Report: Etihad Bringing Back Airbus A380s – With The Residence And First Apartment!!

Etihad Airways parked its 10 Airbus A380s during the pandemic, and its CEO said they’d likely never fly again. That’s sad because their best passenger experience was on this aircraft. Indeed, many airlines had their best seats and amenities on the world’s largest passenger jet.

Last year Etihad’s CEO said it’s “possible the aircraft will fly again once more under the Etihad brand but only if certain market conditions are met.”

He offered that any plan to bring back the Airbus A380 would only be temporary, a “stopgap” until the Abu Dhabi-based carrier takes deliveries of new widebody aircraft currently on order from Boeing and Airbus. They have a new business class seats for their Airbus A350s with no first class cabin.

Now there’s a report that they’ll bring back 3 A380s next year, operating to London, Sydney and Paris from Abu Dhabi.

If correct this means it should be possible to use American AAdvantage miles and Air Canada Aeroplan miles (as well as Etihad’s own miles) to book one of the best products in the sky. I’ve flown Etihad’s First Apartment almost as much as Cathay Pacific first class over the years.

It’s been my go-to for trips to the Maldives (5 of my last 6 were on Etihad). I’ve visited the Mideast many times, alternating between Etihad and Emirates. And I’ve even chosen Middle East stops enroute to Australia because First Apartment redemptions for both long haul segments made the journey so easy.

Etihad introduced its ‘Apartment’ – really a room that has a separate seat and bed, and of course a shower available in the cabin for first class passengers – when they took delivery of their first Airbus A380. At the time it was arguably the best first class in the world, though now some prefer Emirates new first suite, the new Singapore Airlines A380 Suites, or ANA’s new first class.

Part of the divider between adjoining Apartments slides down, and passengers traveling together could this ‘be in bed beside each other’ which was special.

Despite advances at other airlines it remained a top 5 product in the world and it was regularly available using miles for routes like New York JFK – Abu Dhabi, Paris – Abu Dhabi, and Abu Dhabi to Sydney and Melbourne. Using American miles you did have to know a booking trick, and availability often only showed for flights to the U.S. when searching roundtrip awards originating in Abu Dhabi on the Etihad website (but you’d book by phone anyway).

What’s nuts is that the First Apartment wasn’t even Etihad’s best product. The ‘Apartment’ in the first row on the left side of the cabin was turned into “The Residence” by combining it with what some A380 operators used as a dead space or lounge space, giving it not just a sitting area but also its own bathroom/shower and separate bedroom.

Residence guests had their own butler, who was Savoy Hotel-trained in the U.K. and had to wear butler attire when serving the Residence. Etihad would customize what they would have on board for a Residence guest based on advance requests. When no passengers were booked into the Residence the butler acted as a flight attendant on board.

Aside from the A380 though and while they may have eliminated first class chefs their first class suites on the limited number of planes still offering those remain fairly spectacular.

(HT: @hanchicago)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Good to learn that Etihad Airways continues to offer excellent and distinguished customer service on their flights.

  2. Question for those who may have flown both, I’m booked in Q suites to get to Doh for a Maldives trip & the new Etihad 350 biz seats coming back. I hear a lot of buzz regarding Q suites but they seem pretty comparable as far as I can tell. I’m still trying to fine tune flights as things come open, so may end up switching one of the flights to the other. Any thoughts as to why one is better than the other?

    Also, I may have to route through London if I can find a way to snag 2x Apartments for this trip. Long shot, I know 🙂

  3. Great. Just flew Etihad 1st on DreamLiner to IAD Did QR 1st from Sydney and enjoyed Qantas First Class Lounge, the flight and super Doha lounge, but would like to fly the Apartment again

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