Etihad's A380 first class apartments are undoubtedly some of the best first class seats in the sky. They're also slightly harder to redeem compared to other first class products out there so when Etihad opened up a tonne of award space back in November 2017, I jumped at the opportunity to book a couple of seats on the Abu Dhabi to Sydney Route.
If you're interested in learning how exactly I booked these tickets for only $216.58 + miles, you can read my detailed guide on it here.
After enjoying a few leisurely hours in the (most excellent) first class lounge in Abu Dhabi T3, it was time to board the A380 to Sydney. EY454 departs at 9:50 PM and arrives in Australia around 5:55 PM a day later. Personally, I like these night-time flights as you can more easily adapt to the new time zone.
Etihad A380 Boarding Procedure
As it turned out, AUH airport officials thought it would be an efficient idea to search every single passengers luggage (an A380 can fit more than 800 people…) one by one before allowing them to board…because are who needs X-ray machines?
Of course, the first and business class passengers had a single person checking each carry on bag while the economy queue had 4 staff checking bags. After standing in line for 10 minutes, we decided it was faster to walk back and join the economy line.
Finally on board, we were shown to our suites by the crew and offered a pre-departure champagne, who can refuse?
Etihad's First class suites consist of 9 fully enclosed apartments with a separate chair and bench which transforms into a bed upon request. The A380 also features "The Residence" which has a double bed, separate lounge and a private shower/bathroom. On our flight, it was booked. In fact, every single first-class suite was occupied.
Etihad First Class A380 Suite
Etihad's A380 first class suites are incredibly spacious. The actual seat is extremely wide and upholstered in leather.
The decline of the seat is average at best but perfectly fine for dining/working and lounging. The leather bench across doubles as a bed but can also accommodate a second guest so you could dine together.
Right across the seat is a massive 24 inch flat screen TV which swivels around so you can view it while in bed. Two separate remotes are present in the suite so you can operate the IFE from both the comfort of your seat or your bed.
Storage space in the suite is ample, but I found it too impractical at best. The vanity unit complete with mirror is perfect for doing makeup and is well lit (apparently that's important).
There are stowage areas under the bench but it was too small to even fit my LV 45 keepall, and the actually carry-on compartment was too small, so it wouldn't close on my cabin size Rimowa (which is technically approved for Etihad A380 first class).
A handy wardrobe is right next to the door and a convenient place to hang your jacket, shirts etc. Each suite has a sliding door which is manually operated and offers maximum privacy, especially when you have a window seat.
Etihad IFE System
The first class in-flight entertainment system is very nice and has a generous 24 inch display. Unfortunately, the selection of movies, TV shows and documentaries isn't as good as other airlines such as Emirates who probably have one of the most extensive catalogues.
As a first-class passenger, you get a free voucher code for 100mb of free internet data. Although the internet speed is way too slow to be really functional, it did seem to work OK for sending a few messages.
Etihad Amenities Kit & Pyjamas
The new amenities kit by Acqua Di Parma in bright yellow faux leather is rather lovely and very practical. The kit comes fully stocked with Acqua Di Parma products (body lotion, lip balm and perfume) along with the usual suspects found in any amenities kit (toothbrush, socks, eye mask).
Etihad recently introduced new lounge wear/pyjamas in first-class designed by "A Friend Of Mine".
They are supposed to come with a bathrobe style jacket, but on our flight, we were given the pyjamas only. The new PJs were very comfortable and light, excellent for sleeping in without sweating up a storm.
Best Seats On Etihad A380 In First Class
Etihad's A380 has 4 window and 5 aisle seats in first class with a mix of forward and backward facing seats. Additionally, 2 pairs of seats have the possibility to lower the divider, which partially opens the suite up into a double bed.
- Seat 1A: The Residence (higher level than first class)
- Seat 1H: rear facing aisle seat
- Seats 2C & 2H: forward facing aisle seats
- Seats 3A & 3K: rear facing window seats
- Seats 4A & 4K: forward facing window seats
- Seats 5C & 5H: rear facing aisle seats
Seats That Feature The Double Bed (aka the best seats)
- Seats 3A & 4A
- Seats 3K & 4K
Even when travelling solo I would recommend any of these seats since they have a seat positioned next to the window, this means you can enjoy views and also get more privacy since you're further away from the aisle.
Seat 1H is right behind the shower and toilet; unlike most first class bathroom, Etihad has a tiny space for both the shower and the toilet with a bigger toilet adjoining it. Unfortunately, seat 1H is way to close for comfort so best avoided. You're also right across from The Residence, which would just make you feel envious about your less superior cabin class 😉
Etihad First Class Service
Right from the start, I knew the service would be mediocre at best (it's that vibe you get when you board). Our first class team consisted of 2 ladies (Eastern European) and the first class chef (who seemed to do most of the work). One of the ladies seemed OK and on occasion forced a smile, but the other one clearly didn't want to be there and made sure everyone knew it. It almost felt as if I was being looked after by some military drill instructor barking commands at me.
