Inside Etihad’s First Apartment: An Unforgettable Abu Dhabi to London Flight

After a visit to the new terminal in Abu Dhabi, and Etihad’s new first class lounge, a lounge attendant escorted us from the first class lounge through the business class lounge to board our flight from inside the lounge.

Our boarding passes were scanned and we headed down a couple of escalators to board the aircraft’s upper deck. From there we turned left into the magnificent first class cabin.

We were shown to our suites (“apartments”) and boy do I love these. The scarce resource on a plane is space, and these allocate tons of space to each passenger. You really have more of a room than a seat.

It’s not just a suite with a door. You have your own recliner and bed. You have your own small closet and vanity.

There are drawers and a minibar.

And of course you do have a door that closes. There’s also a divider on both sides of the aircraft in rows 3 and 4 that comes down on demand so that passengers traveling in these seats together can be closer together. In fact since seats alternate facing forward and backward, the beds line up against each other in these rows and passengers can sleep beside each other (from the waist up) as though they have a double bed.

A bottle of water and the flight’s amenity kit were pre-placed at each seat. (The amenity kit is inside the vanity.)

There is also a blanket at your seat, and the bedding is there as well (underneath one of the benches that has seatbelts for visitors and that tuns into a bed, and inside one of the drawers). Your carry on bag goes underneath the bench as well, though the crew is happy to store it for you, since there’s no overhead bin in the cabin to create greater spaciousness.

During boarding there’s a lot of activity, from being greeted by crew and welcomed on board, to being given a predeparture beverage, towel, and dates, to having menus, pajamas and also slippers distributed as well. (The latter two were distributed in an Etihad shopping bag, with crew having sized you up for the correct pajamas.) Arabic coffee is distributed as well.

I reviewed the menu and wine list on the ground and pondered what I might try. While meals are certainly offered once in the air, it’s a dine anytime (and mix and match) concept. You can have what you wish, whenever you wish.

We pushed back more or less on time.

Once in the air, canapes were distributed along with a drink of choice. I had a dirty martini to begin.

Then I went with the caviar course, followed by the steak and fries as an accompaniment, and then the hazelnut bar. I had a glass of the Yarra Yering Dry Red Wine No 2 shiraz from the Yarra Valley with the steak and a glass of the sauternes with the dessert.

After the meal I had the crew make up my bed, and I took a short nap.

Then I sat with my daughter in her apartment while she played games. I ordered us snacks. The sliders themselves were good but the buns came out too hard. The chocolate fondant, though, was amazing.

About 90 minutes prior to landing I had my shower. I had asked for the last available time slot, and was told that since the captain was expecting turbulence into London they couldn’t be sure they would be able to make the shower available 60 minutes out, the usual last time.

There are two restrooms for first class passengers. One of them is quite large, and the other small. Here’s the larger one:

It’s the small one that contains the shower. About 10 minutes prior to showering crew will make up the shower, ensuring that it’s clean and laying out bath amenities, a bath mat, and bath towel inside the lavatory shower room.

You get 5 minutes of water to use, but can start and stop the water as you wish. So if you fancy something more than a 5 minute shower, just use a bit of water to lather up with and then turn off the water. Turn the water back on when you’re ready to rinse off. It’s plenty of water to work with. All in all you get ‘half an hour give or take’ in the shower room though in practice it’s often really just as long as you wish because I find most passengers in the cabin don’t actually make use of the shower.

Returning to my seat after showering, shaving, and changing into fresh clothes I found a cold towel and chocolates at my seat. We circled London for a bit and wound up in maybe 20 minutes late even though we had shown arrival a little bit early for much of the flight.

Immigration wasn’t bad, and terminal 4 is a breeze to get out of, so we were on our way into Central London.

All in all, if I hadn’t flown this aircraft configuration a dozen times and hadn’t flown it just a week before, I’d call it ‘the flight of a lifetime.’ It was honestly perfect, and I still believe that the Etihad First Apartment is the third best hard product in the sky – behind only the Emirates new first class and Singapore Suites.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. I think it’s awesome. If there is an equalizer, even ultra rich (> $100MM) can’t afford to fly private across the pond or Pacific. It makes us possible for us plebes to fly in this cabin for a special occasion. 😉

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