethnicity. For what it’s worth, one of the things that I love about the Gulf carriers is how international they are, and that’s something I notice and am consistently impressed by. What’s not to love about having a South African pilot, Indian cabin manager, Albanian and Filipino flight attendants, etc. If it came across differently, I apologize — that wasn’t my intent.

  17. @ dn10 — Yep, these are bookable with American miles, and in general availability is better AUH-JFK than JFK-AUH.

  18. @ neil — I wouldn’t call them “short shorts,” maybe it’s just how he’s sitting. And it was 100 degrees in Abu Dhabi. I think it’s perfectly fine to wear shorts, but to each their own. Fortunately each passenger has a suite with a door, so you don’t have to look at any other passengers. 🙂

  19. @ meta — Very true, and in particular with the Pre-Clearance situation. The US Pre-Clearance lounge is better than nothing, but pretty bad for a first class ground experience.

  20. @ Jason — I took a break from that during this trip, but once Tiffany finishes her current trip report I’ll get right back to it. Thanks for the interest.

  21. @ dc_nomad — Nope, generally same availability, as least same availability as the American Airlines Australia call center.

  22. @Lucky – Assuming for a moment all else is equal in terms of price or redemption options, and the scheduling worked either way – would you choose this Etihad First class over Qatar’s Q-Suite from the ME to JFK? Just curious if the exceptional offering by Qatar in their new biz is enough to compete with (and beat out) what is still a very great first class product…

  23. What a cutie Ford is! 😉
    Did the crew react to his T-shirt? (They must have found it funny)

  24. I’m surprised you’ve had so many problems with the pre-clearance facility. I’ve been flying through the pre-clearance facility 4-5 times a year for the past 4 years and haven’t had much of an issue any of the times. This includes delays because of the facility or extremely long lines at the facility. I think it may just be a few strokes of bad luck!

  25. How far in advance should you book this with AA miles? We talking 10+ months like Qsuites?

  26. I already saw that photo on Ford’s Instagram and completely lost it. That t-shirt is just hilarious in the context.

  27. I don’t measure Etihad first apartment against Emirates, I measure it against Singapore suites which of course are newer but for me Etihad is still the winner and the product is better, more personal and the food is way better.

    Now if only Etihad would join the Star Alliance.

  28. Ive flown Etihad in f once from Abu Dhabi to Sydney last Christmas. I loved it. Best flight I’ve had!! Personally thought far superior to lh, jal, Singapore suites, Cathay etc (haven’t flown emirates first). Although I do love Singapore too. I guess I value the space and privacy. Service was great too. Mind you getting to Abu Dhabi from Ord sucks in biz with the 777 service. Seriously worse than United.

  29. It has been 15 months since I flew in the Apartment AUH-SYD. Back then the sliding partition into the adjoining suite didn’t work but after 15 minutes of fiddling with it they were able to open it up about 6″ at a time with brute force. The food and service was okay but forgettable. Given the hype, I was a little disappointed, and as such, have not really desired flying with them again.

    Good to hear there has been an improvement in the soft product but I am not a huge fan of the hard product. I spent very little time in the seat and a lot of time on the bench which is not really a bed. To hard!

    James

  30. @ dotti — When redeeming Etihad Guest miles, the difference is about two million miles one-way.

  31. @ omaatcommentor — In general I’d recommend booking far in advance or close to departure — that’s when you’ll find the most space.

  32. @ SS — Are we talking about the same airline/flight? 😉 Looking at the flight for the past two weeks, it hasn’t left on time a single day, best I can tell. The delays varied significantly, but once in the past week the flight was delayed by over seven hours, and once by over 12 hours. It’s possible I’m reading the data wrong/it’s not being recorded correctly, but that’s what both FlightAware and Flightradar24 show.

  33. @ THB — I’d probably still choose Etihad first, because a good first class is better than a great business class, in my opinion.

  34. @ Leonard — As far as I know no one said anything. A couple of years ago I remember wearing a “Fly Emirates” hat on Etihad (it wasn’t intentional, it was just the hat I was constantly wearing at the time, and I wasn’t thinking), and a flight attendant jokingly said “sir, I’m going to have to ask you to take that off.” Hah.

  35. I find these caviar tins a complete teaser, they are finished before you have the full taste in your mouth. They seem to be the new standard in F, 20 grams, 2/3 of an ounce. Cathay has the same, and I realized this when being one of 3 pax on JFK/HKG, with the other 2 being two Hassidim who had brought their own food, I dared asking for a 2nd one (I actually got a total of 3) and it felt so good.

    Where are Swissair which was the only airline offering seconds, and the AF Concorde which had 50g Petrossian glass jars?

  36. The shirt Ford is wearing in the photo is not what I noticed. It was Ford’s beautiful furry legs. I have to confess that I’m a traditionalist and I think short shorts are appropriate on an airplane especially in first class. YUMM.

