Etihad First Apartment: AUH-SYD A380
Etihad introduced their new A380 with Apartments and The Residence on December 27th, 2014 serving their Abu Dhabi to London route. Ever since they started this service I’ve been eyeing any opportunity to try it out and my dream came true last month. With the devaluation of American Airlines miles last week I knew I needed to spend some of my 175,000 miles I had accrued over the past year. I found 2 dates throughout all of 2016 in which the Abu Dhabi to Sydney route (14hr flight) had 1 seat available using miles and one of the dates worked out perfectly. I was able to book the ticket for only 60,000 AA miles (now 100,000 miles as of March 22, 2016) and $117.50 in taxes/fees one-way. You have to call AA to book it as it’s not available online. To find availability, use Etihad’s website and find a Guest First seat available using their award ticket search. Award tickets can be an amazing value as the retail price for my ticket was running USD $5,555. An amazing $0.09 per mile value! Here’s a quick preview of the Etihad Apartment: http://www.etihad.com/en-us/experience-etihad/flying-reimagined/first-apartment/
As I was arriving on a separate ticket, I needed to go through customs, collect my bags and check-in for my flight (EY454) from Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Sydney (SYD). Terminal 3 was undergoing some construction but after I found the entrance to the First Class checkin it felt like I was at a hotel. Plenty of couches and chairs as you wait to be checked in. Check-in was flawless and I was handed my golden ticket, a boarding pass for Apartment 4A. There is a dedicated security and immigration checkpoint so I experienced no wait. I proceeded to the Lounge which is their Business Class lounge with an area roped off for First Class guests. Etihad is opening a dedicated First Class lounge in Abu Dhabi sometime in May 2016. I’ll have to come back to check it out. After entering the lounge, I proceeded to get a hot towel shave, a shower and a 15 minute massage at the Six Senses Spa within the lounge. The shave and shower were much needed after flying for the past 20 hours. To make it even more enjoyable the massage clinched it. I was so pumped for the flight I just grabbed a few small snacks and a drink from the bar as I waited in the First Class area. I proceeded to my gate a little early to try and snap some photos and ended up having to wait about 25 minutes until boarding started.
Walking down the jet bridge to the plane was so surreal as another A380 was parked next to us. I couldn’t wait to get onboard! Upon entering the plane, I was greeted and shown to my Apartment. It was massive! There are 9 in total, configured 1-1 across a single aisle, and take up a total area of 39 square feet. It features a 30.3 inch wide reclining chair, a full length ottoman which can be transformed into a bed, a 24-inch TV monitor which can swing to align itself to the ottoman so that it can be viewed from the bed, a vanity cabinet and a chilled drinks bar with assorted drinks. Shortly after getting situated I was brought a hot towel, dates, water, champagne and a hand-signed letter from the Cabin Manager, Chirag. They know how to start things off on the right foot. Trying to get everyone onboard an A380 takes some time and we were delayed about 3o minutes due to Oman and India airspace traffic. I was happy with spending more time in this Apartment so that was no problem for me. I will note that you should avoid Seat 5A as the jet bridge covers the windows of that Apartment when boarding at the gate. After we were cleared for departure, I tuned into the plane’s tail camera to watch the taxing from the best vantage point without being the pilot. It took about 50 seconds of full power until the A380 was able to get off the runway. This is one huge plane!
Service started right after we cleared 10,000 ft. The chef brought some appetizers to go with my Johnnie Walker Blue & Coke (no limes available, only lemons). It was a late evening departure so I opted for a salad with fresh fish and finished it with a hazelnut tart. The fish was very fresh and delicious. After the meal I just wanted to sleep so I went to change into the provided pajamas and the flight attendant made my bed. The bed had a “Sweet Dreams” card on it and off to bed I went. I slept very well for 5 hours but the bedding pad could be better and they should look to Cathay Pacific for advice as they have the best bed pad available.
After waking up I decided to take a shower onboard so the flight attendant prepared the shower for me. This was my 1st inflight shower experience! They limit the timer to 5 minutes of water for obvious reasons but it was plenty of time for me. It reminded me of showering in a RV or houseboat. Very tight quarters but amazing! I was so refreshed after taking the shower. This was another highlight of my flying experiences and comes in as a close 2nd compared to my private jet experience last year. Once I returned to my seat I noticed the crew had made my bed already. 5 star hotel service but on a plane!
I decided I was hungry again and opted for a steak. About 30 minutes later a perfectly cooked steak arrived at my Apartment along with veggies & mashed potatoes. All the tableware was fine bone china which was a first for me on a flight. Very exclusive!
There was WiFi onboard which offered unlimited data for $21.95 for the entire flight which is an excellent deal and offered similar speeds to my previous flight on the Etihad B787. There was only one outage of about 30 minutes when we were just off the west coast of Australia. It’s nice to have something else to do besides watching movies although with a 24″ screen I did watch a few. They even offer an HDMI port to present your laptop but you must bring your own HDMI. I asked for one and unfortunately they didn’t carry one. As we were flying over Australia, I was offered a newspaper which was freshly printed on very nice paper. This was way over the top. They must have a printer onboard and it doesn’t surprise me at all. I explored the plane a bit and checked out the onboard lounge/bar as well as business class. The lounge was in use by a business class guest but it would be great if you had a group on the flight to hangout.
Before landing, I requested a steak sandwich and a peppermint tea for dinner as we were landing in the evening into Sydney. Both items were very good and I was very satisfied. We were given the Express Path card for expedited immigration and we landed with a beautiful view of Sydney off in the distance with the iconic Harbour Bridge standing out. It was now time to say goodbye to the best flight I’ve ever had. The crew, the food, the shower, the bed, the Apartment, etc. were all top notch. I can’t wait to fly it again when my travels route me through Abu Dhabi. Or I force a connection in AUH 😉 The chauffeur driver was waiting outside of baggage claim and I was brought to my hotel at no charge by Etihad.
Even though my Cathay Pacific redemption had greater per mile value, this redemption had the best hard product I’ve ever flown. Better than Emirates First Class on their A380, Singapore Suites on their A380, ANA on their B777 and Cathay Pacific on their B777.
This is the world’s best first class product and the product now to beat!