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I have just returned from flying four Etihad First Class flights in one week. It was incredible! Three of these flights were in the famous Etihad Apartment, but my first review is on the smaller Boeing 777-300ER which flies between Munich and Abu Dhabi. The big question – is it worth flying Etihad First if you aren’t in the Apartment?
Summary – 7.5 / 10
Pros: Service, quality of the food and drink, ability to customize your food, Wifi quality, comfy bed, tasteful suite, chauffeur service from Abu Dhabi.
Cons: Ground service at Munich, amenity kit, no crazy expensive drinks to get excited about, enterainment a little limited.
When: October 2019
Route: Franz Josef Strauss Munich MUC to Abu Dhabi International AUH (Etihad First Classs Boeing 777-300)
Cost: part of a £2,300 / € 2,666 special fare itinerary between Stockholm, Abu Dhabi and Seoul. If flying just this route as a round trip between Munich and Abu Dhabi it would set you back £3,744 / €4,340!
Techniques: Special fare, Ex-EU departure, free stopover
This flight was part of my longer itinerary taking me from Stockholm to Abu Dhabi via Munich, then onto Seoul. This resulted in four Etihad First Class flights averaging at £575 / €666 each, treating the inter-Europe Business Class flights also flown as part of the itinerary as sunk costs.
If I had flown just this flight to Abu Dhabi and back again, each flight would have averaged £1,872 / €2,170. This massive saving was achieved by taking advantage of a Stockholm special fare and a free Abu Dhabi stopover. You can still (as of Oct 19) take advantage of this fare by booking a multi-city itinerary (Stockholm to Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi to Seoul, Seoul to Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi to Stockholm) here, and read more about my itinerary here.
This review covers the end to end process from arriving at Munich airport to leaving Abu Dhabi airport.
I was transferring through Munich having arrived from Stockholm with Lufthansa. As everything is booked on one ticket, my boarding pass was issued in Stockholm and my luggage was checked straight through to Abu Dhabi. I, therefore, could enter the lounge straight from leaving the plane at Munich.
The downside of flying Etihad First from anywhere except Abu Dhabi is that because it is not part of any formal alliances, you are highly unlikely to get access to a First Class lounge. You will get access to something, but Business Class standards at best. In this case, it was the highly disappointing Lufthansa Senator Lounge, which is featured in my review here.
Boarding was on time and priority groups were followed, only allowing First Class and disabled passengers on to begin with.
The welcome on the plane was excellent. I was shown to my seat quickly and addressed by name. Each Etihad First flight has an onboard chef, a personal Flight Attendant and also a Cabin Manager who will each come over and introduce themselves personally. On this flight I was asked how I’d like to be called, which I appreciated. It was the best welcome in First I have experienced, comparing with Emirates and British Airways.
I was offered the Charles Heidsieck 2006 Brut Champagne straight away upon boarding and was kept well and truly topped up until take off. I was also given some lovely dates and Arabic coffee.
I was also provided with the Etihad amenity kit, loungewear and slippers. The loungewear, in my opinion, lacks style. It appears to be the same for men and women. I felt a bit like a potato. BUT I was the softest, most comfortable potato I’ve ever been!
The amenity kit was not so great. It is the same for men and women and pretty basic in terms of content. You get Acqua Di Parma branded body lotion, lip balm and a perfume/cologne. Also inside is a toothbrush and toothpaste, eye mask and socks.
The First Class seat on the 777-300 is not an Etihad Apartment, but you do get a wide, large seat with closing doors (not electric, you just pull to). Storage is plentiful and you can store your carry-on below the footrest. There is also a wardrobe for your jacket.
There is a control panel which allows you to set the lighting and the seat also massages! I liked this touch and you don’t get this on an Etihad Apartment chair.
For me, the seat was more than enough. I would put it on par with the Emirates First Class seat I flew on its A380. I would say it is better than BA’s best First Class seat on its 787 (although I prefer BA’s decor).
When you are ready to nap, the FA will make up the bed for you. You get a mattress topper and pillow. I found the bed very comfy indeed and was asleep in no time!
