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Review: Grand Hyatt Hong Kong Grand Suite
Review: Cathay Pacific The Pier First Class Lounge Hong Kong Airport
Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class A330 Hong Kong To Kuala Lumpur
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Review: Malaysia Airlines First Class Lounge Kuala Lumpur Airport
Review: Malaysia Airlines Business Class 737 Kuala Lumpur To Bali
Review: St. Regis Bali Pool Suite
Review: St. Regis Bali Lagoon Villa
Review: St. Regis Bali Restaurants & Activities
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Review: Qatar Airways Business Class 777 Bali To Doha
Review: St. Regis Doha
Review: Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha Airport
Review: Qatar Airways First Class 777 Doha To Abu Dhabi
Review: Le Meridien Abu Dhabi
Review: Rosewood Abu Dhabi
Interlude: 30 Hours In Abu Dhabi
Review: Etihad US Pre-Clearance Lounge Abu Dhabi Airport
Review: Etihad First Class A380 Abu Dhabi To New York
Review: Le Parker Meridien New York
I was fortunate enough to be on Etihad’s first ever commercial A380 flight, which was from Abu Dhabi to London on December 27, 2014. Naturally I was really excited to try the product again on a flight double the length, as it would allow me to fully enjoy the First Class Apartment.
Abu Dhabi (AUH) – New York (JFK)
Monday, November 23
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Seat: 5H (First Class Apartment)
Entering through the forward upper deck door and turning left into the Etihad A380 first class cabin is an unmatched experience in commercial aviation. It’s the only cabin with just a single aisle, and everything about it is beautiful.
As you’ll see, the partition behind the front left seat is higher up than all the others, and that’s because The Residence is located there, which is Etihad’s three room private suite with butler service. Speaking of butler service, the butler on this flight was Georgina, the same one who worked the first Etihad A380 flight. It’s always nice to see familiar faces!
In this instance I had reserved Apartment 5H, while Tiffany was in 5C. Those were the only two seats available when we booked. I shared my favorite Etihad First Class Apartment seats in a different post, and while row five isn’t my favorite, it was still a heck of a seat.
The seats alternate between facing forwards and backwards, and between being closer to the aisle and closer to the window. 5H is a rear facing aisle seat. I’d say the one downside of the seat is that it only has a single window, not that you can even really look out of it when in your seat, given how far away it is. But some of the other seats have three windows.
But I mean, seriously, what a stunning product. The seat was on the left, while on the right was a massive ottoman/bench, which converts into a bed when you’re ready to sleep.
Across from the bench is the vanity, which is a pretty innovative use of space. The amenity kit was already waiting in the vanity, with all the individual contents in the compartments along the side.
Then closer to the seat is a vertical storage unit, which pops out of the side of the vanity area.
To extend the tray table you first have to push the compartment forward, and then the tray can be pulled out. Above the tray table are the entertainment controls, as well as a USB outlet.
Then on the right side of the seat were the basic seat controls.
Also below the left side of the seat is a storage compartment and a chilled minibar.
Anything which doesn’t fit in the storage compartment can be stored horizontally below the “bench,” as it’s tall enough to fit an average carry-on.
The suite is just brilliantly designed, and couldn’t be any more beautiful.
Also waiting at my seat was a plush, light blanket. I love these blankets, and wish there were a place to buy them.
The entertainment screen showed the name of the captain, first officer, cabin manager, and inflight chef, which I find to be a nice personalized touch.
Within moments of settling in the Italian food & beverage manager, Roberto, came by to introduce himself and offer me a drink. I requested a glass of champagne, which was served on the usual tray, along with a hot towel, some dates, and a welcome note from the cabin manager, Rita.
Shortly thereafter, the Spanish food & beverage manager, Alejandro, came by to offer me the menu for the flight, and explain the “dine on demand” concept. Based on the food & beverage manager and onboard chef alone, I could tell it would be a great flight.
Since this was an inaugural flight, there was a cute little souvenir waiting at my seat, which was a little replica NYC taxi.
Moments later the cabin manager, Rita, came by to introduce herself and offer me an inaugural flight certificate (which I now have three of from Etihad — I just have to figure out what I’ll do with them).
Moments later Florentina, the other first class flight attendant, came by to introduce herself and offer me some pajamas and slippers. I find Etihad’s pajamas to be among the most stylish out there, even though they’re not hugely branded by the airline (in other words, they don’t have “Etihad” written in big letters on them).
