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The Complete Guide to Booking Etihad Airways First Class

Etihad Airways is an Abu Dhabi-based carrier with an extensive network, making it easy to fly to most places in the world with a single connection. What’s better yet is that some of the routes feature a First Class cabin, complete with polished service, fine dining, and a very private suite.

In this post, we’ll look at everything you need to know about booking Etihad Airways First Class using points.

The Etihad Airways First Class Experience

Flying First Class with Etihad Airways involves a bespoke experience from start to finish. 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Etihad Airways operated the Airbus A380 with Etihad Airways First Class Apartments, which was one of the most outstanding First Class products in the world.

As these aircraft have been either temporarily or permanently grounded, this aspirational experience with Etihad Airways remains out of reach for now. Luckily, there is still a First Class cabin on some of the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet.

If you depart from Etihad Airways’s hub in Abu Dhabi, you’ll be treated to an entirely separate airport entrance, check-in, and security point. From the second you arrive at the airport, your wait times will be minimal and your comfort maximal. 

Etihad Airways First Class check-in – Abu Dhabi

Furthermore, immediately following the separate security is the entrance to the Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa. Inside, a delightful ground experience awaits, complete with fine dining, a variety of seating, showers, two bars, and even a fitness centre!

Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa – Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge – Abu Dhabi

Once you’re ready to board the flight, you’ll be ushered to your suite by the flight attendants, who make you feel welcome at every step along the journey. The suite has plenty of space and features to explore.

Etihad Airways 787 First Class – Seat
Etihad Airways 787 First Class – Seat

Soon after taking your seat in your suite, you’ll be treated to a glass of champagne and dates as you settle in and gasp at the vast amount of real estate at your fingertips. 

After taking to the skies, a multi-course meal is offered, complete with a tablecloth, individually placed cutlery, fine cuisine, and refined onboard service. If you’re travelling with someone else, you can bask in the delight of sharing a meal in one suite, giving the impression of being seated at a restaurant, only you’re 35,000 feet in the sky.

Etihad Airways 787 First Class – Appetizer course

Following a hefty meal, the flight attendants can prepare your bed so you can lay back and enjoy the comfort of your own suite. The doors to your suite can be closed, ensuring a quiet, private, and very comfortable remainder of your flight.

Etihad Airways 787 First Class – Enclosed suite

On board the Dreamliner, there are a total of eight First Class suites spread out across two rows. 

Of note with this configuration is that seats 1A,  1K, 2D, and 2G face the rear of the plane. Those travelling in a pair may opt for adjacent seats in the middle of the cabin, as with solo travellers, choose to select window seats and dine together.

Which Routes Offer Etihad Airways First Class?

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Etihad Airways offered First Class on different aircraft to a host of destinations across its network. 

One of the most unfortunate victims to pandemic-related cutbacks was the Etihad Airways Apartment on the Airbus A380, which has been indefinitely, and possibly permanently, retired from service. 

Etihad Airways A380 Apartment – Seat

Etihad Airways currently offers First Class on a handful of routes on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Most airlines who offer First Class don’t do so on a Dreamliner, so having this option is a unique cabin configuration that you won’t find with many other airlines. 

At the time of writing, Etihad Airways has regularly scheduled First Class flights between Abu Dhabi, London, Washington, Geneva, and Casablanca. 

There are a number of obvious omissions from this map. Noticeably absent are a number of destinations in Australia, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and North America. 

This laundry list of routes without First Class includes some major hubs, such as New York City, Frankfurt, Bangkok, and Sydney, which all had Etihad Airways First Class prior to the reduction in service. 

For North Americans, it’s good to have at least one route with a long-haul First Class product to the Middle East, but the dearth of First Class routes to connect to is indeed unfortunate. 

Some are holding out hope that Etihad Airways will dust off its A380s at some point in the near future, while others speculate that these are no longer economically viable for the airline and are likely grounded forever.

