The Best First Class Suite In The Sky: Emirates Vs Etihad


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We 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.

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 short-haul and long-haul.

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 six 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. We have a full review of a flight in First Class on Emirates.

Etihad Airways is a flag carrier and the second-largest airline in 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 containing the sliding entrance doors of the Apartments. The lighting patterns in the ceiling project Arabian mosaic-like figures on the walls and floor, adding to the relaxing atmosphere.

Etihad Airway’s 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). Check out our full review of a flight in Etihad First Class Apartment.

In my humble opinion, for ambiance, space, look, and style, Etihad is best. The Emirates cabin is glitzy and full of gold and bright colors that aren’t to my taste. The privacy and space are also better on Etihad.

Emirates vs. Etihad First Class Seats – Which Is Best?

Emirates First Class is configured with only four suites per row. The First Class suites on the sides are ideal for solo travelers (with a generous 3 windows per seat, offering great views). In contrast, 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 has configured their cabin with only two First Class suites per row, which are clearly better. See Etihad seat map. The very comfortable recliner seat is equipped with an in-seat massage and a pneumatic cushion control system. The seat has two armrests: one holds the tray table, while the other holds the Apartment and inflight entertainment system controls. By pressing a button, you can change the ottoman’s position, raise or lower 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 that holds the noise-canceling headsets.

Clearly, two suites per row are 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 a fully retractable armrest. When you want to sleep, a cabin crew member 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 to 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 shichimi
  • Foie gras on gingerbread with smoked salt
  • Arm salmon tempo sushi with herb crust
  • Appetiser
  • Caviar, presented with a 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
  • 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:

  • Starter
  • Chicken consommé with vegetable julienne
  • Main
  • 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. We’ve 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 fewer showers on Etihad is that they feel their passengers in The Residence need their own showers.

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 are 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 of around $700 USD per bottle.

Emirates vs. Etihad First Class Entertainment & Wi-Fi – 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 Wi-Fi systems. Emirates has made Wi-Fi 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?

We 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 favorite scents; Bulgari. They also give you a fragrance. Emirates has also introduced the world’s first moisturizing pajamas 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 our 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 pajamas are groundbreaking.

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 its 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.


Which is the best First Class Suite In The Sky, Emirates or Etihad? Etihad wins in five categories and Emirates wins in four. Etihad has the better suite, seat, bed, entertainment, and food. Emirates has a 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 depend on the class of service flown, and the miles accrued on partners do not count toward 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, signing up for and receiving credit card bonuses, or transferring them from the Starwood Preferred Guest program.

We’ve 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.

Note: Benefits & upgrades subject to availability. Benefits offered correct at the time of writing. Terms & conditions apply. Enquire for more information. Posts may be sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own & are in no way influenced.