Introduction: New Years In The Maldives, Summer In New Zealand
Review: Etihad Airways Lounge New York JFK
Review: Etihad First Class A380 New York To Abu Dhabi
Review: Etihad Airways Arrivals Lounge Abu Dhabi
Review: Etihad Business Class A340 Abu Dhabi To Male
Review: Returning To The Park Hyatt Maldives
This Is What A $570 Per Person New Year’s Eve Hotel Gala Is Like
Review: Etihad First Class A380 Abu Dhabi To Sydney
Review: Park Hyatt Sydney
Review: Qantas Business Class 737 Sydney To Auckland
Review: Hilton Auckland
Review: Air New Zealand Lounge Auckland
Review: Hilton Queenstown
Review: American First Class 777-300ER Sydney To Los Angeles
Etihad’s A380s arguably feature the world’s most stunning and revolutionary first class product, with their First Class Apartments. I was lucky enough to be on Etihad’s first A380 flight from Abu Dhabi to London, and subsequently on their first ever A380 flight from Abu Dhabi to New York.
I was excited to experience the A380 flying in the other direction, from New York to Abu Dhabi. In this installment I’ll focus a bit less on the seat (since I’ve covered it in great detail before), and a bit more on the flight itself.
New York (JFK) – Abu Dhabi (AUH)
Saturday, December 26
Arrive: 12:15PM (+1 day)
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Seat: 3A (First Class Apartment)
We boarded through the upper deck door, which is located between the first and business class cabins. We were escorted to the left, into the stunning first class cabin. Even though this is a widebody, there’s a single aisle in the first class cabin, which makes the cabin feel that much more special.
In this case I was booked in seat 3A, Ford was booked in seat 2H, and Matt was booked in seat 5H. I’ve written a post in the past about what I consider to be the best Etihad A380 First Class Apartments, so see that post for more. If you’re traveling with someone you’ll ideally want 3A & 4A, 3K & 4K, or 1H & 2H, due to them being connected. But we booked last minute, so we took what we could get.
Words can’t really do justice to how gorgeous the Etihad A380 First Class Apartment is, so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Since I was in seat 3A, I was in a rear facing window seat. The seats in the cabin alternate between being forward facing and rear facing, and also between being closer to the aisle and closer to the window.
Two rows in front of me was The Residence, Etihad’s famous three room suite with butler service. It was empty on this flight, as I find to be the norm.
Funny enough, seated in front of me was American Airlines guru JonNYC. This wasn’t planned at all, but rather we just connected the dots once we were both seated. Small world!
Once settled in, we were individually welcomed aboard by the onboard chef (from South Africa), food & beverage manager (from Portugal), and flight attendant (from India) who would be taking care of us.
Hugo, the food & beverage manager, quickly came by to offer us pre-departure beverages. Since the First Class Apartments are so big, all three of us sat in one “apartment” while we had drinks. We had champagne, which was served with hot towels, dates, and a welcome aboard note from the cabin manager.
Shortly thereafter we were offered slippers and pajamas for the flight.
While Etihad’s pajamas are fairly plain, they’re also quite comfortable.
About 15 minutes after we settled in, Chef Gareth came by to present us with the menus for the flight. He returned about 15 minutes later to take orders. Unfortunately they had already run out of biryani by the time they took our orders. Fortunately there’s a ton of stuff on Etihad’s menu, so there’s no shortage of options.
At around 12:50PM (20 minutes after scheduled departure) the captain came on the PA to welcome everyone aboard and wish us a merry Christmas. He informed us there was a slight delay due to flow control, and that the delay could last another half an hour or so. He informed us of our flight time of 12hr5min, and promised to do everything he could to get us an arrival as close to on-time as possible.
Fortunately the crew did a great job keeping our champagne glasses nice and full throughout the delay, so we were happy to be spending more time on Etihad’s gorgeous A380.
Finally at around 3:20PM we began our pushback, 50 minutes behind schedule. All nine First Class Apartments were occupied.
We pushed next to an EL AL 747, Virgin Atlantic A340, and Emirates A380 (at last Virgin was in the middle in this case — I always chuckle when I see EL AL and Emirates parked immediately next to one another).
As we taxied the safety video began to play, starting with the typical travel prayer.
It was about 30 minutes from when we pushed back until we took off.
It took about five minutes for us to start up our engines, the taxi out to runway 4L took about 15 minutes, and from there we had about a 10 minute wait before we were cleared for takeoff.
Eventually we were cleared onto the runway, and immediately began our takeoff roll.
It was a fairly long takeoff roll, as you might expect, and a very smooth climb out of JFK.
While it wasn’t the nicest day below the clouds, it was gorgeous above, as is the norm.
15 minutes after takeoff the meal service began. The menu read as follows:
The beverage list read as follows:
I just want to note how brilliant Etihad’s menu is overall. I love the fact that they have such a customizable menu, where you can select your protein, sides, sauces, etc. Assuming they don’t run out of options, it’s fantastic to have this sort of flexibility.
Hugo told us to let him know when we were ready to eat. After our time in the lounge and extended ground delay we were feeling rather, ahem, refreshed, so decided to have the meal right away so we could nap.
