I’ve only ever been on one other aircraft with a bedroom and that was John Travolta’s private Boeing 707. True story! In 2004 when he became the Qantas ‘Ambassador at large’ he did a series of dinners around the country called ‘Sharing the Spirit’. I won a competition to attend one of these black tie events which included dinner, greet and meet and a tour of his jet.
While there were no celebrities on this inspection and its not a private plane, the much larger and more modern Airbus A380 features Economy Class, The Business Studio, The First Apartments and The Residence. The Residence is a three roomed private suite on the plane and this is probably the closest I will get to it, but I left the tour vowing to fly as a passenger in one of the other three classes, I was that impressed.
After receiving our airside passes we headed to the Etihad First and Business Lounge and like all guests we were offered Arabic coffee and dates. A smaller replica of the flagship lounge in Abu Dhabi, The Sydney lounge has the same design and features such as lounge chairs being covered in the same leather found in a Ferrari. It can cater for up to 83 guests and with the Etihad Airbus A380 accommodating 81 premium guests in the Business Studio, First Apartments and The Residence, the lounge can be at can be full when load factors are high. If the premium cabins are full on a flight, those who are Gold or Elite flyer with the airline but are flying in Economy Class can visit the Air New Zealand Lounge.
The main bar features top shelf spirits and high end wines and champagne, but no need to line up at the bar, there are plenty of staff on hand to serve you where ever you take a seat.
The buffet is stunning with a beautiful array of Arabic Mezze and, cheeses and petit fours. It was hard not to pick up a few bowls!
If a more substantial meal is on your mind then there is a dining area where you can dine from the a-la-carte menu which at the time of my visit featured appetisers such as truffle parmesan soufflé and mussel chowder. For main braised beef cheeks in cinnamon, green olive and preserved lemon or duck leg tagine with dates and ginger and spice cracked burghul. Or what about ricotta and kale ravioli in saffron broth? To finish there is chocolate tart with caramel sauce or rose water pannacotta with strawberry jelly or my favourite, poached saffron pear with ginger crumble, mandarin gel, honey with cinnamon sorbet and tuile. Wow. I think I’d try them all, though sadly this isn’t for us and its time to get to the aircraft as it has just touched down.
Its not a far walk to the gates where the A380 parked. It only has a 2 and a half hour turnaround time to be cleaned and restocked for the 14 hour journey back to Abu Dhabi. This particular aircraft is the newest in their fleet and the fourth of ten the airline has on order.
Economy class takes up the whole main cabin downstairs and features a whopping 415 seats split through 4 sections. The seats are configured in a 3-4-3 layout and are 17.5″ wide and have a pitch of 31″. While you might think its just another Economy Class product, Etihad’s A380 features a few innovative and clever ideas.
The ‘fixed wing’ head rest is the first thing that stands out, way better than those flimsy head rests with wings that bounce back flat as soon as you rest your head on them. On the sides of the aircraft the wing is on the side away from the window while in the middle seats they fare inwards from each side meaning the two centre seats couples can still cuddle. Naww.
The 11″ touch screen AVOD has over 750 hours of entertainment and comes with noise cancelling headphones. The headphones are magnetised to the jack so no embarrassing head jerk when you stand up with them still connected.
The remote, which sits under the screen also features a touch screen which allows you to display the air map while watching a movie on your main screen.
The bi-folding tray table gives a feeling of roominess and there is also a cup holder (not shown) for when the try table is stowed.
The pillow isn’t your normal small narrow thing that is almost useless, it is large and the centre of it is open so it doubles as a neck cushion. Although it is supposed to be left in the aircraft, apparently this is the one item that most often needs replacing. To top it off all passengers on long haul flights receive an amenity kit with socks, eyeshades, earplugs, toothbrush and toothpaste. So where does one use the toothpaste and toothbrush?
In the lavatory of course. I’m not one to usually take pictures of the lavatory, but I was fascinated that the Economy Class toilets had tiled walls. Tiled walls! I was so impressed by Economy, but the best was yet to come as we headed to the Business Studio’s at the rear of the upper deck.
The 70 Business Studio’s are set in a 2-2-2 configuration but the side studios are not together and feature one seat facing rear, which means everyone has direct aisle access. If you are travelling with someone its better to get the middle E & F seats as they are located together. The centre D & G seats are not together with the work station separating the studios. The 18″ TV with AVOD shows the streaming 750 hours of entertainment and there is also a remote with screen as in Economy Class.
If you don’t know the person next to you or simply or want to get away from a loved one, the partition comes all the way up providing a private space to work or relax.
The Studios seat turns into a fully flat 6’1″ bed as the press of a few buttons.
I liked the nifty electric window shades they were not only functional but stylish, but no playing around with the buttons, we had to keep moving and next we were onto the First Apartments.
On our way to the First Apartments we passed The Lobby, an area of the upper deck located between the premium cabins where the Premium Class passengers can mingle. After take off a table is centred in the middle and there is a stocked bar available. The seats come with seat belts so in unexpected turbulence there are no injuries.
On the other side of The Lobby in the forward section of the upper deck, is where the First Apartments and The Residence are located. There are 9 First Apartments in a 1-1 configuration. Yes 1-1, so can you imagine the size of each.
Check out that arm chair, I mean WOW! It has a width of 29.5″ and is covered in Poltrona frau leather. Swish! There is ample room to walk around, a vanity and a chilled drinks drawer.
From your arm chair you can enjoy that 750 hours of entertainment on a 24″ flat screen TV and put your feet up on the ottoman which doubles as a visitors lounge, guests for dinner?
The ottoman/guest lounge then triples its usage as your bed! The TV pivots outwards and if you are travelling with someone the partition comes down for that romantic TV in bed experience. But, for the total romantic or those with some serious cash to spend, there is The Residence.
From Sydney to London for $84,000 you can enjoy cuddles on the full sized 2 seater sofa with ottoman that moves out while sipping champagne from the chilled drinks cabinet and watching the 32″ flatscreen TV. Not that you really need it, you’ll be served the champagne from you own personal butler. And when its time for dinner, the butler will set up the two dining tables to serve what was was cooked by your inflight chef, a dinner that is a personal favourite by pre-arrangement. Then freshen up in your private ensuite with full shower, exclusively made amenities and bathrobes.
When its time for bed, head into the bedroom where the double bed features Egyptian cotton and pillows of your choice.
Still cant sleep? Finish that movie with a second 32″ flatscreen TV at the end of the bed. WOW. Due to safety when turbulence occurs, there is a peephole the Cabin Crew can check into the Residence bedroom to make sure your seat belts are still on, so hey…. don’t get too romantic!
I found each class to be sophisticated with clever ideas that were all about the passengers comfort whether travelling alone or with someone. Economy Class shines as one of the most innovative I’ve seen for that class of travel. While I did find the Business Studio a little more cramped then Qantas’ new Business Suite, it was still an excellent product. The First Apartments blew my mind and The Residence, well it was way better than Mr Travolta’s private jet. (Sorry John!).
Thanks Etihad for giving FreakyFlier this marvellous experience!
FreakyFlier was not paid for this review and all opinions are his own.
Etihad has double daily flights from Sydney to Abu Dhabi. The evening flight is operated by the A380 which connects to the London A380 service.