Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Airline: Etihad Airways
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Flight #: EY12
Route: London Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)
Date: January 9, 2024
Duration: 7 hours
Cabin and Layout: The Apartment, 9 Apartments on the upper deck, all aisle access
Cost: 62,500 American AAdvantage miles points per person or from $4,412 cash
Every AvGeek has Etihad’s The Apartment on their bucket list. Some may argue that this first class experience on Etihad’s A380 is the best in commercial aviation, offering luxurious design, gourmet cuisine, first-rate service, and an extraordinarily large suite.
Although I have had the privilege of experiencing numerous flights of the highest order first-hand, including Cathay Pacific first class, Emirates first class on the A380, and Singapore first class on the A380, I yearned to book The Apartment with Etihad Airways one day.
That day came when, thanks to one of our award alert deals published by our team at Upgraded Points, I noticed that first class award space was open on Etihad’s London to Abu Dhabi route, operated by the A380. I moved swiftly to snag the award using American Airlines miles (more on how I booked later).
I was excited to compare the flight to other premium travel experiences I’ve had thus far. Continue reading to discover the experience of flying in The Apartment on Etihad Airways’ Airbus A380.
Booking Etihad Airways The Apartment
Although several methods exist to book Etihad first class using miles, including the Etihad Guest loyalty program, redeeming American Airlines AAdvantage miles for Etihad first class award tickets offers exceptional value and is among the most effective.
Despite not being a part of any major airline alliance, Etihad has partnerships with many airlines, such as American Airlines, through which customers can accrue and use miles for Etihad flights.
In general, the award redemption rates of the American AAdvantage program are superior to those of the Etihad Guest program and the majority of other options.
Here are the comparison rates for a one-way Etihad first class booking on the London to Abu Dhabi (and vice-versa) route with each frequent flyer program:
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|Etihad Miles Cost
|Air Canada Aeroplan Points Cost
|Asiana Club Miles Cost
|American AAdvantage Miles Cost
|London (LHR) – Abu Dhabi (AUH)
|140,000 miles + ~$234 to $517
|65,000 points + ~$64 to $346
|40,000 miles + ~$185 to $452
|62,500 miles + ~$62 to $346
With a significant stash of AA miles earned through flying American and utilizing its co-branded cards, such as the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, I chose to redeem some of my AA miles for this highly sought-after flight.
I instantly went to the American Airlines website and looked up the dates I wanted to travel in January 2024. When I discovered a date that fit my itinerary, I snagged a first class award ticket to fly Etihad between London and Abu Dhabi for 62,500 AA miles and $306.80 in taxes and fees.
By redeeming 62,500 AA miles, I could book Etihad’s Apartment for my desired date. The ticket was priced at $4,412 in cash, so I got a great deal with a redemption value of 7 cents per mile! According to Upgraded Points’ valuation of American Airlines AAdvantage miles, they are worth 1.4 cents each, so I redeemed my miles for 5x their estimated value!
I paid the taxes and fees of this award ticket using The Platinum Card® from American Express, which earns 5x Membership Rewards on tickets booked directly with the airline or via AmexTravel.com (up to $500,000 per year). I received 1,534 points in return for the purchase, for an estimated value of $33 back, per UP’s valuation of 2.2 cents per Amex Membership Rewards point.
Those without AA miles may find Air Canada’s Aeroplan program a good alternative to booking Etihad first class awards, given the increased number of possibilities to earn Aeroplan points, or the Etihad Guest program, which is easier to accumulate miles but has a far higher redemption rate.Hot Tip:
Etihad Guest is a transfer partner with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One Miles, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy. Capital One miles and Citi and Amex points transfer 1:1 to Etihad Guest. Marriott Bonvoy points are transferred in a 3:1 ratio to Etihad Guest, and when you transfer 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points at once, you’ll receive a bonus of 5,000 Etihad miles.
London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Since I’m located in South Florida, I had to find a way to reach London Heathrow (LHR) for my Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi (AUH). I booked an affordable economy ticket (using points, of course!) on Virgin Atlantic from Miami International Airport (MIA) to London Heathrow Airport (LHR). This flight would conveniently arrive early in the morning into London, a few hours before my Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi.
