It was just my luck with timing. I only missed being able to try out the Etihad First Class Apartment by a day. But flights couldn’t be changed so I had to settle to try out the First Class Suite on a 777 for the first time.
I was very excited to get availability (within 3 weeks) to be able to upgrade with points from Business to First on this flight and considering only 3 of the 8 seats were occupied on this leg I can see why people were probably waiting for the A380 to leave Melbourne instead.
I booked this flight with a combination of Virgin Australia Velocity points and taxes ($240) before the changes came into effect for higher booking fees after the 1st June.
We had our pick of seats prior to booking and chose the middle two seats in Row 2.
I had booked the Etihad Chauffeur service in advance and they called the confirm the day before and picked up right on time.
Melbourne Airport isn’t the most exciting place to check in for an Etihad First Class flight (unlike other airports with Premium Check-in facilities) and upon arriving at the counter the First Class check-in attendant was assisting a Business Class passenger so I was called to a different desk. Being tagged through to Europe on two separate reservation numbers (though all flights with Etihad but two transit stops) seemed to be an issue as the system was having trouble tagging the bags through to their final destination. Boarding passes were only issued for 2 of the 3 flights.
The attendant who was was looking after the First Class desk seemed slightly miffed we were being served by someone else “Oh you’re my other First passenger today, I’ve been expecting you”.
None the less the whole process took around 10 mins, Lounge invitations issued and the precious baggage bar code receipts given (which we’d need later on as the luggage got lost in Milan for 3 days).
Was fantastic to visit the new Etihad Business/First Lounge which had only recently opened around the time of our flight. Understated and minimalist design, friendly but not intrusive staff, a very relaxing and calm way to spend an hour before a 13 hour flight.
They offer a full Dining Menu as well as a small buffet and a bar with every drink you can think of. We chose to have an Entree/Main/Dessert from the Dining Menu and the food was more bite size then full servings which I think for the time frame is a brilliant idea.
There is plenty of seating in the new lounge across different designated areas, some great views and overall relaxing feel.
The bathrooms (of which there were two attendants directing people to what they needed, whether it was the bathroom, shower area, prayer room) were very friendly and the bathrooms had the standard amenity products to freshen up as well as hair dryer.
If there was an area that I think truly sucked on this flight it was the boarding process. Only one line and I got stuck behind around 200 people waiting to get onto the plane. When you’re flying First you just want to get into your seat and relax. When I arrived to show the attendant by boarding pass she looked somewhat surprised i was behind the Economy passengers (big Melbourne boarding fail) and I was escorted into the First Cabin.
Can I say I was underwhelmed? Perhaps I’ve been reading too many trip reports on the First Apartments, but it didn’t seem as spacious as previous reviews I had read made it out to be.
We were greeted by the onboard Chef after a few minutes who though was a very nice guy found it hard to communicated in English! I had such high expectations of the onboard Chef service that Etihad First Class offers, but he didn’t offer any suggestions even when I asked questions about the meals. It was all quite “Just order off the menu and tell me the times now”. Very rushed and not the experience I was expecting.
One of the flight attendants brought over the gift bag which had the amenity kit (fabulous products), slippers and pyjamas. The Pyjamas are a very small fit (Large is best designed for a Small) so we didn’t wear them.
Drinks were offered prior to take off (Champagne, Water or Juice) as well as a hot towel. A typed note welcoming us to First Class was delivered along with traditional Arabic dates.
This was a long flight. Almost 13 hours. With a departure time of 3pm (and arrival to Abu Dhabi at 11:30pm) it was designed to throw your body clock out on the way to Europe. I had planned to sleep as soon as I could to try and get my body into some sort of routine.
After having flown Etihad in Business many times before I have to say I much prefer the seat in Business Class. The leather seat is hot and wasn’t as comfortable as I expected. The attendant made up the bed when we were ready to sleep with a mattress pad, duvet and pillow; and while it is easier to lie in positions you normally would at home, it just didn’t feel all that soft even with the mattress pad.
Etihad cabins are known to be very hot and this flight was no exception with having to ask numerous times to please turn the heating down!
The ceiling changing lights throughout the flight (to help combat time zones) was a nice touch, especially sleeping under the stars. This was very cool!
My favourite product in the First Class Amenity Kit is the “Sleep Spray”. Designed with aromatherapy tones it smelt fantastic and was a nice touch sprayed onto the pillow.
If there is one thing Etihad do well it’s the food. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad meal on any of their flights/routes and this flight was no exception. The full menu is available to view in the pictures below
Full table service is set up anytime you’d like to eat and the presentation is fantastic. The meat was cooked well and the fresh rolls very tasty. The overall quality of the food never fails to disappoint and with only 3 people in the cabin all our choices were available throughout.
Etihad have one of the largest TV screens in the sky as well as a decent choice of Movies, TV Shows, Documentaries, Travel Shows, Music and more. I chose to bring my own laptop and use the in seat power to keep it charged as well as my own headphones. Etihad headphones just aren’t good quality (especially for First Class) so the trusty Bose travel with me everything.
I do enjoy watching the inflight camera and watching the plane take off and land.
The Purser didn’t come and say hello until around 6 hours into the flight. I found the service onboard this particular flight slightly cool, with the attendant in our cabin just going through the motions and nothing else. Service was slow and meals didn’t come out or were forgotten about when we had pre-booked. Even getting a cup of tea had to reminded more than once. Normally I find Etihad cabin crew to be exceptional but obviously today just wasn’t my day!
I managed to get around 5 hours sleep (would have loved more but the cabin was far too hot to get comfortable) during the flight.
It was an easy taxi to an actual gate at Abu Dhabi Airport (no bus!) and arrived 90mins ahead of schedule.
Transit within Abu Dhabi airport to connecting flights is very easy with well designed walk ways and signage to both the gates, the other terminals and the Lounges.
Value for Money: 8/10
Would I fly Etihad again? Absolutely yes. They’re in my Top 3 International airlines however I wouldn’t fly in the First Suite again (I’d ensure it’s a route with the First Apartment) as the points value isn’t worth it and I would have been more than happy in Business Class. I’ve taken two other Etihad flights since this one and both crew’s have been brilliant.