My flight from London to Abu Dhabi in Etihad’s first class “Apartments” could not have been more perfect.
As a reminder, I’m in the midst of a “vintage” trip report to India/Maldives. But even though this flight review is three years old, it still captures what you can expect if you fly Etihad in first class today. In fact, despite overall cutbacks at Etihad, first class remains largely unaffected. Etihad has even added caviar since I took my flight.
After a couple hours in the Etihad Lounge, boarding was called for our flight to Abu Dhabi. It my wife’s first time and Etihad and it was my first time on Etihad. I knew I would be thrilled by the onboard product, but my wife’s the more difficult sale…she’s not easily impressed. How would she find the service?
Boarding was chaotic. Everyone converged upon the gate and it took some time to find the proper boarding door for first class.
Etihad Airways 20
London (LHR) – Abu Dhabi (AUH)
Sunday, December 27
Depart: 02:05 PM
Arrive: 01:20 AM+1
Duration: 07hr, 15min
Distance: 3,432 miles
Aircraft: Airbus A380-800
Seat: 5C (First Class Apartment)
Onboard, I was warmly welcomed by Margot and led to my seat. The cabin was glistening in the afternoon sunlight.
Etihad Airways A380 First Class Service
Let’s start with the service, since it truly defined everything else on this flight. In a word, it was perfect. Not just good. Not just great. But perfect. The crew was the perfect blend of professional and friendly; attentive but not overbearing. I recently wrote about Marcel, a tremendous first class flight attendant I recently had the pleasure of flying with on Lufthansa. It is no surprise he worked for Etihad before Lufthansa.
The crew happily obliged my photo request and truly are the story of this flight. It was more than precisely setting the table or promptly clearing dishes. It was about more than addressing my wife and I by surname or letting me sample the wine before pouring a full glass. What impressed me the most was how much the crew seemed to love their jobs.
Jackson, the chef (far left in the picture above), was the star among stars. Unlike most of my trip reports, I don’t have a menu to post. While there was certainly a detailed a la carte menu and wine list provided, I never even opened it. Instead, Jackson appeared at our suite (I was sitting with Heidi), introduced himself, and just asked us what we wanted to eat. I said lamb, my wife said fish, and he said no problem. He asked if it would be okay to customize dinner for us, asking us when we wanted to eat but saying he would take care of everything else. I loved the initiative. Even my wife was impressed.
Etihad Airways A380 First Class Suite – “The Apartments”
The suite itself is among the most spacious and private first class suites in the air, though it is actually not one of my favorites. I booked this trip nearly a year in advance and yet somehow failed to secure seats next to each other. The cool thing about these Etihad suites is that a partition comes down so that you can enjoy “pillow talk” with your traveling companion.
But we found ourselves with seats across the aisle from eachother. And while that was perfectly fine (we still dined together), I found the C and H seats to be mildly annoying because the seat is so far from the window. If you are traveling with someone, choose a combo of A/A seats or K/K seats. If traveling alone, you also want A or K seats.
The pictures below include both 5C and 5H, our two seats.
The seat does not transform into a bed. Instead, a bench expands to becomes a wider bed. While there is plenty of legroom, I did not find the bed all that comfortable and found the lack of personal storage space a bit annoying. I was traveling with my Rimowa cabin rollerboard and it did not fit in the storage compartment under the bench/bed.
Small details…I still enjoyed a superb nap (I can sleep on anything flat, soft or hard) and find the suite comfortable and quiet overall. And there were plenty of plugs and lights as well…you need not worry.
The suite also includes a closet sufficient for clothing or smaller hand baggage.
I’ll add this. I was sleeping so soundly, flight attendants had to shake me awake. It took a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice and a hot towel to wake me up!
Etihad Airways A380 Lounge
Etihad offers a lounge between first class and business class. It includes a circular couch and a self-serve bar. I visited once toward the end of the flight and it was empty. It is not nearly as impressive as the bar area onboard Emirates’ A380.
