June 22, 2015

Review: Etihad Airways A380 First Apartment Abu Dhabi-London

Trip to Sri Lanka & Oman and Flying On Etihad Airways A380 First Apartment Abu Dhabi-London

Top Attractions in Sri Lanka
Hilton Colombo Residences
Serendib Lounge, Colombo Bandaranaike Airport (CMB)
Araliya Lounge, Colombo Bandaranaike Airport (CMB)
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge, Hamad International Airport (DOH)
Top Attractions in Oman
Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel
Plaza Premium Lounge, Muscat International Airport (MCT)
Qatar Airways First Class, Muscat-Doha
Qatar Airways First Class Lounge, Hamad International Airport (DOH)
Qatar Airways First Class, Doha-Abu Dhabi
Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways Premium Lounge, Business Class Abu Dhabi T3 (AUH)
Etihad Airways Premium Lounge, First Class Abu Dhabi T3 (AUH)
Etihad Airways A380 First Apartment, Abu Dhabi-London
Double Tree by Hilton Hotel London Heathrow Airport
Top Attractions in the United Kingdom
British Airways Galleries Lounge North, T5 London Heathrow (LHR)
British Airways Business Class, London-Stockholm



 Etihad Airways A380 First Apartment bed

Flight: EY 19
Departure in Abu Dhabi: 8:35 (actual 8:36)
Arrival in London: 13:05 (actual 13:11)
Equipment: Airbus A380 800
Flight duration: 7h 35m
Date of flight: May 27, 2015
Seat: Apartment 4A
*This is an award travel, First class flight #28

Introduction

Last December, Etihad Airways released a lot of award space to their partner airlines on the Abu Dhabi to London route and vice versa on the Airbus 380 in first class. I was lucky to find two seats on the 27th of May from Abu Dhabi to London, and without hesitation, I bought some more miles to my AA Advantage account so I could have 80,000 miles in total. This is the amount of miles American Airlines requires for a first class redemption for two persons from the Middle East to Europe. I didn't want to start in Abu Dhabi so I thought Mike and I could start in Muscat since Oman is a country neither of us have visited in the past. Our itinerary ended up departing Muscat in the evening of the 25th, staying overnight at Doha Airport and another overnight in Abu Dhabi on the 26th before taking the Etihad First Apartment experience.

During our layover in Abu Dhabi, we stayed at the beautiful Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri. We also got the chance to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque where inside you will find the world's largest chandelier as well as the world's biggest carpet.

The beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

The world's largest chandelier insided the mosque (and probably the most beautiful too).

Downtown Abu Dhabi

For our morning flight, we booked a taxi from the hotel to the airport at 5:15am so I could have enough time to make a review of the Etihad Airways Premium Lounge which I haven't visited before, and of course to enjoy the first class experience on the ground.

Check in

 Etihad Airways dedicated check in area for first and business class passengers at Terminal 3


Etihad Airways First Class check in Terminal 3 Abu Dhabi

Etihad Airways first class check in counters

Etihad Airways first class check in area

The check in process went smoothly and after a few minutes, we were on our way to the security control with our boarding passes on the Airbus 380 First Apartment to London. Yipee!

Lounge

Etihad is currently renovating their First Class Lounge in Terminal 3 so we had access to the Premium Lounge which is shared by business class, first and residence passengers although the First Class and Residence passengers have their own dedicated small areas inside the lounge.

Needless to say we spent a great time at the Etihad Airways Premium Lounge where I had a complimentary hair cut and back massage. About an hour before departure, Mike and I headed to the boarding gate which was gate 33.

This way to the premium cabins!

Aircraft

Before boarding, I took one last shot of the beautiful Airbus 380. So lovely! This Airbus 380 is actually Etihad's second A380 which started operating between Abu Dhabi and London last May 1 so today is only its 27th day of flying commercially!

At the door, I was greeted by a young gentleman working in the business class cabin while Cata, the Rumanian crew working in the first class cabin escorted me to my apartment, 4A.

