How I booked everything
American Airlines Flagship Dining Room DFW
Etihad First & Business Class Lounge LHR
Etihad A380 First Class Apartments LHR-AUH (Video)
St. Regis Abu Dhabi
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH (Video)
Qatar A380 First Class DOH-BKK
Cathay Pacific’s The Pier First Class Lounge (Video)
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER First Class HKG-LAX
The Middle East Three (Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar) all boast of their amazing planes, lounges, and airports. Emirates, in particular, prides itself on its A380 First Class cabin. You’ve probably seen it, with its bling and gold finish. Not just content to have a shiny cabin, Emirates stepped it up a notch and was the first commercial airline to provide showers for its First Class guests! It seemed Emirates gave itself a commanding lead in the Middle East Three arms race. In May 2014 Etihad rearranged the competitive landscape with an announcement: they had 10 A380s on order and unveiled the most luxurious-looking First Class (and, yes, showers) in the sky. In addition to their new First Class “Apartment” offering, they’d also be introducing a private Super-First Class called “The Residence” with Savoy-trained butlers and 3 “rooms” for the passenger. I was lucky enough to find seat availability and booked it, so let’s kick off my Featured Week on BoardingArea with a wonderful Etihad A380 First Class review.
We pick up our trip report having arrived at London Heathrow from an American Airlines flight in Economy (ew). I was tired, having not slept much, and stopped by the lounge in Terminal 4 at Heathrow. Once I had a refreshing massage and got the pictures I needed it was time to head to Gate 10 to begin my journey.
I arrived at Gate 10 (really two gates, 10a and 10b) and was greeted with: a wall. Don’t worry, I found a window to get my first glimpse of Etihad’s beautiful A380.
I lingered around the gate area for a while (there was a brief delay) and eventually we were invited to board. We boarded through Gate 10a, designated for First and Business Class passengers.
After what seemed like a 3km walk on the jetbridge I made it to the immense A380. I was welcomed aboard and invited to make the oh-so-coveted left turn into one of the most beautiful cabins I’ve ever seen.
Most First Class cabins will have two aisles on the A380, but Etihad’s product features fully-enclosed suites that are so wide there’s only one aisle. It doesn’t seem like the most spacious environment but that’s fine, the individual Apartments are plenty big!
I found my Apartment, 5C, and was greeted with champagne (Bollinger), Arabic coffee, and some dates.
The Apartment is MASSIVE. The actual seat is huge and then there’s a long padded bench (which folds out into a bed) where you could easily seat 2-3 other people.
I noticed that the passenger for The Residence had yet to arrive, so I poked my camera into the living room and bedroom and was able to get off a few snaps.
Emirates has a great bar on its A380s. Etihad countered with a Lounge, which basically amounts to two big semi-circular booths facing each other. I stopped by quickly as boarding finished up so we could depart.
Before we started our taxi to the runway I also stopped by the restrooms, which were absolutely beautiful (for airplane restrooms of course).
I took a peek inside the shower suite, which I’d use later during my flight. It was similarly furnished, with a variety of Bergamote gels and sprays available.
We had a smooth takeoff through the clouds above London and set our course for Abu Dhabi. My champagne flute was refilled for me and I went to see the Lounge set up for flights. I always end up with stuff all over the place in my seating area (which leads to cluttered pictures), so I set up my tripod in an empty Apartment to get some really clean pictures.
I then wanted to see if the in-flight setup was different for the Lounge than I saw before and indeed it was. That said, it wasn’t really the most useful space. A man and his wife were sharing a champagne toast on the seat to the left of my camera and it didn’t seem like a good time for chit-chatting so I went back to my seat.
I had the option of eating whenever I would like (which is a great touch of Etihad) and decided to dine shortly after takeoff. Etihad has a designated onboard Chef, who came to discuss the various menu items with me and make recommendations where helpful. The inflight manager also stopped by and told me all manner of things about the crew, specifically that the plating of this particular Chef was some of the greatest in the airline, which made me excited (I love good plating).
