Like most points and miles enthusiasts, I strategically maximized the value of my American Airlines miles before the recent March 22, 2016 devaluation. I took a trip to Dubai with my husband and father a few weeks ago to experience what the Etihad A380 had to offer.
Booking the Award
As mentioned in my previous post, we were able to book 3 business class seats a week before departure for 67,500 AA miles each (and 10% back for being Citi AAdvantage cardholders).
What’s pretty unique about flying Etihad as a business or first class passenger is the fact that there’s so many “extras”. Business class and first class passengers (even award passengers) get black-car airport transfers to and from your destination (In the US it’s up to 60-70 miles driven distance to and from the airport).
As soon as I submitted my chauffeur request online, I was called within the hour to set everything up. Since there were 3 of us traveling on separate reservations (in theory we would each qualify for our own transfer), they put in a request for an SUV so that we could all travel to JFK together.
Our driver showed up at my house 11 am on the day of departure in a black and shiny Escalade. The driver was friendly, and the car was stocked with bottled waters, phone chargers, and wifi. Even though the transfer was included in our tickets, we felt it was appropriate to tip our driver $20 at the end of the ride.
Etihad Lounge at JFK
We arrived at JFK at about 11:45 am for a 3:35 pm departure. Check-in was a breeze at Etihad’s dedicated counters for business and first class passengers. However, the line for security was exceptionally long.
Once we all cleared security, we spent some time at Etihad’s new premium lounge.
This lounge is absolutely beautiful and has a “Centurion Lounge” feel to it. There are plenty of seats, a huge bar, a la carte and buffet dining, and lots of windows for plane-spotting.
We had lunch in the lounge and had items from the buffet as well as the a la carte menu.
The food was outstanding to say the least! The presentation was beautiful and the rack of lamb was absolutely delicious. I was very impressed with the food – it was definitely one of the “better” meals I’ve eaten at a lounge.
After spending a few hours at the lounge, we were escorted by an Etihad agent to the gate for boarding.
There are 70 business class studio seats on the Etihad A380, and they are a mixture of forward and rear-facing seats.The seats in business class are placed in a 1-2-1 configuration, and every seat has direct aisle access. I recommend that you do your best to assign your seats in advance because the forward-facing seats (especially with a window) tend to disappear quickly.
I am personally NOT a fan of rear-facing seats to begin with, and the Etihad rear-facing business studio seats have a tad less space than the forward-facing seats. I usually love snagging a seat by the window, but since I was traveling with my husband, we wanted to be next to each other.
As you can see from the seat map, forward-facing middle seats are ideal for couples because they are located next to each other with an optional divider. We had seats 24 E & F, which I consider ideal because it’s spacious, has a ton of space on both sides due to the emergency exit doors, and there’s also space behind the seats to take some great pictures without disturbing other passengers
There was a lot of leg room, a nice-sized TV screen, and plenty of storage.
When it was time to sleep, the bed was comfortable enough for me to sleep for 7 hours (despite the pajamas being huge!).
Before take off, flight attendants came around with pre-departure drinks, distributed pajamas, and took dinner orders. The cool thing about Etihad is that they have a “dine as you please” system, where you tell them when you’re ready for your meal. Since we had such a big lunch at the lounge before boarding, I appreciated this system. My husband and I requested to eat around 8 pm.
The food was just “ok”. To be honest, the food at the Etihad lounge at JFK was much better. Between my husband and I, we pretty much sampled the entire menu and I have to say the Arabic Mezze and Pea & Mint Soup were the best.
Since I slept so long, I didn’t have a full breakfast; I only opted for a fruit plate before landing.
Here is what the menu looked like:
Another example of amazing on-board service was the flight crew acknowledging that my father was flying on his birthday. They surprised him with champagne toast, a birthday card, and a dessert plate after dinner.
Wifi is available for the duration of the flight for $21.95. If you have a T-Mobile hotspot account, you might be able to log in and use that instead of paying. Another cool feature is seat-to-seat texting. My husband and I were seated in row 24, and my dad was in seat 20A. We were able to text back and forth to say hi and check in without leaving our seats.
As I mentioned earlier, business class passengers get pajamas and an amenity kit (located in the arm-rest compartment).
Etihad Airways has launched a colorful new range of collectable limited edition Business Class amenity kits, the result of a unique collaboration between the airline and luxury travel brand LUXE City Guides (Abu Dhabi, London, Madrid, Los Angeles, Sydney and Hong Kong).There are 6 different varieties. My kit was the brown and yellow Abu Dhabi kit, and my husband got the green Los Angeles kit. Kits include customized LUXE City Guides and exclusive products by Scaramouche + Fandango.
Before landing at AUH, we were given “fast track” passes to speed through customs and then we stopped in the Etihad Arrivals Lounge to freshen up, shower, and grab a quick bite before meeting with our chauffeur to take us to our hotel.
Once we finally left the lounge, we exited the airport and were greeted by an Etihad chauffeur dispatcher who located our reservation to take us to our hotel.
Overall I consider this flight to be one of my favorite uses of American Airlines miles. For 67,500 miles we got to experience a top-notch product with five-star service and tons of extras.
Have you flown in business class on the Etihad A380 yet? If so, how was your experience?