Reviews Travel Guide

My Best Flight Ever – Etihad First Class Apartment From Abu Dhabi To Sydney

First Class Apartment
Written by Charlie

Here is the tale of my best flight ever – and it took place in the magnificent Etihad First Class Apartment!

I have flown a lot of flights over the years and have had some very good ones. While I have been privileged to have flown in some of the best first class cabins in the world, some of the best ones I have had have not even been in those cabins. It certainly helps but it is possible to have great flights in any cabin based on many factors.

But, it does just happen that my best flight ever was in the best aircraft cabin in the sky (at least that is attainable with miles/points) – the Etihad First Apartment from Abu Dhabi – Sydney.

My Best Flight Ever

To check out my full review and better photos of the Etihad First Class Apartment, read this post.

Having flown this same plane (and same seat, actually) back in January on the Abu Dhabi to London route, I was really looking forward to flying it again and for twice as long of a distance!

The fact that this special flight was going to come after my finishing my 3rd of 6 marathon distances in my race around the world was going to make it even more of a great flight. I went into the flight experience with a lot of high expectations, which can make it hard to really be blown away by the experience. Well, I was blown away by it and it was definitely not just the best flight of the trip but also my best flight ever.

Etihad First Class Apartment On The A380 From Abu Dhabi To Sydney

First Class Apartment

Part of the gorgeous First Class Apartment

Pre-Flight Luxuries – Not For Me This Time!

Part of the great Etihad first class experience in Abu Dhabi is getting picked up by a chauffeured car, getting dropped off at the exclusive premium check-in part of the Abu Dhabi airport, enjoying the beautiful premium lounge – all before ever stepping on the most incredible first class cabin in the world (in my opinion, of course, but it would be pretty hard to top).

Unfortunately, because of the incredible difficulty of running a marathon distance in Abu Dhabi in September (temperatures were up to 108 degrees during my run with high humidity), I knew I would not be able to enjoy most of the early stages of the Etihad first class experience – no limo, no lounge.

In fact, I had to race from the hotel to the airport and through passport control and security just to get to the gate for boarding. Yes, raced on legs that had already run 78.6 miles on 3 continents in less than 40 hours – which means that racing was basically walking as fast as I could manage. 🙂

Boarding – First Class Apartment

I did reach the gate in time and they boarded the First Class Apartment passengers within a few minutes of my arriving. It actually did not matter anyway since we ended up having to wait over an hour on the ground because of air traffic over Oman.

From the moment I stepped on the beautiful Etihad A380, I felt like I was going to just be able to sink into the fantastic comfort. I was greeted by the staff and shown to Seat 3A where I settled in for the 14 hour flight. Right after I got in, the onboard butler (who exclusively serves the Residence passenger unless there is not one in which case they join the rest of the flight crew). He asked me if there was anything he could get me and I asked for a lot of water and told him what I was doing. He was also a runner so understood and made sure that I had at least one large water bottle for the entire flight.

Meal Preparation

First Apartment Class

The wonderful post-run/pre-run tenderloin!

Shortly after he set me up with my fluids, the chef came in to ask about my meal plans for the trip. He said he heard about what I was doing and he helped me by making suggestions that he thought would work best. Of course, we started with the excellent grass-fed beef tenderloin – which was the best piece of meat I have ever had onboard an aircraft. Combined with a few sides like some potatoes and it was the perfect meal.

First Class Apartment

A colorful, tasty salad was a great addition to the meal

I had every expectation to get some work done during the flight but found out that the inflight internet was no longer free for First Class Apartment passengers (like it was in January). That was the only disappointment on the flight – I figured that giving free internet codes to at least paying passengers in the First Apartment would just be a part of the reception of premium passengers. Oh well! Because I was not sure how long I would be able to be online, I did not want to pay for the full flight.

A Lot Of Sleep!

First Class Apartment

Great bed in the air!

That ended up being a very good thing because I was much more tired than I thought! Other than a quick nap aboard the plane from Cairo, I had not slept in the previous 40 hours. Right after eating dinner, I was exhausted enough that they made my bed up for me so I could get some sleep. This was about 2 hours into the flight.

Normally, I can only sleep a few hours on planes, even in first class. But, this was entirely different. I am not sure exactly how long I slept, but it was at least 9 hours! While the bed itself was not as comfortable to me as the Cathay Pacific bed (not to say it was uncomfortable), I slept soundly for that time with just one break to grab the nearby water bottle that the butler placed next to my bed.


After I woke up, I did a little bit of stretching – which is definitely not doable in any other first class seat in the air! Seriously, I was even able to do sit-ups on the floor in my own cabin! Just too amazing! Jumping jacks would have been possible but a little weird so I skipped those. 🙂

First Class Apartment

Plenty of room in the apartment for some stretches. 🙂

Well-Thought Of Comforts

While I was in the bathroom, they put my room back together and got my breakfast ready to serve. The actual seat in the cabin is very comfortable and has a built-in massager which helped my back after those runs. Again, it is just incredible to have these kinds of comforts while traveling several hundreds of miles per hour over 7 miles up in the air! Etihad had thought of everything by making sure that whatever the passenger needs is within reach from the seat. That includes the chilled drinks in the compartment, controls for the lights, controls for the 24″ television, small storage areas for phones and more – just everything you need is right near your reach.


The breakfast was a traditional English breakfast that perfectly hit the spot. It was enjoyable and was just what I needed. Following breakfast, I was told that my shower was ready. With each passenger getting 30 minutes in the shower suite and 5 minutes of hot water, it was plenty of time to shower and get myself ready for the next run in Sydney.  While not nearly as roomy as the shower suite aboard Emirates’ A380, it was still a shower on an airplane!

Shower And Recovery

First Class Apartment

Cleaned up and ready to run in Sydney – enjoying my best flight ever.

Following my refreshing shower, I went back to my apartment and made sure everything was packed up and ready to go. By the time I took my seat again, we only had about an hour before landing. It was seriously the best flight I had ever taken – thanks to the circumstances that preceded the flight, the fact that this incredible flight was the mid-way point of my journey around the world, the fantastic staff, the food, and the best seat in the air. While spending 15 hours on an airplane may not seem like something to look forward to, it was really something that was a completely calming experience.


First Class Apartment

What a great flight!

This was definitely my best flight ever! It was a memorable experience and it was something that made me wishing it was a 24 hour trip! And to be able to enjoy the whole thing for only 60,000 American Airline miles and $50 is just too wonderful! That is one of the great things about the miles and points game that we play.

Some of the links on Running with Miles are affiliate links that pay a commission if a purchase is made. Running with Miles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • I tried to find space for first class but its so scarce. How did you find the space? I want to book an R/T HKG-AUH using AA miles.

    • Those first apartment spaces are all long gone since Etihad made some changes to their guest program sometime July. Before this, SYD-AUH route had 2 apartment seats open on almost all days and I made the booking back in May of this year… I can’t wait to do this, SYD-AUH. We are family of 4 so we had to split it up and traveling in two separate days. Yes we have to book hotels in both in SYD and AUH on same days but I figure this got to be the once in a life time opportunity, it’s only fair all of us experience it. Boy was I glad we book it this way. Other than last minute releases, I don’t foresee being able to redeem AA miles to book the apartment again.

  • Aren’t you concerned about all the studies and evidence showing that marathon runners and those that run 20 miles a day die younger? If your back is hurting now, just think where your body will be in 10 years. Age really takes a toll even without such abuse.

  • Unfortunately, looks like 0 award space unless you want to pull a last minute. I blame one person this time.