Etihad Airways A380 Apartment – Double bed in the sky

If they do come back into service, demand for First Class award seats in its excellent Etihad Airways Apartment will be sky high, so be sure to jump on the opportunity, should it present itself.

How Many Points Does Etihad Airways First Class Cost?

The two easiest ways for Canadians to book Etihad Airways First Class are with Aeroplan and American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

Aeroplan

The easiest way for Canadians to book Etihad Airways First Class is by using Aeroplan points.

Aeroplan operates on a distance- and zone-based award chart. The number of points requires depends on the class of service, the zone of origin and destination, and the total distance flown. 

The route between Washington and Abu Dhabi runs 7,088 miles. As Abu Dhabi is in the Atlantic zone, the number of points required is found under the third distance band on the Aeroplan flight reward chart.

A one-way flight in First Class prices out at 120,000 Aeroplan points.

The other three currently-scheduled routes all fall in the third distance band of the chart for travel within the Atlantic zone. A one-way flight in Etihad Airways First Class on these routes costs 65,000 Aeroplan points.

If you’re looking to maximize your flight experience, consider flying on the Abu Dhabi–Washington route. At over 14 hours long and with a morning departure, you can be sure to have an excellent, aspirational flight experience at fewer than 10,000 points per hour. 

If you’d like to sample two First Class products, then consider pairing an Etihad Airways First Class leg to a European destination and then continuing onward to Frankfurt to enjoy the Lufthansa First Class experience.

AAdvantage

Another option to book Etihad Airways First Class is by using American Airlines AAdvantage points. The caveat is that this currency isn’t as easy as Aeroplan to come across. 

AAdvantage is a transfer partner of RBC Avion at a sub-0ptimal ratio of 1:0.7. You can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to AAdvantage miles in ideal increments of 60,000:25,000.

The pricing structure for redeeming AAdvantage miles is as follows:

  • Abu Dhabi–Washington: 115,000 miles
  • Abu Dhabi–London and Geneva: 62,500 miles
  • Abu Dhabi–Casablanca: 80,000 miles

If you convert from RBC Avion, these price out at 164,286, 89,286, and 114,286 Avion points respectively. While these prices aren’t as competitive as with Aeroplan, if you have extra Avion points sitting around, it can represent good value.

Etihad Airways 787 First Class – Caviar

Even if you have AAdvantage miles, booking Etihad Airways First Class under this program requires extra effort. After finding award space, you must call a foreign contact centre to have the ticket put on hold, and then call the US call centre to have the booking completed.

Note that Etihad Airways First Class award space doesn’t appear on the American Airlines website.

Etihad Airways First Class Availability

The good news is that compared to other aspirational First Class products, such as ANA, Japan Airlines, and Lufthansa, award space on Etihad Airways First Class is relatively easy to come by.

Furthermore, it’s not unusual to have two or more award seats available on any given route. I have consistently seen two seats in both directions on the Abu Dhabi–Washington, Abu Dhabi–London, and Abu Dhabi–Geneva flights.

As always, availability is easier to come by if you book far in advance. If Etihad Airways First Class is an option for an upcoming booking, I’d recommend securing the seats before someone else beats you to it.

If you don’t have the luxury of booking far in advance, there is good availability for last minute bookings. If there are unsold seats in First Class close to the flight’s departure date, Etihad Airways often releases award inventory, including multiple seats.

At the time of writing, there were multiple Etihad Airways First Class award seats available on seven out of the following fourteen days from Washington to Abu Dhabi.

Therefore, if you have some flexibility with your dates, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to score an award seat on Etihad Airways First Class. 

Conclusion

Etihad Airways First Class is one of the easier aspirational First Class products to book using points. 

Indeed, the number of routes offering First Class is significantly lower than in previous years, but we remain hopeful that some routes will be restored in the near future. If that happens, keep an eye out for the return of Etihad Airways Apartments on the A380 or to destinations in Asia and Australia. 

If you’ve flown Etihad Airways First Class, leave a note about your experience below.

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