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June 26, 2016 / oneworld82

My best First Class flight ever: Etihad Airways Apartment, AUH-JFK (EY A380 F)

Etihad Airways Flight 103,AUH-JFK

First Class, Apartment 3A

Airbus A380-800

May 21st, 2016 – 03:35 – 09:35

First class customers were called in first, and so boarding began. As I walked through the long jetbridge all the way to the second level, I could feel the excitement growing. After all, not only I was going to try Etihad’s Apartments – I was also going back home to my family!

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EY A380’s upper level is all dedicated to premium cabins; as you board the plane, right take you to business class, left to first class. The flight attendant at the door greeted me and upon seeing that I was seated in First Class handed the boarding card to another flight attendant, Monica, who promptly escorted me to my suite.

I called in 3-4 weeks earlier to try to reserve one of the windows, forward-facing seats, but they had already been reserved. So I got “stuck” with a rear-facing window seat, which did not bother me at all.

My first impression of the apartment? WOW! Is this thing for real?

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I put my bags on the side and just looked around the cabin for a few minutes – I am pretty sure with a rather dumbfounded expression. The other flight attendant in charge of the cabin came by and offered me a newspaper, and once back she asked me whether I had flown the Apartment before. As I said I had not, she proceeded to show me all the cool features of the cabin. I was positively surprised by the good amount of storage space, as well as by the minibar that had cold drinks (a step up from EK’s minibar for sure). Also, a cool feature is the vanity area: the wall – where everything is hidden in a very minimalistic way and revealed by putting pressure on the various compartments – opens up to reveal a true vanity area with light, mirrors, and all amenities, including a bag (the Bedouin-inspired one), Le Labo products, razor, dental kit, make up pads, socks and eyeshades.

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The seat is wide and comfortable, while in front of it you have a sofa that runs all the length of the cabin and that becomes a very comfortable bed whenever needed. Under the bed there is enough storage space for a carryon and for shoes/small bags. Also, a rather spacious closet with a hanger is located near the apartment’s door – it was big enough to accommodate my suit jacket, jeans, and shirt, plus a couple of duty free bags.

The second flight attendant offered me a drink, and I went for some Bollinger La Grande Annee, which was served with some dates. This champagne is absolutely delicious, and a very good choice on EY’s part that help the company differentiate itself from the competition and the usual Krug/Dom Perignon (hashtag firstworldproblems). I really like how Etiahd serves its wines: first the glass, empty, is brought on a nice tray (with whatever else comes with it). Then, the flight attendant brings the bottle and pours the drink right in front of you. This is class.

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Right before the champagne was served, Hassan, the cabin manager for this flight, came by to introduce himself. That was followed by First, the Dutch onboard chef, who told me what the special of the day was and that would be amazing throughout the flight.

The flight attendant came by shortly after offering some Arabic coffee, and of course I did not say no because that stuff is addicting!

Boarding continued until all seats were eventually taken. The Residence, from what I could see, remained empty.

Before leaving, pajamas and slippers were brought on a neat Etihad’s bag.

Happy camper

Happy camper

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We ended up leaving around 45 minutes behind schedule because, as the cabin manager announced, a passenger was not feeling well and was being attended by medics. That made me worry a bit, as I had a tight connection in NYC – I had to transfer to LGA and I only had ~2hrs there. Eventually all was fine.

I am still today amazed by how quiet the A380 take offs are. For such a huge plane, it’s simply incredible. Once airborne, the crew started working on dinner.

The menus were handed out during boarding, and before taking off First had stopped by to take my order and to see how I wanted to space/split my meals. I mentioned I wanted something light, and he suggested I had some mezze (thank you very much!) followed by the scallops. I said sure, but after a few minutes I chased him and asked if he could add the salmon to the order as well. I mean, I wanted something light, but not too much so! He also recommended the Chardonnay with this meal, to which I agreed (I will tell you: that was a great choice!).