I had a few more glasses of the Charles Heidsieck champagne before dining. The champagne retails at about £85, so a less-pricey offering than what you would get from other airlines, where I’ve had champagnes costing twice the amount. That said, it is a beautiful champagne and probably in a blind test I’d have picked it over the Grand Siecle served by BA and maybe even the Dom Perignon served by Emirates. I also tried the rosé version, which was lovely and a bit sweeter.
The drinks selection onboard is similar in that there is nothing incredibly pricey, unlike the £1,000 Hennessey Paradis on an Emirates First flight! The most expensive drink is the Remy Martin Cellar Master No28 at around £125 a bottle (exclusive to Duty Free).
For dining, the onboard chef will present you with the menu upon boarding and will take your order before take off. You can choose to eat immediately or say you will be waiting a little while. The chef will take you through the options, which were a set of a la carte dishes, or what they call a ‘lounge and grill, which are more casual and customisable options.
I went for the a la carte beef tenderloin, but swapping the potatoes for fries and asking for extra bearnaise sauce on the side. I really appreciated being encouraged to customize my meal as I wish. I was also asked what I would like to pair each course with in terms of drinks. I really liked this as it meant everything came at the right time once you choose to start dining.
Note that unless you are flying the Etihad Apartment on the A380, there is no caviar service in Etihad First. I don’t really get this and I think they should just put it on all their First Class flights.
So in the absence of caviar I started with the Arabic Mezze, which was really really lovely. Actually, all the food was wonderful and the best I have had from any First Class experience to date. Before the main I was given a sorbet to cleanse the palette, which was lovely. Strangely, I would not be given another sorbet until my final Etihad flight to London, so it seems the presence of sorbet is a bit of a lottery!
The beef tenderloin was served medium rare, as I requested, which was tender, flavoursome and just great. The only slight letdown was the fries which could be a bit more crispy. I paired this with the Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2015 white, retailing at around £35 – £40 a bottle, which was heavily oaked and just incredible. One of the best wines I have had on a flight!
I finished with the lemon sponge, which was the perfect light end to the meal. I had this with the dessert wine, which was also lovely.
I was stuffed to the max, but if you wish to dine again at any point throughout the flight, you are free to do so!
Overall the service onboard was just excellent. I was made welcome, the crew were chatty, professional and extremely quick to pre-judge what you may need and also respond to calls. I would put Etihad beyond any airline crew I have flown with before. Even BA, who I have a soft spot for!
Entertainment and Connectivity
I found the free onboard Wifi the best on any plane I’ve been on. It reliably connects 10-20 minutes after takeoff.
The entertainment was pretty good, with effective noise-cancelling headphones. I found the selection of movies fine for one flight, but it got limited after three more. I would say I’ve seen better selections on other airlines.
Landing and Arrivals
On landing, there was the typical problem of Business Class guests getting ahead of us to get off the plane first. But unlike with BA, the crew made sure First guests got off without having to wait for the whole Business cabin to empty!
We were given a Fast Track coupon for immigration at Abu Dhabi. This wasn’t needed because it was empty on arrival anyway, but appreciated none-the-less.
The baggage process, however, was not good. I’m not sure if it was because Lufthansa checked my luggage from Stockholm, but my bag was amongst the last to come off. I was convinced it had been lost!
Finally, I made my way through to arrivals. You have the option of using the arrivals lounge at Abu Dhabi to refresh if you wish, but I did not make use of this. Instead, I went straight to meet the chauffeur who I had pre-booked here. Etihad only offers a free chauffeur to/from Abu Dhabi for First Class guests. If you are anywhere else in the world you need to sort out your own transport, which I think is a bit stingy of them.
Ethiad First on the 777-300 was a memorable experience and even after having flown the Etihad Apartment it still stands out. So is the 777-300 worth flying in First? Yes. But look for a good deal. I would not have paid the £3,744 Munich to Abu Dhabi cost!
Etihad First excels in service, a comfy bed, truly excellent food and wine and its ground service at Abu Dhabi. However, the ground service at Munich was truly disappointing, the amenity kit is unmemorable and the enterainment is a touch limited. Overall, I would be extremely excited to fly Etihad First again!