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.
It’s been expected that they’d bring back 3 A380s, operating to London, Sydney and Paris from Abu Dhabi.
Etihad Airways are expected to bring back 3 Airbus A380s. Initially in the first 12 months, they will flying to the following destinations;
London Heathrow 5x weekly
Sydney 3x weekly
Paris 2x weekly
More details to be released by the airline in the coming weeks pic.twitter.com/VrkS3rAQQN
— M Zulqarnain B (@MZulqarnainBut1) August 5, 2022
Weeks ago it was revealed they’d restarted crew training for the aircraft.
Just been advised that crew training has begin again
— M Zulqarnain B (@MZulqarnainBut1) November 29, 2022
FINALLY ETIHAD HAS OFFICIALLY CONFIRMED!!
OUR A380s ARE COMING BACK! 👏👏👏
You read that right. From Summer 2023, our iconic A380s will make their return with 4x super-jumbos launched for service to London. 🥳
— Etihad Airways (@etihad) December 9, 2022
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.
We don’t yet know what products Etihad will sell on board once the A380 returns, for instance if the Residence will be sold at all or as a premium first class seat. I can’t wait to see.