I took my seat and my flight attendants made my table for me. Had I been traveling with someone there would have been plenty of room for them to join me during the meal service, and even enough room further down the bench for some random person to sit there and creepily watch me and my travel companion eat.
The Bordeaux the chef recommended was beautiful and accompanied the meal perfectly.
The meal began with a prawn starter
The plating was indeed amazing, just like the inflight manager promised. I decided to skip the salad, because why salad, and went right for the steak!
The steak was cooked incredibly well, the fries and potatoes were perfect.
They asked what I’d like for dessert and must’ve noticed the crazy look in my eye when they suggested that they could bring out a dessert sampler for me. I accepted their offer and also asked for a Dragonslayer to drink. They were unaware of what a Dragonslayer was (a Bailey’s on the rocks, called a Dragonslayer because I’m a fairly manly dude with a beard and don’t want to be caught ordering Bailey’s on the rocks) but we got it sorted and shortly afterward an amazing dessert sampler appeared.
I finished my dessert and the Dragonslayer and was greeted by a trippy bottom of the glass reflecting Top Gear playing on the TV.
Ahhh. What a meal. Great plating, wonderful taste, and diverse flavors. As they cleaned up my table one of my flight attendants (a Dutch guy who was fantastic) came over and asked if I’d like to sleep. Honestly I didn’t but asked if he wouldn’t mind making up the bed anyway so I could get some pictures. He suggested I stand with my camera as he was making the bed so I could get some pictures of the process. Gotta love it when flight attendants help with the blog!
The bed layout is where the First Class Apartment concept shines. I still felt like I had plenty of room had I wanted to use the seat. The enclosed suite helped everything feel private and roomy. The bed itself wasn’t the most comfortable airplane bed I’ve ever slept on (that title probably goes to Cathay Pacific) but would’ve been perfectly fine had I wanted to sleep.
As we came closer to initial descent I requested a shower. My flight attendant made the shower suite ready for me and I went into the suite. As a reminder, here’s what it looks like.
The shower head is in the top left of the picture and the control console is on the wall to the right. There’s a timer there because you’re limited to five minutes of water. The good news is it doesn’t have to be five consecutive minutes of water so you can turn the water off to apply shampoo/conditioner and soap, then turn it on again to rinse.
The sensation of taking a shower had to be kind of overrated, right? No, it was freaking awesome. Even the momentary turbulence was kind of fun. Being limited to only five minutes was actually really interesting, I ended up with plenty of time left over, which makes me wonder how much water I/we waste during our showers. I dried off, got dressed, felt about 1 million times better (having been awake for like 30 hours at this point) and made my way back to my seat as we began our descent into Abu Dhabi.
We landed smoothly and I bade a fond farewell to the crew of the flight. It was a wonderful flight in every sense of the word.
The Middle East Three are frequently criticized for their service. Not that it’s bad, it’s just seen as being a bit inconsistent sometimes. In fact, I think that’s the general conclusion I came to last year when I flew Etihad’s A340 First Class to Washington. I was curious how the service would stack up here, especially since I’d be flying Qatar the next day. I can confidently say that the Dutch flight attendant I had was one of the top 2-3 flight attendants I’ve ever had. He addressed me by name, saw that I was an Excited Photographer Passenger and went with it, and made some great recommendations to me. I told him about the blog and gave him my card, I really hope he reads this! On the other hand, though, the lady who assisted him couldn’t have been more indifferent. She did everything to the standard she was required to but it took the entire flight to even get a smile out of her. That said, the Dutch guy did such a great job that I barely noticed.
As long as Etihad service looks more like the Dutch guy than the other girl they’ll be successful for a long time. The cabin was amazing, the A380 flies smoothly and quietly, and the food was excellent. Etihad set a high standard for Qatar to meet on my flight with them the next day!
Have you flown The Apartments? What did you think compared to the A340/777-300ER First product?