Cabin

The Etihad First Apartment cabin has a total of 9 apartments with a 1-1 configuration which is definitely the largest first class space in the sky. All but one of the nine apartments were occupied on that morning flight to London. For months, I've been imagining how this cabin looked like and now, I'm experiencing everything it has to offer.

Apartment

Welcome to my Apartment, 4A!!!

A very nice leather seat and a couch that turns into a bed were waiting for me inside a very spacious apartment. Each Apartment has a total area of 39 square feet which is the largest in the airline industry. Etihad definitely took premium flying into another level, no doubt about it.

The Poltrona Frau leather seats were very comfortabe, as you would expect from the same company that furnishes Ferrari cars.

Right in front of me was a 24 inch TV which can extend and swivel to make viewing more comfortable while lying in bed.

On the entertainment screen was the name of the captain, first officer, cabin manager and onboard chef.

As much as I was very eager to inspect all the features of my apartment, I had to seat down first and enjoy my glass of champagne. Etihad makes this service the five star hotel way: a tray is brought to you with a hot towel, some dates, a welcome note and a champagne glass. Then the cabin attendant will come and pour the champagne on the glass. Awesome!

The seat controls were outside of the armrest while the more advanced control system where you have the functions like turn on/off the lights, switch the "Do not Disturb Sign" among others was inside the armrest.

Underneath the couch is the primary storage where I actually put my rollaboard.

Just like Emirates, Etihad also has a minibar which consisted of two bottles of water (still and sparkling), a Diet Coke and a regular Coke, and a Diet Sprite and a regular Sprite.

Then, there is also the vanity mirror where you will find the amenity kit.

Located under the vanity mirror is a seatbelt sign and a power outlet.

This is how spacious Etihad Airways First Apartment is!

Before continuing on with my exploration of my apartment, Kristian the inflight chef from Hungary came to offer me some Arabic coffee which I gladly accepted. He also took my post departure beverage order (I asked for a glass of water with a slice of lemon) as well as my meal order. I have not eaten any breakfast in the lounge except for some sliced fruits but I told him I could wait later. I guess I was really excited about this whole Etihad First Apartment experince.

Now back to my apartment: these dimmer/light controls are located on the right side close to the partition when you are lying in bed. The partition can actually be lowered making a sort of double bed. These "double beds" are only possible if your seats are either 3A and 4A or 3K and 4K. The downside though is that 3A and 3K are rear facing seats so either you or your partner has to deal with it.

Located on the window side of the seat was the tray table that turns into a really large table.

I thought the cabin ceiling looked gorgeous.

And just like most airlines, Etihad also has a miniwardrobe where you can hang your clothes after changing into pajamas.

Etihad First Apartment A380 safety card

Etihad A380 First Apartment E-Box and other inflight magazines

In between these "explorations", I was approached by Roberto, the Food and Beverage Manager from Italy. He noticed the excitement in me so I told him I was so excited to be flying on Etihad since the First Apartment is no doubt the most luxurious suite in the sky. We chatted a bit in Italian and was offered more champagne which I declined. Instead, I asked for a glass of water which was served moments later.

The captain came on the PA to welcome us on our morning flight to London and advised us of our flight time of 6 hours and 50 minutes. He also apologized for a bit of delay due to a passenger coming late. Loic, the Cabin Manager also came by to my apartment to welcome me and told me that if I would be needing anything, I just have to let them know. At around 8:45, we started pushback and minutes later, I caught sight of the ongoing work at the Midfield Terminal which is scheduled to open by July 2017. Take off went smoothly although to be honest, I wasn't even thinking of that. I guess my mind was busy with all the things around me.

As soon as the seatbelt sign was turned off, the cabin crew started serving the post departure beverage which was served with some nuts, chips and olives.

Etihad First Class snacks and a glass of water

Mike on the other hand had ordered a glass of champagne as his post departure beverage.

The Lobby

After exchanging views on how beautiful and luxurious our apartments were, Mike and I decided it was time to visit the lobby/bar which is located between the first and business class cabins. The Lobby which is actually shared by first and business class passengers just like on Emirates and Qatar Airways was so beautiful. It is hard to tell which is my favorite among the three but I guess I would go for Emirates since it was the original.

