In December 2022, Etihad Airways has announced that it planned to return the Airbus A380 into service in 2023. Today, the airline operated its first flight with the super jumbo jet since the pandemic, with flight EY 11 touching down in London in the early morning.
This represents the return of an incredibly exciting opportunity for using Aeroplan points, as Etihad Airways’s A380 offers the highly aspirational First Class Apartments, complete with a shower in the sky.
Etihad Airways A380 Flies to London
After over three years of being grounded, Etihad Airways has started to return its A380 jets into service, beginning with flights between Abu Dhabi (AUH) and London Heathrow (LHR). One aircraft is currently operating flights as of July 25, a second is set to come into service on August 1, 2023, and a third is set to return by November 1, 2023.
London is a natural choice for the first destination for the return of the Airbus A380s, given that it’s always been one of Etihad’s flagship routes with the highest demand for premium cabins.
Although subject to change of course, Etihad currently operates four flights per day to London, with departures every few hours beginning at 2:05am.
There’s a mix of daytime and red-eye flights in both directions, and it’s best to book a daytime departure if you’d like to stay awake and enjoy all that Etihad Airways A380 First Class has to offer.
And what an offering it is…
What’s Etihad Airways’s Onboard Product Like?
Let’s cut to the chase: Etihad Airways A380 First Class offers one of the most mind-blowing First Class products in the sky: the First Class “Apartment” complete with a separate chair and bed.
In a 1-1 configuration onboard the largest plane in the sky, each First Class suite offers unparalleled space with a full-length bed, a swivelling TV, and an opportunity to shower in the sky.
Business class isn’t too shabby, either, offering Etihad Airways’s Business Studio, with a mix of forward- and backward-facing seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. It’s identical to the business class seat on the Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
Forward-facing seats are closer to the window, and forward-facing seats are also closer together in the middle, making each the ideal choice for solo travellers and couples, respectively.
When it comes to the best way to book this flight between Abu Dhabi and London, look no further than Aeroplan and the “Within Atlantic Zone” chart.
The direct flight from Abu Dhabi to London is 3,420 miles, and will therefore cost 65,000 points in First Class and 45,000 points in business class. Each of these represents a very compelling sweet spot with a flight duration of around seven hours.
There’s still over 500 miles of wiggle room within the same distance band of up to 4,000 miles that will cost the same amount, so you’d be able to add on an additional flight within the Gulf. If you wish to have a stopover in Abu Dhabi, that will cost an additional 5,000 points.
Should we ever see the A380 return to North America, this long-haul route would cost 130,000–140,000 points in First Class one-way.
Award availability on the London route in either direction is quite scarce at the moment; however, there was a pocket of generous availability earlier this year, including for the Apartment.
Be sure to keep a keen eye on availability, and if you find some, book first and put the rest of the pieces together after.
The Future of the Airbus A380
At the beginning of the pandemic, airlines were quick to retire the A380s, or at least put them in long-term storage. Indeed, we saw Lufthansa, Air France, British Airways, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Malaysia Airlines, and Qantas all drop the A380 quickly as passenger demand plunged.
A little over three years later, more than half of those airlines have brought the A380 back. British Airways, Qatar Airways, Qantas, Lufthansa, and now Etihad Airways are flying the A380 once more.
However, as soon as A380 had ceased production back in 2021, we’ve known that it has a limited lifespan. A fuel-burning super jumbo jet just doesn’t make sense for most airlines most of the time, in a world where fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Airbus A350s predominate instead.
Almost all airlines who have brought back the A380 have not assured customers of its fleet future, instead saying that it’s necessary at the moment with the current surge in passenger demand.
Perhaps if gas prices decrease and demand remains high, the Airbus A380 will have a longer future. Still, for now, Etihad Airways’s decision to bring back up to four jumbo jets represents a welcome limited-time window to experience the First Class Apartments for those who never got to experience it.
In a very welcome turn of events, Etihad Airways has returned the Airbus A380 into service, with the first route operating between Abu Dhabi (AUH) and London (LHR).
For passengers, this represents a renewed opportunity to indulge in the Etihad Airways First Class Apartments with its private enclosed suites and onboard showers, all at an affordable price using Aeroplan points.
The broader future of the Airbus A380 remains murky, so we should take every possible opportunity to jump on this larger-than-life aircraft while we still can. As always, the most difficult part is finding award space, so be sure to keep an eye on availability and pounce on it if you find some.