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A pre-dinner drink was offered, and of course I had some more Bollinger. This was served with some nuts, some olives, and some wasabi peas.

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About 15 minutes later, the table was set, and the fun began. First, it was an amuse bouche.

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This was something fried with some mango sauce – delicious!

Then, the mezze were taken in. Look at this presentation:

Mezze

Mezze

Isn’t it beautiful? I like how Etihad tries to give a spin to the babaganouj, which in the US is more similar to moutabal. The cheese sambousek was fantastic, and the chardonnay paired well with this.

Zaatar bread

Zaatar bread

After the appetizer, a sorbet was offered. Great!

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Next came the scallops. If Etihad serves scallops on a plane, you can rest assured they are super fresh – and in fact, these ones – served chilled on top of apples – were very fresh and meaty. You really have to give kudos to Etihad for training its chefs in presenting the dishes in a very tasteful way.

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Next came the salmon. I am usually wary of fish on planes, as it tends to be always dry and drenched in some sort of sauce. Astonishingly, this salmon was very simple, yet very tasty as it was tender and moist – just like you would have it at any nice restaurant. It was served with baby turnips, purple carrots, and leeks – a simple dish but an absolute winner!

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This dinner was, well, fantastic. While I think that JAL and ANA do an incredible job with their kaiseki dinner concept, Etihad matched them with its on-board chef. The menu is not as vast as Emirates’, but the quality is excellent.

After dinner I changed into my pj (handed over before departure in a nice Etiahd-branded bag) and while I was in the restroom taking care of my oral hygiene, Monica made my bed. Look at this:

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This looks more like a hotel room than an airplane seat! The padding was very comfortable, and the fact that the sofa is made with Poltrona Frau leather is certainly a plus.

I also liked how the tv turns 180 degrees, making it easy to watch while lying down.

I soundly slept for about 4-5 hours, and when I woke up we were cruising over Greenland (one of the countries on my shortlist, btw).

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As I needed to stretch my legs a bit, I went to check out the lounge, which was a cool space but, in my opinion, not as nice as Emirates’ bar, which remains my favorite spot to socialize on a plane.

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The table had some dirty ware, but after a few minutes one of the business class FA’s came by to clear it up and then Monica appeared asking whether I’d like anything to drink. I ordered a smoothie – she brought me a multi-fruit concoction that was as fresh as it was amazing – and some fresh fruit, and I caught up with some work before going back to my suite to start writing this very trip report.

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I ordered a cappuccino with a glass of Hennessy X.O. – the presentation was, once again, beautiful.

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Exactly three hours before landing I was informed that my shower was ready – just as requested before departure. Very good.

Similar to Emirates, he shower allows use of five minutes of water. While Emirates shower restroom is impressively big, the one on Etihad is much smaller yet functional. Shower amenities are provided and are Le Labo (they came with a small resealable, waterproof bag to take the goodies home if wanted – a nice touch).

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Water pressure was great, and the shower was very restorative.

After getting back to my seat First stopped by to take my breakfast order. I wanted some fried eggs and a steak sandwich, but he informed me that due to FAA regulations only boiled and scrambled eggs could be served on board. So we settled for some scrambled eggs and a sandwich, which were delivered about 15 minutes later and that were both delicious and fantastically prepared.

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It’s hard to describe how well-executed everything was during this flight – hopefully the pictures do some justice to the great work of the crew. Before landing, I had one last cup of coffee.

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I kept watching some tv – the offering is pretty extensive and they have live TV as well…

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…but before I knew it, we landed in NYC to end was a truly memorable flight.

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Overall, I am seriously impressed by Etihad’s apartments – a fantastic product that, while I don’t think is the best in everything, is certainly the most well-rounded out there. The crew did a phenomenal job in providing excellent and personalized service – a great improvement from my past EY flights – and the hard product is simply the best in the industry.

Can’t wait to fly it again soon!

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