Fortunately, I had no schedule changes or flight delays, and my Virgin Atlantic flight landed at London Heathrow Airport (LHR) at 6:15 a.m., giving me plenty of time before my 9 a.m. departure. Because London Heathrow is so large, I had to take the bus from Terminal 3 to Terminal 4 and go through security again.
Thank goodness I had extra time, and everything went as planned.
Etihad First & Business Lounge
When I landed at London Heathrow Airport, I went straight to the Etihad First & Business Lounge in Terminal 4. Since I had my mobile boarding pass with me, I didn’t need to stop at a kiosk or talk to an agent.
All of Etihad Airways’ flights originate from London Heathrow’s Terminal 4. The Etihad First & Business Lounge — open to all first and business class travelers — is conveniently situated right off of gate 10, which is where the A380 aircraft from London to Abu Dhabi departs from. The lounge is open 24 hours a day.
When I arrived at the lounge, the receptionist welcomed me warmly with a friendly smile as I approached her desk. I gladly accepted her offer to show me around the lounge.
Although not a sprawling space, the lounge offers a cozy and inviting atmosphere that mirrors the elegant decor and style onboard Etihad flights. Yet, due to its location within the terminal, the space lacked natural light, creating a dim atmosphere.
The lounge offers various spaces, including a dining area with numerous tables adorned with elegant white tablecloths and comfortable plush chairs.
Lounge guests can choose from an à la carte menu by scanning the QR code on the table or help themselves to a buffet.
The breakfast buffet featured a range of hot and cold options, such as porridge, fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, and chia pudding.
I planned to conserve my appetite for the first class inflight meal, so I simply ordered a cappuccino, which was delivered promptly.
In addition to a bar for guests to enjoy a beverage, I was pleasantly surprised by the attentive lounge attendants, who frequently checked in with guests to see if they needed anything to drink. Plenty of seating options were available throughout the lounge, including high-tops at the bar.
I was also lucky enough to get a tour of a private room within the lounge that is reserved for the most important dignitaries.
It has a dining table for 2, a sofa, lounge chairs, and a bathroom. As was explained to me, this space is reserved for guests who require the highest degree of privacy.
Guests looking to freshen up before their flight can request a shower room during check-in.
Additional amenities include a kids’ room, spa, business center, and prayer rooms.
Upon landing, I had to schlep from terminal to terminal, so I didn’t have enough time to enjoy the lounge’s features to the fullest. After around 20 minutes in the lounge, I made my way to my boarding gate, which took only 1 minute by foot from the lounge elevators to my A380 flight from London to Abu Dhabi.
Boarding at LHR
I departed the lounge around 8 a.m. by descending 1 floor in the elevator to reach the gates. Right in front of the lounge was gate 10, where Etihad operates its A380 service from London. I arrived just as boarding began and noticed a group of economy passengers gathered at the gate, eager to board.
At the opposite end, passengers flying in The Residence, first class, and business class could begin boarding.
I inquired with the gate agent about the flight loads in the first class cabin, and to my surprise, she informed me that there were only 2 passengers, including myself. I was thrilled to have the cabin practically all to myself. I always enjoy boarding a flight early to capture all the necessary shots. It’s even more enjoyable when the cabin is nearly empty.
On Board the Etihad Airways Airbus A380
I was the first to board, and when I stepped onto the upper deck of the A380, I was welcomed by name by a number of amiable cabin crew representing a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
I was then brought to my First Class Apartment, 4K.
Located at the front of the upper deck of the A380, Etihad’s first class cabin houses 9 First Class Apartments. The cabin exudes an air of luxury and elegance, exquisitely chic, featuring a soothing beige color scheme and rich dark wood accents.
The Residence, the most lavish 3-room Apartment in commercial aviation, is 1 of the 9 suites and the most luxurious onboard suite. It features a bedroom with a proper double bed, a bench, and a separate shower. I was lucky enough to be shown The Residence by a kind crew member, and I gasped when I saw the size of the bed!
Unfortunately, using points to reserve The Residence is not feasible. The cost to upgrade to The Residence starts at approximately $2,500 for 2 passengers and is only available as a first class upgrade on select A380 flights.
