Transport : Airlines

Related: Emirates, Etihad, Qatar

I have already compared the Emirates, Etihad and Qatar in Business Class. Now I investigate Emirates and Etihad First Class Suites. Which is the best in the world and why.

Etihad and Emirates both come in my top 10 best business class airlines in the world and I am a great fan of both for their First and Business class product. In fact, you are a blessed traveller if you are fortunate enough to afford either. If you intend to book a First Class ticket on either Etihad or Emirates, I hope this comparison will help you decide which airline to choose. It is also worth noting that I have also flown on Qatar First Class but this product comes in third place after Etihad and Emirates.

For the purposes of this comparison I am comparing the First Class suites on the Etihad and Emirates A380 planes.

Emirates Vs Etihad First Class Cabin – Which Is Best?

Emirates Airlines, based in Dubai, is regarded by many as the most luxurious carrier in the world. Emirates has more than 240 wide body planes in its fleet, carrying more than 40 million passengers to more than 100 destinations in the world per year. The Dubai based airliner is also the largest operator of the Airbus A380, with 74 of this aircraft type in its fleet and 66 more on order. The success of Emirates is very much based on the comfort and space onboard its A380s which are used on both shorthaul and longhaul.

First Class is located in the forward upper deck of the Emirates A380. The cabin features 14 enclosed suites in a 1-2-1 configuration. All have direct aisle access. The 8 suites along the windows are spread across 4 rows, while the 6 middle suites are spread across 3 rows. All suites enjoy complete privacy, as none of the rows quite line up, so nobody is directly looking into the suite across the aisle, even when you don’t close the sliding doors of your suite. I have written a full review of my last flight in First Class on Emirates.

Etihad Airways is a flag carrier and the second-largest airline of the UAE (after Emirates). The First Class cabin is located on the forward upper deck of the A380. The First Class cabin on Etihad’s A380 is stylish, with two beautifully crafted walls framing a small corridor leading to the forward staircase and contain the sliding entrance doors of the Apartments. The lighting patterns in the ceiling projects Arabian mosaic-like figures on the walls and floor, adding to the relaxing atmosphere.

Etihad Airways’ A380 First Class cabin is the industry’s first ever single aisle cabin and there are only nine First Apartments on the plane. There are 5 First Apartments on the right side of the cabin (with 2 toilets in the front), while the left side features 4 First Apartments. This asymmetry is explained by the fact that the missing 5th First Apartment and lavatories on the left side of the cabin are replaced by The Residence (featuring a private living room, separate en-suite shower room, and a bedroom with a double bed).I have written a full review of my last flight in Etihad First Class Apartment and have taken further pictures on a second trip in Etihad First Class.

In my humble opinion, for ambiance, space, look and style, Etihad is best. The Emirates cabin is glitzy and full of golds and bright colours which isn’t to my taste. The privacy and space is also better on Etihad.

Emirates Vs Etihad First Class Seats – Which Is Best?

Emirates First Class is configured with only four suites per row see upper deck seat map. The First Class suites on the sides are ideal for solo travellers (with a generous 3 windows per seat, offering great views), while the 6 suites in the middle are perfect for those traveling with a companion since dividers between these suites can be raised or lowered to provide a feeling of extra spaciousness.

Etihad, have configured their cabin with only two First Class suites per row which is clearly better. See Etihad seat map. The very comfortable recliner seat is equipped with in-seat massage and a pneumatic cushion control system. The seat has two arm rests: one holds the tray table, while the other holds the Apartment and inflight entertainment system controls. By pressing a button, you can change the position of both the ottoman, raise or lower of the window blinds, and control the light settings for a variety of lamps situated within the Apartment. Next to the seat, there’s a minibar, stocked with a premium selection of beverages, as well as a cabinet which holds the noise-cancelling headsets.

Clearly, two suites per row is much better than four so once again Etihad wins for the best First Class seat.

Emirates Vs Etihad First Class Bed – Which Is Best?

On Emirates, at the push of a button, the seat automatically reclines into a fully-flat bed of 86 inches (218 cm) long, with fully retractable armrest. When you want to sleep, a member of the cabin crews installs a mattress, fluffy pillow and soft duvet.

Etihad creates an entirely separate bed using the ottoman in your suite, allowing the bed to be made without having to sacrifice your seat. If you have a significant other traveling with you, certain rows of the First Class cabin allow you to lower the divider located between suites so that your head is next to your loved one’s head. If you want a double bed, you’ll need to upgrade to The Residence by Etihad.

Once again Etihad wins on space and privacy for sleeping.

Emirates Vs Etihad First Class Food – Which Is Best?

Emirates and Etihad offer meals equivalent a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Emirates’ First Class menu is extensive, and you can order whatever whenever. These were my lunch choices:
Canapés: tartlet of marinated feta with aubergine caviar and schichmi; foie gras on gingerbread with smoked salt; and arm salmon tempo sushi with herb crust.
Appetiser: caviar, presented with traditional selection of finely chopped onion, grated egg, sour cream and lemon, served with melba toast and blinis.
Pumpkin soup with croutons and sour cream.
Main course: seafood harra, which is a traditional Middle Eastern dish of oven-baked prawns and fish in spiced tomato sauce, served with saffron rice.
Dessert: banana cheesecake with toffee sauce.

And this is what I had for dinner:
Chicken consommé with vegetable julienne.
Main course: braised beef short ribs, with balsamic juice, braised red cabbage and pan-fired gnocchi with herbs.
Dessert: seasonal fruit, an assortment of fresh-cut fruit.