Etihad First Apartment The Lobby


Etihad First Apartment bar

Etihad First Apartment reading materials

Lavatory and Shower Room

When Etihad announced in early 2014 that they would also have an onboard shower on their Airbus 380 just like Emirates, I couldn't deny my excitement. I have "showered in the sky" aboard the Emirates A380 back in September 2013 so doing it again aboard another airline would be so cool.

After enjoying our visit to The Lobby, I decided I'd book my shower so I asked Cata for the next available time, It was as if she read my mind because she told me she was about to ask me the same thing. The preparation was done in less than 5 minutes afterwhich she explained me everything I needed to know, and then it was my turn to shower!

Etihad First Apartment shower

Etihad First Apartment shower

Etihad First Apartment bathroom

Etihad First Apartment shower

The shower room itself was much smaller than that of Emirates although this one was just as gorgeous. The use of water was limited to 5 minutes, which just like my first shower in the sky, was more than enough. I actually remember singing Australia's entry to the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest which was "Tonight Again" while giggling and showering at the same time! As usual, they had the Le Labo Bergamote 22 toiletries which has one of my favorite scents.

Meal

After enjoying my second time of "showering in the sky", I thought it was about time to have some meal so I asked Cata if I could order something from the menu.

Etihad First Apartment menu card and wine list

Á LA CARTE


SPINACH AND CARROT SOUP
Labneh, carrot and spinach

PARSNIP-APPLE CREAM SOUP
With pesto oil

MALABAR GROUPER
With a vegetable tian

MEZZE
Hot and cold Arabic appetizers

______


BIRYANI
Your choice of lamb, chicken and fish
garnished with fried onions, cashews and raisins

TRIO OF DUCK
With vanilla mashed potatoes  and vegetables

VEGETABLE AND HALOUMI FRITTERS
With roasted vine tomatoes and aioli

CHEF'S SPECIAL
Ask our chef about the "special of the day"
or to create something especially for you


FROM THE GRILL


SIGNATURE GRILLS

GRASS-FED BEEF TENDERLOIN

U.S. RIB-EYE STEAK

LAMB SHANK

CHICKEN SUPREME

CATCH OF THE DAY


SIDES

STEAMED GARDEN VEGETABLES

VEGETABLE SALOONA

CREAMY MASHED POTATO

ROASTED BABY POTATOES

STEAMED WHITE RICE

OVEN-BAKED FRENCH FRIES


SAUCES

VEAL JUS

BEARNAISE SAICE

TOMATO CONCASSÈ

CAFÉ DE PARIS BUTTER

Etihad First Apartment All Day Dine

Etihad First Apartment All Day Dine

Etihad First Apartment Cheese, Dessert and Dessert Wine

Etihad First Apartment champagnes


WHITE WINES

Chardonnay, Louis Latour, Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru Burgundy, France, 2011

Sauvignon Blanc, Seresin Estate, Marlborough New Zealand, 2013

Riesling, Classic, Dohlmuhle, Rheinhesses, Germany, 2013


RED WINES

Cabernet Sauvignon Blend, La Croix De Beau Caillou

Shiraz, MSV, 'Gomersal Vineyard' Barossa Valley, Australia 2008

Line 39, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California 2013

Valpolicella, Fattori, Col De La Bastia, Veneto, Italy, 2012

Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedré (GSM) Blend, Gérard Bertrand Corbieres, France, 2011


My table was set up elegantly using the tablewares and according to Roberto, the china were all handmade, which means that there is no plate which is identical to the other. He also informed us that the cutleries were the same ones being used by the Royal Family in the UK.

The cutleries "Studio William by Etihad"

Amuse Bouche (goat cheese, caramelized onion, pumpkin)

Etihad First Apartment mocktail "Caribbean Sunrise" and a glass of water

Etihad First Apartment bread and butter

Parsnip-Apple Cream Soup with pesto oil

Palate Cleanser

U.S. Rib-Eye Steak, Steamed White Rice, Steamed Garden Vegetables

I was glad Etihad allows you to choose your own sides from the menu so I did not hesitate ordering steamed rice to go with my steak. It may be an odd combination for others but definitely something for the Filipinos.