Although I had seen images of Etihad’s A380 first class cabin for years and knew it had a single aisle with suites on each side, the Apartment’s dimensions still astounded me.
The crew members in the first class cabin came to my suite and introduced themselves to me individually. I was promptly offered Champagne, dates, and traditional Arabic coffee during the preboarding process.
I didn’t sleep much on the overnight flight from Miami to London, so I opted for some Arabic coffee to help me wake up.
The attentive first class cabin attendant provided a detailed explanation of the features of my Apartment. She kindly informed me that if I wished to shower or take a nap during the flight, I could notify her, and she would be happy to make the bed and prepare the shower for me.
I received a bag containing a set of pajamas with slippers and an amenity kit.
After the cabin introduction concluded and I captured numerous photos of the relatively empty cabin, I settled into my seat, excited about the upcoming 7+ hours in the sky.
First Class Seat
Once I settled into my seat and the initial feeling of being overwhelmed faded slightly, I couldn’t help but marvel at the vast space in my First Class Apartment. It might have rivaled the size of my first New York City apartment!
The Apartments feature a generously sized suite with a sliding door for added privacy, a plush leather chair, a convenient bench that easily converts into a fully flat bed, and a stylish vanity unit.
A luxurious leather couch effortlessly converts into a spacious, fully flat bed.
A cozy blanket is provided to keep warm.
As previously stated, the cabin crew kindly offered to transform the couch into a comfortable bed when I was ready to rest during the flight.
I’m just 5 feet 8 inches tall, so the 6-foot wide and 5-inch long bench-turned-bed provided ample space to fully stretch out and rest.
Although I was unable to sleep for the most part because of my excitement for the flight and because it was during the day, I did manage to relax in bed and watch TV during the flight for a bit.
The leather seat in the Apartment is comfortable and can be adjusted to your preference.
I could adjust my seat to my liking using the touch panel controls right next to the chair.
I worked, ate, and watched TV from the chair in flight, so I tested all the functional angles. The adjustable chair was comfy and very versatile.
The spacious tray table was conveniently integrated into the side of the chair, providing ample space for dining or using a laptop. As seen below, the size was generous for getting work done or eating.
However, I must admit that I had difficulty extracting it from the chair slot, which required some maneuvering.
Light streamed into my Apartment abundantly through the 3 windows.
The window shade could be easily adjusted to your preference by simply pressing a button.
The shades were functional, whether you want natural light to flow into your Apartment to get work done or a dark space to nap.
The suites are thoughtfully designed with plenty of storage space to enhance the passenger experience, making up for the absence of overhead bins. Ample storage is available for personal items, carry-on luggage, and other belongings, creating a tidy and well-organized atmosphere in this private area.
I stored some of my belongings in the compact closet within the suite, which featured a hanger and enough space for a purse or small backpack.
My backpack found its place underneath the bench.
In addition, there is a large vanity mirror and several small drawers for extra storage.
These drawers were ideal for securely storing my valuable belongings, including my wallet and passport.
A minibar containing water bottles and soft drinks like Sprite and Coca-Cola was located directly beneath 1 of the storage drawers.
Lastly, the Apartment had touchscreens and panel controls for managing the suite’s IFE, chair, and lighting.
I appreciated having multiple power outlets because my trip was partially for work and partly for pleasure, and I needed to charge my phone and laptop.
Having an additional USB port alongside the standard power outlet was convenient.
With the exception of (maybe) Singapore Suites on the A380, it’s doubtful that any other flight experience could match the sheer grandeur of Etihad’s First Class Apartment.
Food and Beverage
As a passionate food lover, I eagerly anticipated the opportunity to try out Etihad’s first class fare and see how it measured up against other luxurious cabins I’ve been fortunate enough to experience.
The inflight meal service began approximately 30 minutes after takeoff. The flight attendants promptly took my breakfast order after offering me predeparture Champagne, dates, and traditional Arabic coffee.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t all that hungry, but I couldn’t resist indulging in the first meal of this luxurious flight. Therefore, I opted for an omelet accompanied by a side of fresh fruit.
