Full 360 Degree Virtual Reality Look at the Most Impressive First Class in the Sky

There are three great international first class flight products. There are many airlines which are very good. But the first class offerings in Airbus A380s of Etihad, Emirates, and Singapore Airlines are better than the rest.

And Etihad’s first class Apartment is better, even, than the first classes of Emirates and Singapore.

The scarcest resource on a plane is square footage. Every inch counts. The greatest luxury, therefore, is space and privacy. And Etihad offers that in a way that no other carrier can come close to.

The ‘First Apartment’ is a single aisle product on the A380 superjumho jet. That’s unprecedented, and it’s what more than anything makes Etihad’s First Apartment product better than any other commercial first class in the sky.

You get a super wide seat and you also have a bench where folks can sit with you inside your suite. A dining companion can sit across from you (and even be seatbelted in) for a meal.

It’s that bench that folds out and turns into a bed, of course with a mattress and sheets and a blanket that’s softer than any I’ve hand on other airlines. Traveling with someone? The wall between rows 3 and 4 on each side of the aircraft comes down. When you’re both in bed mode, you can be laying next to each other with nothing between you from the waist up — almost like home.

Etihad is also the only airline besides Emirates to offer an onboard shower.

Etihad does a great job with onboard cuisine. They have an ‘onboard chef’ concept — a flight attendant with restaurant experience who has primary cooking responsibility inflight — and there are great chefs who really tailor their cooking to your preferences and others who ‘only’ offer what’s on the menu. But they hit some great heights at times. They can customize meals to your preference. And the ‘dine anytime’ concept means you can have anything from across the menu throughout the flight. While I’ve read reports of running out of food inflight, the only items I’ve ever seen that with are the biryanis that always seem more popular than what’s boarded.

Now, there’s an onboard lounge area but it’s not a tended bar the way that Emirates and Qatar have. And their first class alcohol choices isn’t as quite as high end as you’ll find on some other airlines, notably Emirates. Still I find their wine choices thoughtful, and the lack of $300 whiskey and $700 cognac is a small quibble that doesn’t mean much to me.

Etihad’s A380 also has a product beyond the First Apartment. I had the chance to spend time inside The Residence on a couple of my recent New York JFK – Abu Dhabi flights.

There’s a seating area that accommodates two passengers. There’s a private bathroom with shower. And there’s a separate bedroom.

The seating area is basically two seats, as two passengers can share the Residence. Beyond the seating area, or ‘living room’, of the Residence is a corridor to the bathroom and the bedroom.

There’s even a special lounge for Residence passengers at New York JFK and inside the new Etihad first class lounge in Abu Dhabi.

Photos are one thing. Etihad has produced a 360 degree virtual reality film with Nicole Kidman that takes you through their Airbus A380, including inside The Residence. You can drag the screen to change your viewing angle in this video.

If you want to fly Etihad’s premium cabins, award space from Abu Dhabi to the US and on many worldwide routes is quite plentiful (the only way to book the Residence as a frequent flyer award is with Etihad’s own miles, at an exorbitant rate).

You can transfer points from Citibank ThankYou Rewards directly to Etihad, and you can also book Etihad awards using American AAdvantage miles.

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. The first class product of Singapore Airlines does not even compare to the Middle Eastern Airlines. Their planes are getting very tired, there seat is horrible and their award availability isn’t all that great.

  2. “The first class product of Singapore Airlines does not even compare to the Middle Eastern Airlines. Their planes are getting very tired, there seat is horrible and their award availability isn’t all that great.”

    With the exception of Etihad’s 380, Singapore’s Suites and, frankly IMO, 777 first class is a cut above Emirates and Etihad’s first class products from my experience. And to the extent that Qatar has a first class, it’s on significantly older A340/A330’s for the most part and often mid-haul routes, though I’ve never flown it.

    Emirates A380 is swanky looking, and the bar is nice, but the seats are simply too narrow to compare to SQ/CX/etc. The feel narrower than Cathay/AA/etc have in business class! There’s just too much crap everywhere and all of it narrowed the seat dimensions too much IMO (and I’m not fat).

    Etihad’s A340 is OK – more spacious and comfortable than Emirates A380, but the issue I have with Etihad is that they bid upgrades so aggressively that in 4 of 5 times I’ve flown them in F, the cabin was either 11/12 or 12/12 — often with younger men who weren’t terribly concerned about manners … playing their phones on full blast volume, hanging feet into the aisle, etc. Also, I really don’t like AUH as an airport. It’s not nearly as well run as DXB, SIN, HKG, etc.

    Singapore is simply a more refined experience, the bed is comfortable, and the FAs are consistently on point. I like Cathay and Lufthansa a lot too, for similar reasons. The entire experience just feels more tasteful and like substance was valued as highly as style. Yes, the shower on EK is nice, but on a 10+ hour flight, I need some ground time anyways. I would like it a lot on the JFK-MXP redeye, though … hit the ground and go.

    This is based on 3 segments in CX F, 6 in SQ F (mix of A380/777), 5 in EY F and 4 in EK F and too many to count in LH F. I’ve never flown QR F. So while I may not have flown all the products as much as Gary or others, I do feel like I can make broad general comparisons…

  3. One day Gary, one day. I can shoot 360 video but it’s a bit grainy and hard to get those stable shots. This is extremely well done (albeit long) with perfect motorized movement to keep it perfectly still to enhance the 360 experience. Well done Etihad.

  4. Wow, after your earlier post had the 360 review of BA 1st, I was startled to see this headline as maybe connected with that and I’m going WTF???

    IMO the Etihad Apartment is tops, although I am looking forward to my upcoming trips in CX and JAL: First.

    Safe landings!

  5. Any hope for AA award JFK-AUH? Hope to fly round trip in the Apartment in January, but no availability other than 1-2 days in advance.

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