  37. Very disappointed (and surprised) to see they are serving Charles Heidsieck champagne in F ! Same as what tight-a** SQ serve in their unspectacular Biz! Personally I hate it, and would prefer a good sparkling wine if I had the choice and no other champagne was available.

  38. Flew it on 4/17 from AUH to JFK, following our Maldives trip. 3rd time on it and it was great, we have always had good crews and I was thrilled to have the caviar service. This was the first time the lounge was busy, spent 2-3 hours back there during the flight, they had a number of luxury travel agents in biz class as part of their comped trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Had a lot of fun, get a little loud at times and got told to quiet down a little bit by the crew at times. Took a couple of the agents up front to see our cabin and they were all impressed.

  39. Going on same our next month. Glad to hear that the recent cuts have not seemed to have affected the service and product too much.

    Planning to get to the lounge around 7:30am. Flight departs around 9:35am. Is that enough time to enjoy the lounge amenities and get pre clearance accomplished?

    Thank you in advance for all your articles!

  40. I still find this to be a great product. While the service (and wine list) may not be on par with Singapore Airlines in F, this is still a fantastic and visually beautiful hard product.

    My complaint with Etihad is many of their connections into / out of Asia put you in pretty dated (and tight) Business Class configurations. They have very few F flights or aircraft using their newer business class seats.

    Based largely on Ben’s input I am flying Oman next trip as an alternative.

  41. @Mark3: Nah man, you spot the award travelers who are purposely getting dressed just to fly. People with real money don’t give a shit what they wear when flying. People with shit to prove on the other hand…

  42. @JJJ – pricing it to sell and pricing it for profit may be a challenge. I wonder how many folks who can actually afford it just don’t fly private anyway. Another option could be for them to just replace it with more Apartments, as those were apparently full.

  43. I liked the little poke for the caviar.

    In all seriousness though, caviar must be Russian. Otherwise they are just vile fish eggs.

  44. Zero fashion sense here. I wear black jeans, a t-shirt and a sports coat unless I’m playing sports or having sex (or sleeping). It doesn’t matter whether I fly in first class or on AA.

  45. Although I’m just a Security Officer currently, I now know what I was meant to be. So can you please reserve my spot in the A-380 “Residence Suite” as soon as possible please? Lol…just don’t tell my Employer that we are billing them for it.
    AC

  46. @Lucky – you seriously booked via Etihad miles? I looked into this but even for GuestSeats it’s ridiculously high – as in, 3x or more of what AA charges…. May I ask how much you paid?

  47. @ Oliver — I seriously did, and three seats on one flight at that. I booked at the lowest rate, which was ~120K miles per person one-way at the time.

  48. @ Terry — They encourage you to head towards Pre-Clearance at 8:05AM, though you probably don’t actually have to go that early. If you don’t want to be rushed, I’d get to the lounge around 7AM, so you can have a leisurely breakfast.

  49. Lucky
    The Etihad bed always divides opinion both on its size (narrowness) and firmness, can you give us a more specific comparison (comfort & size) with other First Class offerings?

  50. The US pre-clearance works one place only. Shannon. And then only with the BA 001 A318 which runs 50% or less occupied, so less than 10 people total clearing.

    Never had a problem in Toronto either but I have not been there in a long time. These days, I just do plain old US customs on arrival in the US. Give Detroit a try. Well-staffed customs posts which keeps the line short.

  51. Thanks for the update & Picture of Ford – very funny and nice legs 🙂

    I’m flying AUH-SYD in a week or so. My last flight RTW17 SYD-AUH, the hard product was poor. A light kept coming on in the unoccupied part next to mine, crew acknowledged but nothing done. I continued on to IAD in the DreamLiner. The pre-clear was easy peasy that day 🙂

    I’m getting to AUH via Casablanca and Air Maroc B787-9 from JFK. I’ll position from DCA in economy, then Business on Air Maroc, then Apartment, then SQ new suites to Singapore, Tokyo on SQ B77W with 1 row. Finally home to IAD in ANA’ 1st Class box. :-). RTW19 2.0

  52. Oh, dear. Casual shorts in international first class.

    Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

  53. I have been lucky enough to travel in Etihad First Class on more than 20 occasions in the last 18 months and can’t say I have experienced your inconsistent service. It has always been excellent. I also find the bed comfortable and although it does not recline it is really fabulous.

  54. I flew the same route just the other day, and I had a great time. I had booked the flight months ago, and with all the bad news coming out regarding Etihad — cost-cutting measures amid big economic losses — I had concerns that the flight would not live up to expectations and the hype. Fortunately, that was not the case. Maybe I lowered my expectations a bit, but I was blown away nevertheless. The “Apartment” was spacious, IFE offered a great selection of movies, the food was flavorful and engaging (first time I was offered a sorbet to cleanse my palate for the main course), and the shower was something novel. The bed as some have said was a bit on the firm side, and the shower space was a bit cramped, but those are quibbles in the grand scheme of things. Most of all, the crew — Wei, Anna, and Pedro — were awesome and professional and made the whole trip something I will remember fondly for a long time.

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