The first confusion started with the food order, shortly after take-off the chef came around to take my order. Since the menu is a-la-carte and dine on demand… one would expect that you can eat what you want, when you want. Considering it was already midnight, I decided to have a small snack, go to sleep, have breakfast, have a shower and continue with a late lunch. The chef seemed confused by my idea but took my order regardless.
The first half of my food arrived, but my lunch request was ignored, and they served me only 1 item from what I had ordered. Considering I wasn't that hungry at lunch time (10h into the 14h flight), I didn't make a fuss of it.
After the chef had come around to take my order, the military drill instructor was back to "ask" me when I wanted to schedule my shower.
More than 5 hours before landing she was back, and the conversation went something along the lines of " Sir, your shower. It ready. Go now". To which I responded "ok, but I requested the shower 3h before landing so I will just wait"… "No you didn't, you said 5h". She then went to my wife, who did have the shower booked for that particular time.
Considering it took some time to set up the bed (which was perfect by the way), as soon as my wife had left for the shower, the crew quickly packed up her bed (still 5h before landing). After I noticed that, I specifically told them to leave my bed as it's the most comfortable way to fly, and the Etihad first class seat doesn't recline enough to be truly comfortable for lounging that long.
Overall I thought the customer service level on offer was borderline rude and not even worthy of Economy class. The only person who seemed genuine was the chef who did do a great job preparing the food (apart from the meals he missed).
Etihad First Class Food & Beverages
The food that was on offer was actually delicious and up there with the best. It was unfortunate that the concept of 'dining on demand' seemed to confuse the crew on our flight.
In any case, I was surprised to find Etihad is now offering a full caviar service in first class. Even more surprising was the quality of the product; considering all the cost-cutting they've been doing in the last 12 months.
Following the caviar, I enjoyed some Arabic mezze which together with the one in Qatar Airways business class was some of the best I've had. Etihad dessert…the ice cream is missing.
For breakfast, I opted for an omelette which was cooked to perfection. I'm not sure how they managed to achieve that on board an aircraft kitchenette.
Etihad has some health-conscious food options available on its menu, and one of them was a charcoal lemon drink to detoxify the body.
Around lunchtime my steak turned up, it was cooked medium rare and presented very well.
Etihad Bathrooms & Shower
There are 2 bathrooms on board Etihad's A380; well really 3 but the third is exclusively for the residence guests. One of the first class bathrooms has a shower unit built in, while the other one has a fair bit more floor space.
Unlike Emirates who offer a shower suite bigger than my shower at home, Etihad has crammed their shower into the smallest bathroom. In saying that, the shower is spacious enough not to feel claustrophobic.
After resolving the shower time issue highlighted earlier, I was informed that "shower, ready. Now!", and asked if I needed an explanation on how to use it. I declined.
Once in the shower, I realised that things weren't working…great. There's nothing better than being butt naked with shampoo in your hair and realise too late no water is coming out of the shower-head.
As with all in-flight showers, the door has a sensor that prevents the water from running while the door is open (no fun flooding an A380).
As it turned out, the shower door wasn't closing properly, and the only workaround seemed to be to hold it shut with one hand while simultaneously trying to shower.
The Etihad Double Bed
Etihad's suite design was ahead of its time, and only now we see a similar level of first class product with Singapore Airlines's A380 suite.
Although the dividing wall only comes down partially on Etihad, it's actually enough to sleep more comfortably.
The bench in the Etihad suite transforms into a fully flat 182 cm bed. Unlike Singapore's design which manually folds out, Etihad has a motorised system that converts the couch into a bed.
Even though the crew on our flight seemed ice cold and grumpy to be working, they did an excellent job in making the bed. It was perfect, and they even made sure to swap over my headphones to the secondary port so I could keep watching my movie in bed.
The linen was very high quality, and the blanket had a good thickness to it. I've heard from others that they found the Etihad mattress topper to be too thin, but I thought it was excellent and not too hard at all.
Etihad A380 First Class Conclusion
I'm glad I got to try both Etihad business class and first class on the A380, for all we know the product as we know it might be gone soon considering the uncertain future Etihad faces right now.
Although the hard product (the actual suite) itself is incredible, I found the service was lacking genuine care.
Considering it's one of the more expensive point redemptions, I probably won't go out of my way to fly it again considering the competition is so strong and better value per mile can be had on other carriers.