We looked forward to this flight for a very long time. I was “forced” to book this flight a long time ago so I could use my American Airlines miles to book the ticket before American increased their award prices.
We flew on Etihad from Melbourne, Australia to Cairo, Egypt with a layover in Abu Dhabi. American lists Australia in their South Pacific region and Egypt in their Middle East region. At the time we booked our flight, the cost to travel between these two regions was 60,000 American Airlines miles in first class. This same award would now cost 100,000 American Airlines miles.
The Class Change
Originally both of our segments were in First Class. Unfortunately, a few months ago Etihad changed the plane that they were using between Abu Dhabi and Cairo and the new plane did not have a First Class cabin. On the second leg we were forced to be in Business Class… I know, poor us! (this is a joke btw)
The journey started with a free chauffeur pick-up from our friend’s apartment in Melbourne. This benefit is no longer available to people who book award tickets, but since our tickets were issued before their policy changed, we were able to take advantage of this awesome benefit. We got picked up in a luxury Audi SUV.
Trouble At the Airport
Once we got to the airport, things started to fall apart. We promptly headed to the First Class check-in line. They immediately asked if we needed any “help” because they assumed we must be in the wrong spot. It gave us some guilty happiness to inform them we were in the right spot.
There was one counter for First Class and probably about 4 for Business Class. The agent at the First Class line was taking forever with the guests in front of us. More First Class passengers began lining up behind us. The agents at the Business Class counters continued to help Business Class passengers instead of the First Class passengers. It didn’t bother me too much, but I would have expected different behavior from one of the top rated airlines in the world.
When it was finally our turn, we headed up to the counter and that’s when our real problems began. There was something wrong with our tickets. First the agent could not print our boarding passes. My nerves started to go wild. I was getting on this plane (that I’d looked forward to for so long) no matter what. Eventually they were able to print our boarding passes from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi, but not the boarding pass between Abu Dhabi and Cairo. They told us we’d have to get that boarding pass in Abu Dhabi. That was good enough for me. We checked our bags and were off to the lounge!
I was excited to visit this lounge because it opened fairly recently (May 2016) and from what I had seen, the lounge looked gorgeous. The centerpiece of the lounge was a bar with many tables positioned in front. This was a restaurant-type area where you could sit and order off of a menu. Surrounding this eating area were many other areas more suitable for lounging rather than eating. We opted for a table in the restaurant area right in front of a TV so we could catch the end of the Australian Open tennis match between Serena and Venus Williams. It was pretty cool that the match was occurring only a few miles away!
I ordered the seafood stew and Brit ordered the ravioli. They were both very good, but the highlight was the Arabic mezze that we picked up at the buffet station. After doing our best not to eat too much (because we would eating on the plane), a miracle happened. But let me back up.
The Tricky Plane Seating
Etihad’s First Class on the Airbus A380 plane is in an odd seating arrangement. The 9 seats are each extremely private, but 6 of the apartments have the option of lowering a divider between the apartments so that when sleeping, your head can be next to the person you are traveling with. The seats that can connect like this are 1H & 2H, 3K & 4K, and 3A & 4A.
We originally had selected 3K and 4K for the trip. However, about two months before the flight, I checked our reservations and Etihad had somehow “lost” Brit’s seating assignments. Pretty disappointing… The worst part was that at that point, there were no longer any apartments left that were adjoining. We ended up having seats 1H and 4K for the flight in hopes that we could get someone to switch a seat with us.
So back to the miracle in the lounge I mentioned above. We heard the couple seated next to us start talking about their seats. They were seated in 2H and 3K. That was the perfect match for us. If we switched a seat with them, we would both be in apartments that adjoined with the person we were traveling with. The problem was that they were convinced they already had seats in adjoining apartments. It was a non problem;I knew they would want to switch seats the moment they stepped on the plane.
We boarded through a jet bridge that took us directly to the second level of the plane, where the First and Business class seats are located. When we finally step foot in the First Class cabin, we were blow away. The small details Etihad put into designing the cabin were gorgeous. We waited for the other couple to arrive and when they did, the flight attendants switched Brittany and I to 1H & 2H and they sat in 3K & 4K.
The only negative about our seats is that they were “aisle” seats instead of window seats. This almost made no difference as they were still extremely private. The cool thing about our seats was that when sleeping, our heads were by the windows instead of next to the aisle (3K & 4K and 3A & 4A are window seats, but when sleeping, your head is by the aisle). That was great considering we were hoping to do a decent amount of sleeping on our 13.5 hour flight.
The seat was massive. It was almost ridiculous how massive the seat was. In front of the seat was a large ottoman that converted into our bed (yes, there was a bed in addition to our seat). The apartment featured plenty of storage space for all of your gadgets, plus a vanity area that contained a mirror and all kinds of things you may need during the flight like a toothbrush, moisturizer, and a face mask to name a few. Another cool feature was a little mini bar that was stocked with 2 waters, 2 Cokes and 2 Sprites. The flight attendant informed me later that they would be happy to stock the mini bar with anything I would like if I did not like anything inside. Pretty sweet.
Soon after exploring the apartment, a flight attendant came over and asked us if we wanted anything to drink. I decided to keep hydrating and just have some water. Brit decided to jump right into the experience and ordered some Rose Champagne. Our flight attendant was from Ireland, but living in Abu Dhabi, which we thought was awesome. A few minutes later, the Chef came over to introduce himself, give us the menus, and answer any questions we had.
At that point we were already moving. An interesting part about Etihad’s first class arrangement on the A380 is that 5 of the 9 first class seats are seated backwards. I was in 1H, which was a backwards-facing seat. I started to feel a little queasy while we were moving about on the runway. A few minutes later, we started accelerating for takeoff. We were about to to be treated to 13.5 hours of pure bliss…