Free First Class Flight: Delhi (to Abu Dhabi) to Melbourne

Free First Class Flight: Delhi (to Abu Dhabi) to Melbourne

Christmas morning, we woke up at the early hour of 1AM in Delhi, ready to spend the day traveling. (At 1AM, I think most people would still consider it Saturday night instead of Sunday morning!)

We were excited this time, though. After some careful planning on my part and 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles (plus $55 copay) per person, we were going to experience the nicest first class commercial flight in the world. This is a privilege that I don’t think we will ever have the cash to pay for; a quick search on Google Flights just showed me the typical price of this one way flight to be $5,000! Still, one of the great things about airline loyalty programs is being able to experience business class and first class flights that we would never be able to purchase outright.

This time, we started with a 4AM flight to Etihad’s hub at Abu Dhabi. Most of the staff at Delhi airport seemed to be surly and in no mood at all to do their jobs, but shortly after boarding our flight, all of our worries melted away. Etihad’s service was impeccable, and if you read our entry about our incredible flight to Tokyo, the first class seat was exactly the same: Etihad’s wonderful “First Suite” product, with a convertible flat bad and fantastic food offerings.

Charley settles in for the flight to Abu Dhabi

Bye, India! We’ll visit more later, we promise!

We landed in Abu Dhabi at around 7AM, settling into the first class lounge for a long layover. This time, our layover was going to be a whopping fifteen hours long, while we waited for the evening flight to Melbourne, which was Etihad’s Airbus A380 flight. Still, though, the lounge was a really fantastic and hospitable place to spend the day, and we dined on a couple incredible five star meals and made some Christmas Day phone calls as we waited for our evening flight.

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Not a bad way to spend the day!

We caught up on a lot of work on this blog, but after spending the entire day relaxing in the lounge, we were finally excited to board around 9PM. The A380 is Etihad’s flagship product, and we weren’t disappointed. Simply put, it is the nicest commercial airline seat available in the world. They call it the “First Apartment,” and I spent the entire flight marveling at my incredible privilege to fly it and hoping the flight would never end. (You can follow the link to Etihad’s video of the experience if you want, but it’s hard for a video to do it justice.)

Each seat has a separate couch and sitting area. Here you can see Charley and me getting settled into our First Apartments, as we marvel at how much space we actually have.

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This sitting couch is really nice; it lets 2-3 people congregate within one First Apartment and hang out or (two people can) dine together during the flight. More importantly, though, each couch transforms into a comfortable bed for sleep during the flight!

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We started our thirteen hour flights with a good seven hours of sleep, tired after our short night in Delhi and woke up feeling very rested. The beds were very comfortable, certainly more comfortable than I ever thought I could be onboard a plane! After getting rest, it was time to have a couple meals and see the in-flight dining experience aboard the plane. We only managed to get pictures of the first two courses (the amuse bouche and the appetizer) before we decided we were too hungry for photography, but rest assured everything was incredible!

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Even after the five-star onboard dining, there were STILL two more amenities we had to check out: the public lounge area between the Business and First cabins, and the onboard shower. Etihad and their competitor Emirates are now famous, mostly thanks to Jennifer Aniston, for having a shower available onboard the aircraft. I requested a shower about two hours before landing and was shown inside. The shower allows each user to have five minutes of water flow, with separate controls for temperature and start/pause. It was absolutely incredible, and this was definitely the only time in my life that I’ve deplaned from an intercontinental flight feeling refreshed.

Shower controls in the A380

The top half of the onboard shower – sorry my lens angle isn’t wide enough to get the whole thing

Afterwards, I made sure to relax with a nice glass of white wine in the lounge while I waited for landing. What an experience!

Craig has a seat in the A380 business/first bar area, separate from the seating areas.

There’s no question in my mind that Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment is the nicest commercial flight in the sky. Cashing in our American Airlines AAdvantage miles and $55 was probably the best $55 I’ve ever spent in my life. I hope we get to experience it again someday.

Craig Chu

Craig Chu

Craig is a credentialed pension actuary who worked most recently as a software developer with Winklevoss Technologies, in Greenwich, CT USA, where he worked to maintain and develop ProVal, the world’s leading software product for pension valuation and forecasting analytics. A proud graduate of Caltech, he is a big fan of all things science-related, as well as (in no particular order of preference) beer, New York City, choral singing, and cats. He can be reached at

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