Etihad has real life onboard chefs (recruited from Michelin-starred restaurants around the world). The food is an exquisite seven-course tasting menu with amuse bouche, granita and pre-dessert tasters. The Mezoon Grille menu is available to Etihad’s First Class customers only, featuring a variety of premium produce, including beef, chicken, lamb and seafood, along with a range of delicate sauces, sides and delicious desserts, all of which were prepared to order. Everything is served on fine bone chinaware, cutlery and crystal glassware.

I choose the following items from the menu:
Amuse bouche: Middle Eastern style chicken salad.
Chickpea Soup, with Arabic spiced ratatouille.
Starter: marinated prawns, with Quinoa and wake salad, and red pepper sauce.
Grapefruit sorbet.
Entree: US rib-eye steak, with steamed green beans, creamy mashed potatoes, and garlic and herb butter.
Pre-dessert mini-choclate mousse.
Dessert trio of berry and cinnamon frangipani, apricot cheesecake, with passion fruit meringue, chocolate mousse.

So the best food is definitely offered in Etihad First.

Emirates Vs Etihad First Class In-Flight Showers – Which Is Best?

Both Emirates and Etihad have two showers at the front of their cabins. However, in the all-important category of shower-to-passenger ratio, Emirates wins, with one shower for every seven passengers, while Etihad only provides one shower for every nine passengers. I have written a completely separate article with Emirates sky shower pictures. There is very little to choose between the shower rooms themselves although Emirates’ showers have a panoramic wallpaper view of the Dubai skyline on the walls. The volume per passenger is key here which is why Emirates wins.

The reason there are less showers on Etihad is because they feel their passengers in The Residence need their own shower.

Emirates Vs Etihad First Class Bar/Lounge – Which Is Best?

Both Etihad and Emirates have lounges. The Etihad bar is designated as “The Lobby” but even in First Class, you’ll have to have your drinks refilled from the display case, rather than having an onboard bartender serving you.

If you prefer a more traditional bar experience, you’ll find it on Emirates with extensive seating, mood lighting, a horseshoe shaped bar and a real life bartender.

Emirates therefore wins harking back to the heydays of luxury air travel.

Emirates Vs Etihad First Class Wine List & Bar Menu – Which Is Best?

Emirates and Etihad both have complimentary top-shelf alcohol for those over the age of 18. These include extensive wine lists and a vast range of spirits, liquor, and champagne all served in proper crystal glasses.

Both airlines offer extensive alcohol, but in terms of brand and cost, Emirates wins as it offers more drink options breaking the $100 USD per bottle ceiling. They are also the only airline serving Hennessy Paradis Cognac in First Class, with a retail price around $700 per bottle.

Emirates Vs Etihad First Class Entertainment & WiFi – Which Is Best?

Both Etihad and Emirates First Class suites on the Airbus A380 feature big screens with a wide variety of content. You can also surf the web with your smartphone or laptop using their satellite-based WiFi systems. Emirates has made WiFi affordable for everyone – free for the first 10 MB and only $1 USD for 500 MB of data. Unfortunately, this means the internet connection is virtually unusable due to the number of passengers logged on.

Etihad wins with a superior entertainment system, a screen that not only swivels back to let you watch TV in bed, but it also has split-screen capabilities with four different screens. Plus, surfing the web is actually possible on Etihad.

Emirates Vs Etihad First Class Amenity Kit – Which Is Best?

I have reviewed the best airline amenity kits in the world and in this listing, Emirates comes second offering bespoke beauty goodies from one of my favourite scents; Bulgari. They also give you a fragrance. Emirates have also introduced the world’s first moisturising pyjamas in first class designed for airline use and to overcome dry air thus giving the passenger a better nights sleep.

Etihad comes in lower at number 5 in my best first class amenity kits and passengers get Christian Lacroix loungewear and toiletries from Hungarian skincare brand, Omorovicza. The amenity kit from Emirates is more generous and therefore wins. I love a free fragrance and their pyjamas are ground breaking.

Emirates Vs Etihad First Class Airport Lounge – Which Is Best?

If the layover is important to you, you might want to choose your Middle Eastern carrier by the lounge on offer at it’s respective airport hub. I a big fan of Etihad’s First Class Lounge & Spa in Abu Dhabi and have also reviewed the Concourse A Emirates First Class Lounge at Dubai International Airport. In this case, I prefer the Etihad lounge.

To add a fly to the ointment, I consider the Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa First Class in Doha’s new Hamad International Airport is the best airline lounge in the world so although in every other way, Etihad and Emirates win; In this respect, Qatar is worth considering.

Conclusion

Which is the best First Class Suite In The Sky; Emirates or Etihad? Etihad wins in five categories, Emirates wins in four. Etihad has the better suite, seat, bed, entertainment, and food. Emirates has the better shower, onboard lounge, amenity kit and alcohol. So I choose Etihad as the winner offering the best First Class suite. Etihad wins by a small margin so your final choice depends on what matters to you onboard.

How To Buy A First Or Business Class Seat In Etihad Or Emirates First With Miles

Emirates Skywards miles can be earned from and redeemed on travel from nine partner airlines. These include Alaska, JAL, Jet, JetBlue, Korean Air, Qantas, South African Airways, TAP Portugal, and Virgin America. The miles earned depends on the class of service flown, and the miles accrued on partners do not count towards tier status. Etihad is a partner of American Airlines, and AAdvantage miles can be redeemed directly for Etihad First Class flights. The best ways to collect AAdvantage miles are by flying AA or a Oneworld partner, through signing up for and receiving credit card bonuses, or by transferring them from the Starwood Preferred Guest program.

I have also compared British Airways Club World Vs Virgin Atlantic Upper Class but these airlines do not even slightly compare to the very best in First Class offered by Etihad and Emirates.

Remember, if you are planning to book a First or Business Class flight or a luxury hotel, contact our luxury travel concierge to get a quote before booking. We offer free upgrades, free breakfasts, deals and special benefits.

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