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Flight Review: Etihad Airways First Class Apartment A380 AUH to JFK

A couple of notes about this flight. First, there’s pre-clearance at Abu Dhabi, which means that you essentially clear immigration in Abu Dhabi and land as a “domestic” flight in the US. This unfortunately means that you have to leave the wonderful first class lounge much earlier than you normally would. Past pre-clearance, there’s a pretty basic lounge that’s too crowded (since all premium class passengers have access), so don’t leave too early.

Second, the flight leaves in the middle of the night (posted departure time for my flight was 3:20, and it was delayed). I was really struggling to stay awake, so I found this flight a little rough to take.

Third, I had really high expectations for this flight, given that this is supposed to be a revolutionary first class product. While the hard product is pretty great, I was pretty disappointed by the flight overall.

Etihad A380

Boarding was a zoo. There were not nearly enough seats at the gate, and the gate agents had a hard time wrangling people. They also didn’t really do any sort of announcements regarding the fact that the flight was delayed, so they didn’t seem to be managing the situation very well.

This flight was completely full in first class, and the Residence was occupied. This could have contributed to my service issues on this flight, as I don’t think there are enough flight attendants for a completely full cabin. There’s a lot to get done in terms of welcoming people, explaining the features of the “apartment”, giving out pre-departure beverages and dates and coffee, etc, so I felt forgotten most of the time.

That being said, the hard product is pretty cool. There’s a full seat, as well as a couch of sorts that becomes the bed. So there’s tons of space dedicated to each passenger.

Seat

Seat

First class apartment

First class apartment

Arm rest

Seat controls

Lighting

Sofa

In terms of amenities, the pajamas were light, but they didn’t seem to be very high quality, and they didn’t fit very well (I wasn’t given a choice of size). The pants also didn’t have pockets. My favorite airline pajamas are still Cathay Pacific’s PYE pajamas.

First class amenities

Seat

First class cabin

In terms of amenity kit, they provide you with a bag, and they had already taken out all of the amenities and put them into the mirror vanity at each seat. The bag itself did not seem to be all that special.

Vanity and amenity kit

Prior to departure, I received some water, a letter, a wet towel, and dates.

Pre-departure beverage, wet towel, dates

Letter

I’ll also note that we had a delay of an hour and 20 minutes on the plane, but we couldn’t use the in flight entertainment. I also couldn’t use the call button to get anyone’s attention, since the call button is in the IFE remote, which appeared to be disabled on the ground.

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

The tray table is pretty heavy and a bit unwieldy. In terms of storage, there are a couple of drawers, as well as a mini bar with chilled drinks (as opposed to the room temperature drinks you find on Qatar and Emirates). There’s also storage under the couch for bags and larger items.

Tray table

Storage

Storage

First class bed

Underseat storage

Headphones have a magnetic connection

Given how exhausted I was, I went to bed essentially immediately after takeoff. The bed is the couch, so the TV swivels out so you can watch TV in bed if you so wish. The bed is actually not that wide, it’s pretty hard, and you’re tilted slightly sideways because of the tilt of the plane. I felt like there could have been more pillows as well.

Bed

In-flight entertainment screen

Enclosed suite

I woke up much earlier than I wanted because of turbulence and because the cabin was super hot. I asked the flight attendants if they could do anything about the cabin temperature about 5 times, and each time they said they would do something, but nothing ever changed.

At that point, I had breakfast. One thing that’s nice about the separate bed and seat is that you don’t have to eat in bed. Now, the menu says that you can have “eggs made to order”, so I ordered some eggs fried over medium. And then I was told they didn’t have any whole eggs left, but they did have carton eggs, which means I could get eggs either scrambled or in an omelet. Another flight attendant then told me they don’t actually cater whole eggs on US-bound flights, so I don’t know what to believe.

I started off with a pastry basket, which included a croissant, pain au chocolat, and cinnamon snail. The pastries were overheated, so the texture was a bit off.

PastriesMy scrambled eggs came with some hash browns on the side, which were super soggy and oily. At this point, I rang the call button, which just went unanswered (the only other time this has happened to me was on a Qantas first class flight where I essentially had to bus my own dishes because the flight attendants kept ignoring me).

Scrambled eggs

Fruit plate

I ended up taking a shower about two hours prior to landing. Make sure to tell the flight attendant early during boarding when you’d like to shower if it’s a full flight! The shower was easily the best part of the flight, as it makes me feel super refreshed.

Although the bathroom is pretty small, the shower itself was pretty spacious. It’s not as nice or palatial as the Emirates shower, but it’s still amazing, and you get 5 minutes of water.

Bathroom

Shower time

After my shower, I had another meal. Although I had pre-ordered a VGML, the onboard chef told me that the special meal was pretty shitty, so he offered to whip up something better. I started off with some lima beans and dried tomato. Pretty flavorless by itself, but I added some olive oil to give it some taste.

Lima beans and dried tomatoes

I was then brought the green pea and mint soup, which I didn’t order. I don’t think this was intentional, as they later brought me the correct soup. This was fine.

Green pea and mint soup

Next came the soup that I did order, which was the spinach and lentil soup. It was more like a liquidy puree. Originally, I was served this course without a soon, and then the flight attendant gave me some lemon about 10 minutes after they gave me the soup, so I’m not sure if they were supposed to have been served together.

