I managed to book several segments with Etihad before American Airlines increased their redemption levels, nearly a year ago. This meant that I also qualified for the chauffeur at both ends of the journey. My destination was Melbourne, Australia but I stopped in Abu Dhabi on the way.
Leaving the Etihad Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 4 I walked to Gate 10, where the A380 was waiting for me. Etihad uses two gates for boarding, based on which deck your seat is located.
As I had a First Class seat I was on the upper deck. A mix-up at boarding meant that I was sent on to the lower deck and had to climb the stairs to get to the Apartments. The view back towards the stairs is shown on the right below.
I had reserved a forward facing seat, which the staff in the lounge had asked me to relinquish in favour of a backward facing seat. I declined and retained 4K primarily because this seat has the chair adjacent to the window and not to the aisle. I love taking photos during taxing.
The apartment consists of a number of elements – the seat, the drop down bed plus mini-bar, vanity unit and wardrobe.
As soon as I sat down the staff were ready to offer me a drink, point out the features of seat and let me know how everything worked. They returned moments later with my sleeper suit and my drink, some dates and a welcome letter from the Customer Service Manager.
The entertainment monitor is opposite the seat but flips so you can watch it when sleeping.
Shortly after this the chef appeared with the menu – and ran through the options available on the flight. This was probably the most interesting part – there were a huge number of options – and he was happy to mix and match anything in order to get a meal that I liked!
I had eaten breakfast in the lounge and so decided to go for the soup (which was superb), followed by the Biriani and chocolate pudding.
Later in the flight I had the Steak Frites – not least because a love the idea of Chips on a plane.
All the food was hot, fresh and very tasty. I was completely impressed with the food, service and the whole experience.
Although the flight was just over 7 hours, I thought a nap was in order and so had the staff make up the bed, The bed has your head at the aisle and feet at the window. This is primarily because the screen flips so you can watch in bed. Personally I found that the floor bounced when people walked along the corridor and so I switched it around.
Pretty good sleep followed for a couple of hours before it was time to wake up and take a shower. (My pre-ordered Latte arrived as I was waking.)
Yes, a shower on a plane. Madness.
Let me say from the start that this was a trip that I could never have paid for and so I was keen to have the best experience possible. So I took up the offer of the shower. Located in the smaller of the two bathrooms at the front of the First Class cabin, staff lay out a towel and bath mat in advance of using it and then explained how it worked. There is a count down timer which shows you how much time you have left. A pretty decent shower is possible in the time given and I came out refreshed.
We landed a little early but had a fifteen minute taxi to the gate which was in Terminal 3. A short walk and I was in the Fast Track for immigration, followed by an x-ray of my luggage. The Etihad Chauffeur desk was signposted and after a few minutes of checking they directed me to the line. Here the agent didn’t have my name and so had to make a phone call, even though the staff at the desk HAD just confirmed it. About 30 minutes after landing I was in the cab on the way to the hotel.
This was a great experience – a one off that I am never likely to repeat. However, if you get the chance to try Etihad First on the A380, I would take it in a heartbeat.