I only ate a small portion of my omelet since I didn’t feel too great. Instead, I ate half of a croissant and some fruit, saving my appetite for the next meal service.
Etihad provides a dine-on-demand service for business and first class passengers, allowing flexibility in their meal choices. Even though I didn’t finish my breakfast, I was reassured, knowing that I could order from the à la carte menu if I felt hungry later on.
I spent a few hours being productive during the flight and enjoyed a movie, opting not to have any snacks between meals. After a few hours, the flight attendant kindly informed me that dinner would be served soon. Now that I had regained my appetite, I was eager to indulge in the inflight cuisine and satisfy my hunger.
The flight attendant offered me the option to begin my meal with caviar service, and I have never turned down the opportunity to indulge in caviar on these luxurious flights. It’s not often that I indulge in caviar at home, but when it comes to enjoying it on planes, why not?
Given the delightful pairing of Champagne and caviar, I indulged in a glass of Billecart Salmon Cuvée Louis Champagne.
While I patiently awaited the arrival of my caviar, the flight attendant kindly presented me with a delightful assortment of nuts and olives and a refreshing glass of water garnished with a slice of lemon.
After enjoying a handful of olives, I was delighted to see the arrival of the caviar, elegantly presented with delicate blinis, accompanied by creme fraiche, chopped hard-cooked eggs, and minced onions.
The caviar was served alongside pita bread. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the vintage cuvée perfectly complemented it.
There was also a tasty treat of mango sorbet that the flight attendant gave me before the meal. It was the perfect way for me to clear my palate.
She also inquired about my readiness to order dinner, but I needed a few moments to peruse the menu.
Ultimately, I opted for a delectable lobster tail to kick off my meal, accompanied by a succulent red grouper served with herbed mashed potatoes.
Even though I usually drink white wine with fish, I chose a glass of Chianti red wine for my dinner.
The lobster tails were served with orange segments, grapefruit, and raspberry vinaigrette, making for a nice combination. As a lobster lover, I enjoyed the chilled lobster tail chunks as a tasty start to my meal.
My red grouper appeared after the lobster tail chunks, along with white bean and walnut oil purée, chard, and almonds. The grouper was cooked precisely, with a crispy exterior and a moist interior. The fish was unquestionably of high-end restaurant quality, and it was delicious.
To finish my meal, I had 4 options for dessert: toffee pudding, chocolate cake, cheese selection, and ice cream. I chose the chocolate marquise, a French delicacy combining chocolate cake and mousse. The dessert was rich and creamy but not overly sweet or overpowering, so it was a lovely way to end my last inflight meal.
While I didn’t eat much breakfast due to feeling unwell, I thoroughly enjoyed the caviar service and the full dinner that followed.
As a bonus, the sunset, which occurred at the same time as dinner service, was a lovely way to end the meal.
There’s no denying that a flight this lavish contains some top-notch amenities. Here’s a glimpse at what I experienced.
The shower in Etihad’s A380’s upper deck first class cabin is the standout amenity.
There are actually 3 lavatories and 2 showers in the Etihad Apartments cabin, but 1 is reserved for The Residence passengers. Because of this, Etihad Apartment passengers can use 2 lavatories, 1 of which has a shower.
A shower can be arranged for First Class Apartment passengers during their flight. Every passenger is allocated a 5-minute water supply, and I depleted mine entirely. The flight attendant provides a towel before your shower.
A water meter above the temperature knob monitors your water consumption, with full starting in green and your water supply ending as it turns red.
The shower head is set to a corner of the stall, so you need to maneuver it as you see fit to get the best spray and coverage.
I’ve been able to shower on the A380 when flying first class with Emirates. While that bathroom is vastly superior to Etihad’s, the water pressure and temperature were exceptional during my Etihad flight.
Adjacent to the bathroom with the shower, there is another bathroom that is larger and offers ample space for changing.
All bathrooms are stocked with British premium skincare company ESPA toiletries, including a shower kit.
With only 2 people in the cabin (including myself), having 2 restrooms side-by-side with 2 toilets, 2 sinks, and 1 shower meant that I never had to wait to use the restroom for any reason.