Spinach and green lentil soup

Next up was a grapefruit granita as a palate cleanser. This was super icy and pretty much inedible.

Grapefruit granita

My main was a rice pilaf with ratatouille, garnished with truffle oil. This was pretty tasty, if basic.

Rice pilaf with ratatouille

Finally, I had the “textures” dessert, which was chocolate four ways. This was easily the best thing I ate on the plane.

Chocolate four ways

Honestly, I felt like the service was pretty bad on this flight. I think it’s largely because there weren’t enough flight attendants for the number of passengers and the amount of service that each passenger needed. Like my requests would just go unfulfilled, call buttons would go unanswered, and the flight attendants seemed constantly harried. This seemed like such a stark contrast compared to my wonderful service experience in the First Class lounge. A flight attendant asked me as we were preparing for landing how my flight was, and when she sensed that I wasn’t super impressed with the service, she tried to ply me with sweets.

Tea and sweets

Overall, the hard product is pretty fun. It’s nice to have an “apartment” (even if it’s gimmicky), and it’s great to have a shower on board. That being said, I find Cathay Pacific’s bed to be more comfortable (and Lufthansa’s old separate seat and bed in first class on the 747 to be the most comfortable bed I’ve slept in on a plane), and Emirates has a better shower. The biggest let down on this flight was the service, but I think that was a function more of the completely full first class cabin (including the Residence), rather than the flight attendants themselves. So not a stellar flight due to the bad service, but it’s fun to try.

Lounge Review: Etihad Airways First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Airport (AUH)

My next stop during my layover at AUH was the Etihad Airways First Class Lounge and Spa. This visit happened just a couple of weeks after this lounge opened.

Entrance to the Etihad First Class Lounge and Spa

The lounge isn’t enormous like the Qatar Airways Al Safwa lounge or the Emirates First Class lounge in Dubai, but it’s tastefully appointed and has plenty of awesome amenities.

Lounge seating

Lounge seating

Lounging areas

Lounge area

Lounge seating

They’ll serve you food just about anywhere, and they specifically have a bar/lounge food menu. There’s also a limited self-service food station, but there are people roaming around the lounge who are ready to take your order and bring you food wherever you are.

Bar

Self-service food

Self-service food

Self-service drinks

There’s also a cigar room, a workout area, and a spa. During my layover, I had a shave at the spa.

Cigars

Cigar room

Cigar menu

Spa area

Workout room

Workout room

Shower room

The most impressive part of my visit was the dining room. Mostly because the service was impeccable. I was told that during the first couple of months that the lounge was open, they actually had flight crew serve as staff in the lounge to ensure a high level of service.

Dining area

Dining area

Dining area

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

First, I had a snack before I sat in the dining room proper. I asked for the spring rolls vegetarian and some sweet potato fries. Both were pretty good.

Vegetarian spring rolls and sweet potato fries

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

I then had a proper meal in the dining room. I didn’t see much on the main food menu that appealed to me, and the server essentially asked me what I wanted to eat and she’d tell the chef to whip me up something catered to my liking.

First, I was served a confit of asparagus and roasted baby beets. It could have used some salt and acid, but I was impressed by the effort.

Confit of asparagus and roasted baby beets

Prior to the next course, I was served an intermezzo of a mango sorbet palate cleanser. Not really necessary after my first course, but that’s the level of formality of the lounge dining room.

My entree was a vegetable curry with rice and bread. It was pretty tasty! Probably the best savory thing I ate all day.

Vegetable curry with rice and bread

For dessert, I had the chocolate sponge cake with salted caramel ice cream and a fruit plate. Both were presented beautifully.

Chocolate sponge cake with salted caramel ice cream

Fruit plate

And since I’m gluttonous, I also helped myself to a number of the self-serve dessert options. These were all fine and considerably better than the self-serve dessert options at the Qatar Airways Al Safwa lounge.

Dessert

Overall, it’s not the most outwardly fancy lounge, but the dining options are terrific, the service was incredible, and there are cool amenities like a spa, workout room, and cigar room.

Lounge Review: Etihad Airways Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi Airport (AUH)

My first stop during my transit of Abu Dhabi airport was the Etihad Premium Lounge. This lounge is open to business class passengers flying on Etihad.

Entrance to Etihad Premium Lounge

The lounge has all of the typical amenities of a business class lounge: plenty of seating, a business center, dining area, and bar. In addition, there are also some more novel amenities like a spa (that you have to pay for). The lounge is quite large, so there are plenty of places to sit.

Business area

Six Senses Spa

Sofa seating

Lounge seating

Dining area

Although the lounge isn’t the fanciest business class lounge I’ve been in (that would probably be Cathay Pacific’s Pier or maybe Emirates’ Business Class lounge), I was pretty impressed by the extensive food options in this lounge. The food options just seemed to go on and on. There’s everything from sushi to pandan jelly, so you’re bound to find something that appeals to you.

Sushi

Olives and pickles

Hot food

Hot food

Salads and mezze

Bakery items

Butter

Cheese, yogurt

Salads

Hot food

Bar

Dessert

Dessert

Dessert

Fruit

Dessert

Dessert

Sandwiches

Overall, it’s a solid business class lounge with quite extensive food options.