In late December I took Etihad Airways’ inaugural A380 flight between Abu Dhabi and London. While Etihad is only the 12th airline to take delivery of the A380, they’ve innovated in ways that we haven’t really seen from other carriers.
Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment product is amazing
As far as I’m concerned the highlight of the Etihad A380s are the First Apartments, which are the most spacious first class seats in the industry.
Etihad A380 First Apartment cabin
Not surprisingly, initially Etihad didn’t make any saver level First Apartment award seats available on the A380. That’s pretty normal for airlines, whereby they want to keep the product “exclusive” at first by blocking awards, and in many cases even blocking discounted paid tickets.
Etihad is now releasing A380 First Apartment awards to Sydney
I was very pleasantly surprised, however, when in late December Etihad began releasing First Apartment award space between Abu Dhabi and London, which is the launch route for the A380. They were actually releasing a substantial amount of First Apartment award space, often two seats per flight:
This continues to be the case.
The second route on which Etihad will operate the A380 is Abu Dhabi to Sydney, which launches as of June 1, 2015. The flight will operate with the following schedule:
EY454 Abu Dhabi to Sydney departing 9:50PM arriving 5:40PM (+1 day)
EY455 Sydney to Abu Dhabi departing 9:50PM arriving 6:25AM (+1 day)
I’m really excited about this route. While Abu Dhabi to London is probably Etihad’s “flagship” route, a 6-7 hour flight isn’t really enough to truly enjoy this amazing product.
Etihad A380 First Apartment seat
A 13-15 hour flight between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, on the other hand, is plenty of time to enjoy the product, get a good night of rest, etc.
Etihad A380 First Apartment seat
While Etihad didn’t initially release A380 First Apartment award space between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, they now are. Etihad is releasing two First Class Apartment award seats between Abu Dhabi and Sydney on many flights.
This applies both between Abu Dhabi and Sydney:
And between Sydney and Abu Dhabi:
For what it’s worth, Etihad is also releasing plenty of award space on this route in their Business Studio:
That being said, I think the incremental cost of First Apartment is well worth it.
Redeem American miles for Etihad First Class Apartments
You can search award availability on Etihad’s website, and if there’s “GuestSeat” space then you can also book it with American miles. Here’s a primer on searching Etihad award space.
The best way to redeem miles for this flight is through American AAdvantage. Travel between the Middle East and Australia is actually one of the sweet spots on the American AAdvantage award chart. They charge:
- 60,000 AAdvantage miles one-way in first class
- 45,000 AAdvantage miles one-way in business class
As a reminder:
- The American AAdvantage routing rules don’t let you travel from Europe or the US to Australia via the Middle East, so you’d need to book separate awards for positioning, assuming you’re not originating in Australia or the Middle East. There’s an exception for the Qantas flights between London and Melbourne/Sydney that connect in Dubai, since they’re considered “direct” flights.
- You can’t redeem US Airways Dividend Miles for travel on Etihad, since they’re not one of their partner airlines — that being said, Dividend Miles will be merged into AAdvantage in the second quarter, at which point you’ll be able to.
- For no additional miles, you can include positioning segments within the Middle East or within Australia/New Zealand, as long as there are no connections of over 24 hours.
Etihad’s A380 First Apartment is arguably one of the best first class products in the world. I’d argue the hard product is hands down the best in the world. Add in the fact that American’s award redemption rates between the Middle East and Australia are ridiculously lucrative, and this is a heck of a deal.
This is possibly one of the best award redemption values ever.
(Tip of the hat to Gabe)