The entertainment selection on Etihad’s A380 is extensive, offering a wide range of movies and TV shows, the map feature, and the tail camera.
The IFE was a cutting-edge model with a sleek touchscreen. Nevertheless, it included a handheld controller allowing users to watch content directly on the controller or control the TV.
Guests are provided with high-quality Bose noise-canceling headphones to enjoy their preferred TV show or movie.
I didn’t watch much TV, but there were numerous channels and movies to keep me entertained- although I tend to be captivated by tracking flight paths.
My inflight entertainment was focused on the flight path, with a live feed from the aircraft’s external tail cameras playing in the background while I worked and checked email.
Inside my Apartment’s vanity, I came upon a commemorative amenity kit that honors Etihad’s 20th anniversary of its iconic 2003 aircraft livery.
This kit features travel-sized ESPA beauty products and includes a range of items like an eye shade, socks, hand sanitizer gel, creams, balms, sprays, and a toothbrush kit.
Pajamas and Slippers
Every time I take a long-haul trip in a premium cabin, I can’t wait to try out the pajamas that some airlines give passengers in business and first class. Guests in first class on all Etihad flights and those who book The Residence on board the A380 fleet receive pajamas and a pair of slippers.
The stylish loungewear is supplied courtesy of Emirati brand A Friend Of Mine By Xpoze.
The set fit loosely and was very comfortable. The lightweight and breathable material of Etihad’s pajamas is a definite advantage for me, as I often feel warm when wearing long sleepwear on flights. I would definitely use these pajamas at home.
Etihad offers Panasonic inflight Wi-Fi on its A380s, with complimentary access for first class passengers.
I connected my device using the free Wi-Fi code at my seat, and I could download files at speeds close to 60 Mbps, which is pretty fast for inflight Wi-Fi.
Since the code only works on 1 device, I asked a friendly crew member for another Wi-Fi code so I could get some work done on my laptop.
They were glad to help and gave me another one.
I was thoroughly impressed with the exceptional service I received throughout my flight from London to Abu Dhabi. The first class cabin crew was both professional and polite without being overly intrusive. Based on my travels in first class with renowned Asian carriers such as Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Cathay Pacific, I have noticed that the service provided by the 3 leading Middle Eastern carriers (Emirates, Qatar, and Etihad), while not as warm, is still exceptionally attentive and welcoming.
The crew regularly checked in throughout the flight, ensuring I had everything I needed to be comfortable and satisfied on this 7-hour flight to Abu Dhabi.
Our flight arrived at Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) before 8 p.m. local time.
I was the first to deplane and went through immigration in under 10 minutes. I checked into my airport hotel for a good night’s rest before my next morning connecting flight to Muscat, Oman.
The Etihad Airways First Class Apartment on the A380 was truly an exceptional flight experience. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to cross it off my travel bucket list.
I have had the pleasure of flying with Emirates and Qatar Airways in premium cabins on multiple occasions. However, my recent experience with Etihad was exceptional and left me thoroughly impressed with the airline.
The generous amount of space provided for each passenger, along with the refined service, exquisite dining options, the convenience of showering at 35,000 feet, and the luxurious amenities, all contributed to creating a truly unforgettable flight experience!
The information regarding the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
Featured Image Credit: Juan Ruiz. All images credited to Juan Ruiz unless otherwise noted.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many First Class Apartments are on board Etihad's A380?
Etihad’s first class cabin comprises 9 First Class Apartments, including The Residence, a spacious 3-room suite.
Which Etihad planes have First Class Apartments?
Only the Airbus A380 has Etihad Airways First Class Apartments.
How large in space are the Etihad First Class Apartments?
The First Class Apartments are approximately 39 square feet in space.
Which airlines have an onboard shower?
Emirates and Etihad Airways are the only 2 commercial airlines that offer the luxury of an onboard shower for their first class guests.
What routes does Etihad fly the A380?
In addition to operating flights to and from London on its A380 aircraft, Etihad Airways has announced that it will resume its A380 service on the New York-JFK route from its hub in Abu Dhabi.
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This bonus value is an estimated valuation calculated by UP after analyzing redemption options, transfer partners, award availability and how much UP would pay to buy these points.