At around 3:30AM the Canadian captain came on the PA to welcome everyone aboard, and give us more information about the flight. He informed us of our lengthy flight time of 14hr20min, and that we’d be cruising at 30,000 feet initially, and eventually be working our way up to 40,000 feet, as we burned off some fuel.
After that Rita made her welcome aboard announcement, informing us there were 23 cabin crew.
The first class cabin was completely full at this point — there were two passengers in The Residence (a middle-aged “local” couple), and nine people in the First Class Apartments (for what it’s worth, I believe three of them were “local,” while six of them were from the US).
At 3:35AM we began our pushback, at which point the travel prayer and safety video began to play. Time passed so quickly, as I couldn’t believe we had already been aboard for over 30 minutes — it felt like 10.
Our taxi to the runway took a while, and at 3:55AM we were finally airborne, after a long takeoff roll. I apologize for the glare from the screen, but it’s tough to capture the tail camera at night.
While I’ve sat backwards on planes many times, there was something a bit odd about the sensation of sitting backwards but not being close to the window. Since I wasn’t able to look outside, my only point of reference was the tail camera, and that was sort of playing tricks on my mind, since every sensation you feel is the opposite of what you’re looking directly at (that’s easier to come to terms with when you’re looking out of a window rather than at a screen, in my opinion).
As we climbed out I switched from the tail camera to the airshow, to see our path for the night, which would take us over Europe, and then right across the Atlantic.
About 10 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off, at which point the crew sprung into action, including putting up the “rope” at the top of the staircase.
Florentina came by to take reservations for the shower. While Emirates has two A380 shower spas, Etihad has one to share among the nine passengers, so it’s a bit more important to reserve them in advance. I reserved a shower for about three hours before landing.
I took the opportunity to log onto the internet. Etihad charges just $21.95 for a 24 hour pass with unlimited data. I consider that to be an excellent deal for a longhaul flight, given how much some airlines charge. And I find Etihad’s wifi to also usually be quite functional.
At that point the meal service began.
The wine list read as follows:
Ok, so confession time. For the first time in my trip reporting “career” I lost the menu for the flight. So I don’t have the exact menu for the flight, but Etihad’s menus are always similar. So instead I’ll share the menu from a subsequent Abu Dhabi to Sydney flight:
- All flights have the biryani and “from the grill” selection, which is almost always what I have
- All flights have the mezze
- The breakfast menu is very similar on most longhaul flights
So the below is very similar to what the menu is like on New York to Abu Dhabi, though not exactly. Sorry about that!
Anyway, here is the Abu Dhabi to Sydney menu:
After takeoff I had another glass of champagne, which was accompanied by nuts, olives, and dried veggies/chips.
Shortly thereafter Roberto set my table. Etihad does such a great job with their table setting, and I especially love their plates & glassware.
I was also offered a selection from the bread basket, and chose garlic bread.
The meal started with a small amuse bouche, though I have no clue what it actually was. I do know it wasn’t especially good, though.
For the starter I had the mezze, which was one of the better presentations I’ve seen of it. Before Etihad rebranded they had a gorgeous mezze setup, though for whatever reason they made it significantly less impressive. Emirates wins hands down when it comes to their mezze.
After the starter I was offered a citrus granita palate cleanser, which was refreshing.
For the main course I had ordered the fish biryani, which was spectacular, and gorgeously plated by chef Alejandro.
To finish off the meal I had the trio of desserts along with a cappuccino.
The meal was done about two hours into the flight, leaving me over 12 hours left to enjoy before landing in New York. The food was fantastic, and the crew was on top of their game. I find Etihad crews are generally efficient, though aren’t always the most charming. This crew was engaging, attentive, and charming.
At this point I was feeling a bit tired, so asked the crew to make my bed. While they did so, I headed up to the lavatory. There are two lavatories in Etihad A380 first class. The forward most one is the larger one, and is just a bathroom.
The slightly smaller one has a bathroom and shower — certainly not as spacious as the Emirates facilities!
My bed was quickly made, and I managed to nap for about three hours. I should note that while I love the Etihad A380 First Class Apartment, the bed as such isn’t the most comfortable in the world. It’s not all that wide and the padding isn’t amazing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great bed in absolute terms, but there are better ones out there, like on Cathay Pacific, Qantas, etc.
I woke up as we were passing Helsinki. I wasn’t especially tired and wanted to also be able to enjoy the flight, so figured I’d get up for a bit.
We headed back to The Lobby, which is the lounge located between first & business class. The galley behind first class is massive (it’s used for both first & business class service), so it can be a bit of an obstacle course to walk between first class and The Lobby.