We asked Hugo if we could all dine in one “apartment,” which he agreed to. “I’ve served two people in one before, but three will be a new challenge. I’m up for it.”
We were first brought three trays with our champagne glasses, along with mixed nuts, olives, and veggie crisps.
I appreciate that in first class Etihad brings out the glasses, and then brings out the bottle, at which point they serve you.
At that point it came time for our tables to be set, which was a fun challenge for Hugo.
We were offered a selection from the breadbasket — I selected pretzel and garlic bread.
We were offered a delicious amuse bouche, consisting of salmon.
As a starter I ordered the Arabic mezze, which tasted great, though I really think Etihad could work on the presentation a bit. It’s not that the chef did a bad job or anything, but that’s just the standard way they serve it nowadays.
Ford had the red lentil soup.
Meanwhile Matt had the smoked duck breast.
After the appetizers we were offered a yuzu sorbet as a palate cleanser, which was refreshing.
For the main course I ordered the grilled halibut with green beans and mixed vegetables, which was accompanied by garlic and herb butter.
Ford ordered chicken breast with green beans and mixed vegetables, served with tomato sauce.
Matt had the beef tenderloin with green beans and mixed vegetables, served with bearnaise sauce.
All three mains were fantastic. You’ve gotta love how customizable Etihad makes their meals. I can’t think of any other airline where you can just about custom order any main course.
We were quite full at this point, so just ordered a dessert taster to share, which included warm lemon pudding, berry jelly, and white chocolate yogurt cake. All three were delicious.
The meal was done about two hours into the flight, and service throughout was fantastic. Despite some turbulence and confined space on the one tray we were sharing, the crew did a great job taking care of us.
After that it was bed time, as we were hoping to be somewhat well rested for Abu Dhabi the following day.
The crew did a fabulous job with the turndown service. Does this look like an inviting place to sleep on a plane, or what?
I got a solid four hours of sleep, and woke up over Spain.
We were just reaching the halfway point of our flight.
Okay, I may have had one or two too many glasses of champagne between the lounge and flight, so I woke up feeling thirsty. Very, very, very thirsty. Five bottles of water later, I was feeling much better.
Ford woke up around the same time, though Matt slept almost the whole way to Abu Dhabi. To deal with our mild hangover, we decided to have a snack.
I ordered the leek and mushroom quiche, which was great.
Ford ordered the watercress soup to start, and then grilled chicken once again as his main.
At this point we were feeling much better, so we headed back to The Lobby, located between first & business class. It’s a cool space, though as a first class passenger doesn’t serve all that much of a purpose, given how big each suite is. Nonetheless we sat there for a while chatting.
I ordered a cappuccino while in The Lobby, along with an apricot and almond tart.
After that I decided to nap a bit longer. When I returned to my seat I was impressed to find that the crew had refreshed my suite without me asking.
I managed to nap for about an hour, and then decided to shower. Showering on a plane never gets old, so as usual I giggled throughout most of the five minute shower in pure amazement at being able to shower on a plane. I still think that Etihad’s shower isn’t quite as nice as the one offered by Emirates on the A380. Though that’s perhaps the ultimate first world comparison.
While I didn’t watch any TV shows or movies on this flight, I did enjoy watching the tail camera, because at this point we were flying straight towards the sun.
I ordered a coffee to try and wake up a bit more, and it was served with some baklava.
Soon enough we were about 90 minutes out of Abu Dhabi, so the crew came around to see if we wanted anything to eat.
I wasn’t in a breakfast mood, really, but did order an afternoon tea selection with English breakfast tea.
This consisted of a couple of small sandwiches, along with two scones, served with cream and fresh strawberries.
The only thing which could have been better is if they served actual clotted cream, rather than just cream.
Matt woke up around this time and took a picture of his breakfast, which included fresh fruit and scrambled eggs.
Soon enough we were in the final stretch of our journey, slowly approaching Bahrain.
Around this time, the captain came on the PA to provide us with updated arrival information. He anticipated we would land at around 12:55PM, which was 40 minutes after our scheduled arrival time.
The crew handed out fast track arrival cards, and slowly began preparing the cabin for landing.
The seatbelt sign was turned on at around 12:40PM, as we could start to see the coast of the UAE.
As usual, the coastal areas are actually quite beautiful, while further inland the landscape is a bit less inspiring.
Finally at 12:55PM we had a smooth touchdown in Abu Dhabi, and a 15 minute taxi to the gate.
One of the benefits of flying the A380 is that you’ll almost always get a gate, while most other Etihad planes park at remote stands. We pulled up to the terminal at 1:10PM.
I was impressed by the number of cleaners standing on the apron waiting for us to deplane so they could clean the plane.
Etihad First Class Apartment bottom line
This was another fantastic flight on Etihad. It’s especially fun when you have three of the nine seats for your party. Etihad’s A380 first class hard product is unlike any other in the world.
As far as Etihad’s soft product goes, I love the variety of dishes they have, so you can truly customize your meal however you’d like. This crew was fantastic as well, and was attentive and friendly.
This was probably one of my top 10 most fun flights ever!