Ben Schlappig here again! I'm the blogger behind One Mile at a Time, and the guy who introduced you to my uber-luxury travel lifestyle all made possible by using miles and points. On my last adventure, I was enjoying caviar and designer sleepwear on one crazy-fancy flight to London.
After flying in from Hong Kong, we spent a night at the airport before getting back on a plane to fly to Abu Dhabi. But it’s OK — since we’re getting on an “apartment” in the sky! While I love London as a city, I saw an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.
Etihad Airways, which is based in Abu Dhabi, is the national airline of the United Arab Emirates and has one of the world’s best first-class products. Generally, finding award seats on them isn’t that easy, but a day before departure, they opened six first-class award seats. I actually noticed that the award seats had opened when we landed in London from Hong Kong, so before we even left the airport I got on the phone to confirm them.
The ticket cost 62,500 American miles one-way — and if paying cash, that ticket would have cost more than $5,000. In general, the best use of airline miles is for redemptions in international first class, given that these tickets would be most expensive if paying cash.
All aboard the Etihad Airways' Apartment!
After spending a night at an airport hotel, we headed to the airport at around 11 a.m, plenty early for the afternoon flight to Abu Dhabi. Etihad’s A380 first class cabin is stunning, and that’s evident the second you step on the plane. While all other airlines have two aisles on this plane, Etihad has only one aisle in first class on the A380, meaning that each first class seat is about twice as wide as on other planes. The cabin is located at the front of the upper deck, and they refer to their first class seats as“Apartments. That’s a pretty fair way to describe them, based on how big they are.
The most precious commodity on a plane is space, and that’s an area where Etihad blows away the competition. Each passenger has a huge first-class seat, as well as a bench that converts into a bed. There’s a door that closes to create a completely private space, and if you want you can even dine with travel companions in your apartment.
Comfy lounge chair by day, cozy bed by night.
Etihad is also known for what’s called the Residence, which is at the front left of the first class cabin. It’s a private, three-room suite, consisting of a living room, bedroom, and a private bathroom with a shower. It even comes with a private butler, who is trained by Savoy hotels.
Unfortunately there’s no practical way to redeem miles for the Residence. Instead, it’s going to cost you a fortune — a one-way ticket from London to Abu Dhabi in the Residence costs about $20,000. As you might expect, that seat is often empty.
The great Etihad experience goes beyond how stunning the cabin is. Etihad has an onboard chef and food and beverage manager for first class, who are able to customize your meal in a way I haven’t seen on another airline. Instead of just having pre-set choices, you can customize the meal however you like. You can choose your protein, sides, sauce, et cetera — and they'll whip up just about anything.
Airline dining doesn't get any finer than this.
After an amazing meal and a great nap, it was time for one of my favorite things to do on a plane — shower! That’s right, Etihad has an onboard shower for first-class passengers. Usually showering doesn’t get me that excited, but when it’s on a plane it amuses me to no end. Only two airlines in the world — Emirates and Etihad — have on-board showers, and there’s nothing quite like showering on a plane.
All too soon the flight was over, and we found ourselves in Abu Dhabi. That’s the downside of flying first class on a roughly seven-hour flight — you’re there before you know it, and wish the flight were longer. Nonetheless it was a great experience.
Stick around, as we land in Abu Dhabi and head straight for Etihad’s new flagship first class lounge, where we’ll indulge in a 2 a.m. tasting menu.
FOLLOW MY JOURNEY:
Airlines are continuing to one-up themselves when it comes to first-class products... and that’s great for those of us with miles! See why:
Ben Schlappig, the blogger behind One Mile at a Time, experiences about $1 million worth of travel every year using miles and points — and covers about 400,000 miles annually this way. Ben has teamed up with Bravo’s Jet Set for a series called The Upgrade, in which he shows you how you — yes, you! — can score real-world-ready strategies for upping your travel game. Come along for the adventure!
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