Mike on the other hand chose "Trio of Duck" with Vanilla mashed potatoes and vegetables

Dessert Taster: Orange Financier, Pistachio Mousse and Honey-Nut Cake

A selection of international cheeses

Cappuccino and Patchi

There was no question that the food tasted excellent specially my steak which was just perfect. I've flown on British Airways and Qantas first class in the past and neither of the two served caviar so this is actually my third time to not see the famous "caviar" on the first class menu. Still, I couldn't complain.

Entertainment

From the movie selection, I was able to watch two movies one of which is "Cake" starring Jennifer Aniston.

Etihad First Apartment headphones

Inside the headphone case was the complimentary wifi access card but after trying many times with out luck, I asked Cata if it was working. Unfortunately, I was told that it had been complimentary for a few months but just recently, Etihad started charging for it.

Etihad First Apartment entertainment controls

Time to Sleep

Not that I needed to sleep but since it would be a "shame" if I wouldn't try the most spacious bed in the sky, I asked Cata, about four hours before landing, if she could make the turndown service for me and in a couple of minutes, my bed was ready. It was just so beautiful that I could compare it to a hotel room.

Etihad First Apartment bed

Etihad First Apartment bed

Etihad First Apartment pajamas and slippers

Etihad First Apartment amenity kit featuring Le Labo Bargamote 22 products

Etihad First Apartment doors

Etihad Business Studio

After my very satisfying meal, I thought I'd have a look at the business class cabin which is called by Etihad as "Business Studio".

Etihad Business Studio

Etihad Business Studio

I have to admit I love the beautiful lamp and pillow.

The Residence

Well, this is the closest I could get to the most elegant suite on a plane which Etihad calls "The Residence".

Surprise

After having our meal, Mike and I got a surprise from the crew on the First Apartment cabin. They made a special plate for us with a selection of some desserts with a message "Welcome to Etihad". They knew it was our first time to fly in the First Apartment and they wanted to make it special. Well, this is definitely our most memorable flight so far. Thank you so much guys!

Me with the Etihad welcome dessert

Etihad First Apartment paper bag for the pajamas and amenity kit

Less than an hour before landing, Roberto came to my seat to ask me if I wanted some more drinks which I declined. He then came back with a fast track card although as a Swedish citizen, he knew it would be faster for me and Mike to use the European E-visa.

I also got a comment card and the Etihad playing card.

About 35 minutes before landing, hot towels were offered.

View of London before landing

Etihad Airbus 380 upon landing at London Heathrow Terminal 4

CONCLUSION

Etihad's First Apartment is the most luxurious first class in the industry today, no doubt about it and as Etihad advertises it: "The First Apartment is more than a seat, it is a living space for the discerning traveler." The very spacious apartment, the comfortable seats and bed, the gorgeous bar, the shower spa, the excellent food and the impeccable service of the crew all contributed in making this flight our best flight ever. The surprise welcome dessert Chef Kristian and the rest of the first class crew made for me and Mike was something we will never forget and that we trully are thankful for. And yet I still think there are a few things which could have been done better although they are minor things. First, I thought they could have included a glass in the personal minibar (just like the one Emirates has) because I think the drinks were there to be enjoyed anytime without asking help from a cabin attendant. But without a glass, it is either you ask for it from a cabin attendant or you drink the water directly from the bottle (which I did). Regarding the doors which you have to close manually, I would have preferred that they were automatic doors just like the ones on Emirates. I've flown on Asiana's A380 in first class last year and the doors (just like on Etihads) were no longer closing properly as a result of sliding them too often. The picture of the Etihad First Apartment doors (included in this review) shows that there is already a small gap and it is a pity because Etihad could have invested more on these automatic doors. On this flight, Etihad uses headphones with magnet on their audio ports and although it is very convenient to use, there were times I could hear some scratches while making adjustments. I hope it was just me. But as I said, they are just minor things and that Etihad First Apartment is no doubt the best in this class. To all the crew who made this flight truly an unforgettable one, Shukran!


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