Etihad Airways A380 First Class Dining
Waiting at my seat was some water and dates as well as a note from Marc, the cabin manager, welcoming me onboard and a warm towel. Jackson soon came by with Arabic coffee.
But that was not even the pre-flight beverage. Margot appeared shortly after and offered me a choice of beverage. I ordered champagne, which was served with mixed nuts, olives, and vegetable chips.
Heidi and I opted to dine midway through the flight. I walked over to her suite and sat down on the ottoman, we notified Jackson that we were ready to eat, and he took care of the rest.
First, the table was beautifully set for our dinner. I received a soup spoon and my wife did not. Hmm…
In anticipation of my lamb, a wonderful 2012 Croix de Eeaucaillou was offered. It’s a $50 bottle of wine, but dazzled my palate. Heidi does not drink alcohol and requested Diet Coke.
The bread basket arrived and I chose sumptuous garlic bread , which I quickly devoured.
Jackson next brought over a duck appetizer with pickled vegetables on top. It was very good.
More bread was offered and I reloaded on garlic bread and took a white roll.
I was offered potato soup while Heidi was offered a beautiful green salad. I think the intention was that we share…and that’s exactly what we did. The balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing was of the highest quality.
Next, a peach palate cleanser arrived, which prepared us for the main course to come.
Then main courses were beautifully presented. Heidi’s fish was topped with a sprig of thyme and served with vegetables and potatoes on the side.
My lamb was served in a lovely red wine sauce and topped with rosemary. On the side was broccolini, a cooked tomato, cooked carrots, and au gratin potatoes.
Best of all, the lamb was cooked medium rare. I did not even have to request it!
But the meal was still not complete. A cheese plate appeared so nicely arranged that I include photographs from several angles.
More than just visually appealing, the cheese were remarkably rich and tasty.
Speaking of rich, dessert arrived next. It included a lovely crepe in vanilla sauce with a warmed berry compote and some chocolate ice cream on the side. A delicious fruit plate was also offered.
The feast concluded with coffee: an Americano for my wife and cappuccino for me.
Delicious food served at a perfect pace. I could not have asked for more in an airline meal…
Etihad Airways A380 First Class Amenity Kit
The first class amenity kit case appeared like a beaded American Indian moccasin. All the contents were distributed on shelves in a vanity mirror that was also part of the suite. While not as impressive as even the Emirates Business Class amenity kit, the kit included basics like toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, eye mask, ear plugs, and a razor with shaving cream. Pajamas are not offered on daytime flights.
Etihad Airways A380 First Class IFE + Wi-Fi
Wireless internet did not function on this flight, though I tried multiple times to connect. In fact, most of the time I could not even summon the splash page to begin the login process.
The IFE library is extensive and included music, TV shows, movies, games, and an interactive map showing our flight progress toward Abu Dhabi. Seat-to-seat calling is also available. My wife and I ended up spending an hour playing “Elephant Memory” in a competitive contest to see who could match all pairs in the least amount of time. I took a very early lead, but Heidi ended up beating me by a few seconds toward the end of the flight. She continued to play while I slept…
Noise cancelling headphones were offered (and collected prior to landing).
Etihad Airways A380 First Class Lavatory + Shower
Finally, the lavatories were spacious and well-appointed with La Labo amenities. A shower suite was available (only in the right front lavatory), but I opted not to take one onboard. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I passed up the opportunity to compare showers to Emirates First Class, but they work in a similar way. Both are timed, but you can pause and restart the flow of water at will.
My only true gripe on this flight, like all flights between the Middle East and Europe, is that it was too short. I would have loved a 14-hour flight from Abu Dhabi to New York to fully experience this product. That said, my flight from London to Abu Dhabi was more than long enough to appreciate what a special product Etihad has…and still has. And you know something? My wife loved it too. That’s really saying something.