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Earlier this month, TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig had a chance to tour Etihad’s latest jumbo jet, the most decked-out A380 in the skies.
You’ll probably be impressed when you step aboard any airline’s double-decker A380. But Etihad’s super-jumbo — one of the latest to roll out from the Airbus assembly line in Toulouse, France — is by far the most striking, particularly if you’re lucky enough to be seated in The Residence, The Apartment or Business Studio on the upper deck. Economy is no slouch, either, so rather than focus exclusively on the airline’s premium cabins, I’d like to give you a look at the entire plane.
With the 75,000-mile sign-up bonus available with the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard, you’ll have enough American miles to redeem for any of the cabins listed below (with the exception of The Residence, of course).
Economy Smart Seat
Despite the fancy name, this is pretty much economy as you know it. Of course, some seats are (much) better than others, such as those in row 40, and you can expect an in-flight experience that’s a bit more tolerable than what some of the competition offers.
Economy takes up the entire lower deck of the plane, with a whopping 415 seats in all. There are four seats in the middle of each row and three on each side — par for the course on the A380.
There are USB and power outlets at every seat, so you’ll arrive with your gadgets charged and ready to go.
You’ll be able to pass the time with the 11-inch seat-back touchscreen display. Etihad boasts more than 750 hours of content — you’ll find the same in the cabins we’ll look at below.
Everyone gets direct aisle access in Etihad’s A380 Business Studio cabin, which will definitely come in handy when other travelers decide to get some shut-eye on a 14-hour flight.
Single seats positioned closer to the window (typically even-numbered rows) are best if you’re looking to maximize privacy. Some seats on the sides are nearer to the aisle, so you’ll probably want to avoid booking one of those.
You can recline your seat or bring it back to take-off/landing position with a single button. You also have direct controls for adjusting the lighting in and around the seat.
If you aren’t traveling with a companion, window seats are best. Not only do they offer maximum privacy, you also get extra storage, with a compartment located between the seat and the window.
Each seat has at least three lamps, plus light from the overhead console. Expect a dark cabin during much of a long-haul flight, but you’ll still have plenty of light when you need it. You also get high-tech window shades that lower and darken with a single tap.
Just like with the economy seat, you can expect 750 hours of content here, which you can watch from the 18-inch seat-back TV.
You’ll find a few toiletries in the business-class amenity kit. It’s not quite as comprehensive as what you’ll get in first class, but a few necessities are included, such as a toothbrush, eye mask and ear plugs.
While smaller than what you’ll find in first, the business-class bathrooms are still very nice.
Etihad markets its first class as “The Apartment.” Each suite includes plenty of space to move around, and if you’re traveling with a companion, you can lower the divider between rows 3 and 4.
Each Apartment has a huge sofa that spans the entire length of the seat. It’s large enough to fit three other guests, but unfortunately passengers in business and economy aren’t able to enter the cabin.
It’s hard to beat having a double bed in the sky, but unfortunately Etihad’s isn’t quite as comfy as it looks.
Etihad offers on-demand dining, letting you order any of the 25+ menu items whenever you wish (though the supply is limited, of course, so if there’s something you want in particular, be sure to order in advance).
After the meal, you can close the doors for maximum privacy. Flight attendants can still peek through as they walk by to see if you need anything, but you don’t have to worry about other passengers stumbling into your Apartment.
The nine first-class passengers share two bathrooms, so there shouldn’t be much of a wait. The main lavatory is quite large, with plenty of room to wash up and change clothes.
Only the best A380s have an onboard shower, and Etihad’s is no exception. You get five minutes of hot water, which, when used strategically (you can start and stop the clock), is plenty to get you refreshed before landing.
The amenity kit includes Le Labo toiletries, along with the same items you’ll find in business class — an eye mask, ear plugs and toothbrush.
The highlight on Etihad’s 380 is The Residence, a two-guest, three-room suite located at the front of first class. You get a dedicated butler (that won’t serve other passengers), a large living room, private bathroom and a real (albeit very compact) bedroom. Expect to spend a whopping $32,000 (the second passenger is “free”) on a one-way flight from New York.
Unlike its Apartment equivalent, the double bed in The Residence is quite comfortable.
For more on The Residence, you can watch our video tour above, and check out Photo and Video Tour: The Residence on Etihad’s A380.
Redeeming for Etihad’s A380
The easiest way to score a seat in Etihad’s A380 is to redeem American AAdvantage miles. You’ll need to find “guest seat” availability on Etihad’s site, then call AA to book (be sure to ask the rep to waive the telephone booking fee, since Etihad can’t be booked online). Here’s how one-way pricing for each cabin breaks down, by A380 route:
London to Abu Dhabi (6.5 hours)
– Economy: 20,000 miles
– Business: 30,000 miles
– First Apartment: 40,000 miles
Sydney to Abu Dhabi (14.5 hours)
– Economy: 30,000 miles
– Business: 45,000 miles
– First Apartment: 60,000 miles
New York to Abu Dhabi (12 hours – starts December 1, 2015)
– Economy: 45,000 miles
– Business: 67,500 miles
– First Apartment: 90,000 miles
Overall, this is the most exciting plane I’ve ever had a chance to fly. There are one or two things I might suggest improving (the bedding in The Apartment, for one), but considering you can fly it on a very reasonable American AAdvantage redemption, Etihad’s A380 is hard to beat.
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