The Lobby has a total of six seats along with a coffee table and a live TV (which is a bit awkward when all the news was covering were airplane bomb threats), and is a nice space. It’s not quite as social as the Emirates A380 bar, but that can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on where you’re headed or what kind of a mood you’re in.
Across from The Lobby is a drink display, though you can’t actually serve yourself beverages there. I really do wish they’d set up a self serve bar of some sort, maybe just with some light snacks. Fortunately this crew was really good, so as soon as we sat down in The Lobby they came by to offer us drinks and snacks.
While it might not have made sense timing wise, we ordered some afternoon tea and cappuccinos to start. Because… why not?
After that it was a round of champagne. I guess the flight attendants realized we might have needed some hydration as well, so they brought us a pitcher of flavored water. 😉
Then we switched to gin & tonics, and they brought out some more snacks, including nuts and chips.
We had so much fun in The Lobby, though I figured it made sense to go back to my seat and get some shut eye at some point. When I returned to my seat my bed had once again been refreshed.
I woke up from my nap with about five hours until landing in New York, though managed to go back to sleep a bit longer.
At this point I got to watch a gradual sunrise over the next couple of hours, which was beautiful.
I’ve never actually used the entertainment system on the Etihad A380, though I did browse the selection, which was extensive.
Who needs any other entertainment when you can just watch the tail camera? 😉
As a snack I decided to order some strawberry ice cream.
At this point it was time for my shower appointment, so the flight attendant fetched me to bring me to the shower and explain the “features.” The actual shower on Etihad is very similar to Emirates, in that you have five minutes of water. However, the bathroom setup as a whole is much nicer on Emirates than on Etihad, in my opinion.
About two hours before landing the breakfast service began. I had some muesli with milk to start.
That was served with a croissant and danish on the side.
I also had a cappuccino.
For the main course I ordered scrambled eggs well done. They were prepared perfectly, and I loved that they had Tabasco to accompany it.
Before descent I took another picture of the cabin.
I also headed back to business class to look at that product, but the cabin was still dark at that point, and I didn’t want to disturb.
As we began our initial descent, a “Discover America” video played throughout the whole cabin. It was intended to be a “welcome to the US” video, though the music was painfully loud, and the whole theme was a bit cheesy. I was amused that they were showcasing the diversity in America, including a same sex couple with a kid — not every day you see that showcased on a Middle Eastern carrier!
At around 8:55AM ET we began our descent into New York, and within about 15 minutes the seatbelt sign was turned on. I stowed all my carry-ons and turned on the tail camera for the entire approach.
Our approach into New York was quite rough, and felt a bit weird with the backwards facing seat away from the window.
Eventually we had a rough as hell landing on runway 31L at 9:25AM.
From there it was a 15 minute taxi to our arrival gate at Terminal 4.
There we parked next to a China Southern 777, and just a couple of gates from a Singapore Airlines A380. Come to think of it, I’m not sure what a Singapore Airlines A380 plane was doing on the ground in New York, as the flight only lands from Frankfurt at around 11AM, and doesn’t depart till later in the evening.
Upon pulling into our gate we exited straight into the terminal, which is the benefit of a Pre-Clearance facility. It’s nice to arrive as a domestic passenger (though with Global Entry, immigration isn’t that much of a pain nowadays either).
The views of the plane on arrival were gorgeous, including from the AirTrain as I was headed into the city, just a few minutes after arriving at the gate.
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment bottom line
Etihad’s A380 is a stunning plane, and it was so nice to finally fly it on a longer flight, where I could really enjoy the seat, bed, and all the amenities. This truly is a revolutionary product, one which changed so many aspects of the seat “concept.”
I love most things about the product. The amount of personal space is insane. The design of the cabin is breathtaking. But there are also a few downsides, which I covered in my recent post comparing Emirates and Etihad A380 first class. What’s less great about the product?
- While it’s awesome that Etihad has a shower, the shower experience isn’t anywhere close to what Emirates offers
- The Lobby is a nice concept, though I prefer the Emirates onboard bar, which I find to be a lot more fun
- While the amount of personal space in The Apartment is fantastic, the bed itself isn’t the most comfortable in the sky
- It’s nice to have both a seat and a bed, though there’s not really a “middle” setting; the seat doesn’t really recline down much and the bed doesn’t recline up at all, so you can basically only be fully upright or fully reclined
Those are just some minor thoughts, in the interest of being as detailed as possible. All things considered I still think the Etihad A380 First Class Apartment is among the world’s best first class product. With a great crew, the experience is unbeatable.
I’m so happy to see Etihad flying this plane to the US.