*Please excuse quality of the in-flight photos. They were taken on our phones…didn’t want to draw too much attention to the gawking flyers in row 20!*
After winning an upgrade on our Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi last week, I was giddy. I relish opportunities to experience new aircraft and airlines, and my excitement usually prompts an eye roll from Julie. On this flight, we would get the pleasure of a double whammy: my first experience of the new Etihad business class and on their new A380 airplane (the only one in their fleet). Julie was mostly excited at the prospect of champagne prior to takeoff. Sometimes it is the little things.
No matter our individual motivations, it was a great splash to start our trip to Abu Dhabi, a locale known for its flash and luxury. Only seems fitting to ride there in style.
We arrived to Heathrow in the early hours of the morning, and breezed through check in, our single shared roll-y bag whisked away into the depths of the airport luggage jungle. Our light packing abilities were fully on view, as the two men in front of us were checking SEVEN bags for the two of them. A family of four next to us had EIGHT bags. Stunning, people. Really.
We cruised through the priority security lane, and headed straight to Etihad Lounge, to which our upgrade allowed us complimentary access. The lounge was nicely laid out, with multiple sitting areas, a dining room and even a Seven Senses Spa for free massages and facials. We had a relaxed breakfast, ordering from the a la carte menu in the dining room and utilizing the breakfast buffet in the adjoining room. The lounge experience differed from American lounges in the quality and choice of food, and the sheer number of staff. I have seen less staff at Home Depot.
The staff came around and informed us that our flight was boarding, so we headed up the jetway to board the Etihad A380. The unique aspect of the double decker A380 is boarding the two decks separately. We walked directly to the upper deck, which consists of only first and business class. And boy, what an entrance! The interior of the new Etihad A380 looks more like a hotel lobby than an airplane, with dark wood floors and a spacious lounge and bar in the middle of the upper deck. We made our way to our seat and were swiftly offered some Champagne. Yes, please!
Julie was certain that an aircraft this large could not get off the ground, but despite her trepidation, the massive A380 lifted off and we began our seven hour journey to Abu Dhabi. A neat feature of the A380 are the cameras mounted on the aircraft, allowing you to view the takeoff from the top of the tail, a real bird’s eye perspective. After leveling off, our lunch arrived, with some tasty cold mezze, delicious biryani and tender lamb chops. We washed it all down with a few glasses of white Burgundy and grand cru Bordeaux. Not too shabby!
We both went into fully recline mode and watched a few movies from the fantastic entertainment system and the noise-cancelling headphones. After several hours, we decided to take a break from binge watching films and stretch our legs in the large lounge near the entrance of the plane. We had a few Bailey’s and coffee and headed back to our seats, were we ordered dessert, a nice coconut panna cotta and a cheese plate.
All good things must come to an end, and we grumbled as we descended in the desert heat of Abu Dhabi that we would be happy staying indefinitely on the plane instead of exploring the UAE. The flight was a major splurge for us, but it was the start of our wedding anniversary trip, so we figured it was worth it. It was an unbelievable start to a great week and definitely a level of quality that I could get used to very easily. I’m already scoping out flights for the next time around!
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