Regular readers will know that I recently flew both Etihad Airways and Emirates first class on my trip to Europe. Since my return I’ve been asked a number of times which first class does it better. So, who does it better, Emirates or Etihad? Well, my answer is “it depends….” and here is why:
Where Emirates and Etihad First Class are Equal
Both airlines offer a very similar check in experience with dedicated check ins for premium cabin passengers. In their home ports of Dubai and Abu Dhabi respectively, both offer dedicated Immigration counters. In other cities Fast Track cards see First Class passengers through those formalities in no time.
In the lounge it is also a line ball decision. Dedicated First Class Lounges, with dining areas and full menus are on offer. Comfy seating, free wifi and plenty of space are a given. A sense of calm permeates both lounges.
In flight, both airlines offer private suites with wardrobes and storage space. Putting your bag in the overhead locker is a thing of the past, with in-suite storage on both airlines.
Emirates First Class is better than Etihad for…….
Emirates definitely has it over Etihad on the bells and whistles of First Class. Putting aside the shower on the A380 (because it is only available on the A380 and therefore is not a standard part of the service), vintage Dom Perignon champagne and a brilliant Bulgari amenities kit (including a perfume to die for) are unbeatable. The minibar also ticks plenty of boxes. Emirates clearly want you to take all the goodies are on offer – stylish hessian shopping bags sporting the Emirates logo are handed out, and before the basket of minibar goodies is taken away for landing, a flight attendant checks if there is anything I want to take with me.
Etihad Airways Diamond First Class is better than Emirates for…….
It’s in the lounge I notice a subtle, but definite difference. In the Emirates spa, there are only four free treatments – and none of them are facials. Teleport over to Abu Dhabi, and it’s all free in the Etihad lounge – with a choice of multiple facials!
I love the Etihad pyjamas. The ladies’ ones are fitted, satin-bound and come with pretty bling crystals on the zipper at the neck. The Emirates pyjamas, on the other hand, were so ugly and so ill-fitting I couldn’t be bothered taking them with me whether it was expected or not. Hideous colours and no fit. Truly awful.
Due to a night time flight, I didn’t have the opportunity to eat a lot on the Emirates flight. What I ate was very good, and indeed an Australian marinated Persian fetta served as part of a cheese platter was truly sublime. But where Etihad gets my vote is the on board chef. Want something simple that’s not on the menu? No problem. Want a four course meal with matching wines? You’ve got it. Freshly cooked grilled chicken with a light salad – of course! I love the on board chef!
I also prefer the comfort of the Etihad seat to the Emirates offering. This is obviously a very personal choice, and you may feel differently. Similarly, when stretched out into the fully flat bed, the Etihad bed got my vote. The Emirates seat and bed were fine – I was comfortable and slept well, but the Etihad seat is just better. For me anyway.
I noticed a definite difference in service between the two airlines. No one came around to make up my bed when I flew Emirates. Bedding was already provided in the suite and I saw everyone make up their own on my flight. This has never happened to me, ever, on Etihad and indeed, on my last Etihad flight the adjacent suite was made up for my bedroom as the flight was half empty. I found this quite disappointing on Emirates. Emirates service was very friendly, kind and professional, but was not necessarily personal. I found everytime I asked for something, it was a different attendant who came. All charming, just not personal. On Etihad, one person serves you.
Which first class is better?
Make no mistake, both Etihad and Emirates offer a very superior First Class product, with plenty of room, privacy, wonderful food and entertainment and lovely service. There are differences in both offerings, and really, I think it depends on your own personal preference which one you would prefer. For me, while I appreciate all the bells and whistles of the Emirates offering, I do think the Etihad service is more personal and the seat and bed are definitely more comfortable for me. That (just) wins the day for me. Having said that, Emirates is fabulous, and I genuinely look forward to travelling both airlines’ First Class again.