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The Etihad Airways first class on the A330 is a great one. While many people talk amore about the Etihad Apartment (and understandably so) these first class suites still have a lot to offer and are some of the best first class seats in my opinion. Here’s a review of our recent experience flying first class on the A330 from the Maldives to Abu Dhabi.
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This flight was part of a two-flight segment from MLE to LHR.
We booked this flight with 62,500 AA miles and only about $65 in fees. AA considers Male to be in the same region as the Middle East so this is a sweet spot and definitely one of the best redemptions for this route. Availability for these awards seats was also pretty good, though we booked almost 9 months out.
This segment was toward the end of our 2018 round the world trip and were flying from MLE->AUH on this A330 and then from AUH->LHR on the Etihad Apartment on the A380. We’d then have a layover at LHR until hopping on a flight to Rome on British Airways.
We finished up our 3-night stay in a Retreat Water Villa at the Conrad Maldives and headed to MLE for the flight to Abu Dhabi. We visited two lounges at MLE one of which is open to Priority Pass members.
The first lounge is the Wellness lounge which is located landside. This is a very small lounge but it’s a great lounge to relax in while you’re waiting for the check-in and security to open up for your flight. You’ll find seats with outlets, some small snacks, and a very relaxing room which connects to a massage area. It didn’t get packed during our visit but it certainly would’t take much a crowd to fill this lounge up.
Once check-in opened op, we made our way to the Etihad check-in desk where there was a very long line of passengers waiting to check in. The good news is that this was the economy line and the line for first class check-in was empty. We weren’t dressed particularly nice when we checked in, so we got some funny looks from people in line who probably thought we were lost/confused as we passed them up to the first class desk.
After going through security, we made our way to the Leeli Lounge, which is a much more impressive airport lounge. It’s much bigger and had ample seating along with some decent food and drink options. We were able to grab a section of the lounge which acted like our own little private area, which was very nice.
The first class cabin
We boarded the first class cabin and noticed that there were no other passengers in first class as we made our way down the aisle. Although the first class cabin has two aisles, the aisles reminded me of the Etihad Apartment.
The first class cabin on the A330 has eight suites which can each be fully enclosed and has a circular mood light above the middle suites. While it’s not quite the same level of elegance as the Etihad Apartment cabin on the A380, it’s still a fantastic looking cabin.
Brad and I booked the front middle suite and I have to say that I’m a huge fan of these shared suites. With the partition lowered, the suite felt very spacious and still very private. While I don’t think that having a fully enclosed suite is necessary for a great first class experience, it certainly adds a nice dimension to your flight experience.
For couples (who like to enjoy visit with each other during the flight), this is definitely one of the best first class suites.
With the partition up, you can maintain some privacy from the person sharing your suite although the partition doesn’t go up to the top of the suite.
Even with the suite doors open, you still have tons of privacy from your neighbors as you can tell from the photo below. This is another strong point of these suites, as some other first class cabins leave you a bit exposed to your neighbors. With these suites, your head space and foot space remain private even with the suite door wide open. It reminded me a lot of the Emirates first class suites on the A380.
The window suites look great as well. We probably would have gone with window suites for the view but since we were departing so late and arriving at night, there weren’t any views we’d be missing out on. But if you really want maximum privacy, the window suites are usually always the way to go.
I found the nice leather seats to be pretty comfortable even though they did seem a bit worn.
There’s a large ottoman/seat for your feet with plenty of space for your feet underneath their TV screens.
There’s a screen with easy seat and light controls on the side of your seat which are very convenient to access. One advantage that this seat has over the Etihad Apartment’s seat is that you can recline it as far as you’d like. So if you’re the type of traveler who likes staying put in one seat and not hopping onto a “bed,” you might prefer this seat.
There’s an ultra-soft blanket waiting for you on your seat.
The headphones aren’t quite Bose but I still thought they were decent quality.
There’s a compartment with conveniently located power outlets and hookups for other electronics as well. This is also where the in-flight entertainment controller is stored.
I wasn’t sure what type of amenity kit we’d get since this was a shorter flight but the amenity kit came fully loaded.
As you can see, it came with lip balm, various moisturizers, dental pack, shaving pack, and a comb.
The seat controls are very straight forward. You can choose different reclining positions and even enjoy a seat massager.
You can also customize the lighting within the suite for reading, dining etc. I really liked the lighting within the suite whenever the cabin lights were dimmed.
There’s a nice closet space built in to the suite so you can keep your garments wrinkle-free.
There’s a storage compartment with water bottles and some snacks in next to the middle partition. I believe that on the 787 Dreamliner these compartments are chilled but that was not the case on the A330.
Right next to that little compartment is where the large tray table pops out of.
Etihad first class dining
At the time of boarding, they started us off with a glass of water and a glass of champagne along with some tasty dates and a hot towel. The service from the very beginning was top-notch and honestly better than what I experienced on our Etihad Apartment flight that followed this one.
The dining experience began with a serving of appetizers, including olives. These were nice but had Etihad served caviar at this point I think it would’ve added a lot to the experience. I think Etihad now serves caviar in first class on the A380 but not on the A330.
They then served us Charles Heidsieck, which we both enjoyed.
After the appetizers, the crew set our table and delivered a serving of fresh breads.
Next came the Arabic appetizers, which were fantastic.
Next came out the main dish which was, chicken biryani. I’ve tried a number of first class dishes and I’ve had dinner on the Etihad Apartment on a couple of flights but this chicken biryani dish may have been the best dish I’ve ever had on a plane. It was just perfect and full of flavor and a bit of spice. I haven’t been too impressed with Etihad dining over the past few years but this was just fantastic.
Then dessert came out which was on the plain side for me as I just chose to go with some ice cream.
Brad went with the apple and raisin crumble which looked much more tasty and interesting than my selection.
These suites offer a lot of sleeping space once you flatten out the seat. Since this was a short flight, I didn’t get the full bedding put on the seat, so I’m not sure how comfortable that bedding would be.
The seat extends out to the ottoman and fits pretty evenly with it so even if you are very tall, you should have plenty of space for your legs since you’ll have 6-foot 8-inches worth of space.
The suites are very private when the doors are closed. I didn’t feel claustrophobic at all and with the middle partition down, it reminded me of the Etihad Apartment with so much private space.
One of the things that I loved the most about the suite was that it came with proper air vents. Too many first class suites can be very warm with no way to control the air within your suite. These air vents allowed me to keep the suite comfortably cool as I relaxed. This is such an oversight in some cabins but I was very happy that the A330 first class suites came equipped with these.
Here’s one more view of what it looked like inside the cabin.
The lavatory on the A330 is subpar compared to the one on the A380 which is much more spacious and comes with a shower. There are some lotions and things you can use to freshen up if you’d like but that’t about it.
This first class flight was terrific. The service and dining were on-point and the suites are extremely private and comfortable. While the Etihad Apartment is obviously the more iconic first class cabin on Etihad, I think that these suites are still some of the best first class seats in the sky and in some ways better since you can control your climate better and can sit directly across from your partner if you want.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.