Steve Hui, the Founder of Reward Points Travel Company reviews the First Class Apartments of an Etihad Airways Airbus A380-800
Abu Dhabi to Sydney
13 hours, 42 mins (AUH-SYD)
Voted Best First Class Airline in Luxury Travel Magazine’s Gold List 2018, Etihad is revolutionising premium air travel with its First Apartments, a single-aisle design with four private and spacious suites on the left side of the aircraft and five on the right. The apartments offer forward and rear-facing configurations, featuring a large leather armchair and a separate bed measuring more than two metres in length, and there is still room to walk around after closing the privacy doors. Six of the apartments interconnect, ideal if you’re travelling with family, friends or business colleagues. Each apartment also features a compact refrigerated minibar with water and soft drinks, a vanity mirror, and full-length wardrobe to hang your clothes after changing into your complimentary inflight loungewear.
The Seat and Bed
Each apartment comprises a plush leather seat plus a long leather lounge which can be converted at any time into a fully flat bed. The seat is extremely comfortable with multiple adjustments and a body-relaxing massage function. A 24-inch touchscreen TV also comes with a smaller handheld touch screen controller for channel surfing. The flight attendants will set up the bed upon request. Padding is placed on top of the lounge as the bed is electronically unfolded, and the finished result is akin to a luxury hotel room, with a white linen doona and a thoughtful card and poem placed on the pillow. A nice touch.
The service is warm, welcoming and efficient. Each of the first-class flight attendants and the on-board chef introduced themselves, before settling me to my seat, explaining the features of the cabin, the seat and TV controls, introducing the menu, and even enquiring when I’d like to take a shower (more on that later). No need to wave or catch the attention of a passing steward; each cabin comes with a handy call button and a flight attendant appears within moments to attend to my requests.
The in-flight chef can create pretty much any à la carte dish using an array of fresh produce and comes for a chat to determine what I’d like to eat and the time I prefer to dine. The standard choices on my route are Hokkaido scallops and tomato and ginger soup as appetisers, with chicken breast, beef tenderloin, lamb or sea bass for main course. Beverages include Charles Heidsieck Brut and Rosé Champagne, with four excellent red and four white wine options. Indulging my passion for whiskey, I also try the Chivas Brothers’ Royal Salute 21 Year and Glenlivet Master Distillers Reserve Single Malt, both superb.
There are more than 140 movies and 350 popular TV shows and live channels, delivered on a touch-screen TV that swivels to a perfect position from either the seat or the bed. The WiFi speed is acceptable for email, instant messaging and Instagram.
The Onboard Lounge
Located between the First Apartments and Business Studio seats is a small circular lounge that accommodates six or seven people with a large-screen TV. It’s a nice space to relax and have a casual chat with other passengers if you get bored of being alone in your private cabin
The shower and toilet space is slightly smaller than the First Apartment and provides a welcome opportunity to freshen up before sleeping and arrival. It’s not often you can shower at 30,000 feet – a treat in itself – although thoughts of what to do in the event of turbulence does preoccupy my mind somewhat.
Extraordinary space and privacy and comfortable TV-watching positions from both the seat and the bed were highlights, while the shower and lounge are unexpected bonuses and help to make the flight pass more quickly. Above all, it’s the small touches that wow me such as that delightful card and poem placed neatly on the white linen pillow before bedtime – simple but memorable.