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Round the World in F (EY A380 F, QR A380 F, CX F)

Round the World in F (EY A380 F, QR A380 F, CX F)

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Old Dec 21, 15, 10:53 am
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Round the World in F (EY A380 F, QR A380 F, CX F)

Select images here (per FT rules), full images available at http://andystravelblog.boardingarea....-class-review/

We pick up our trip report having arrived at London Heathrow from an American Airlines flight in Economy (ew). I was tired, having not slept much, and stopped by the lounge in Terminal 4 at Heathrow. Once I had a refreshing massage and got the pictures I needed it was time to head to Gate 10 to begin my journey.

The Plane

I arrived at Gate 10 (really two gates, 10a and 10b) and was greeted with: a wall. Don't worry, I found a window to get my first glimpse of Etihad's beautiful A380.



I lingered around the gate area for a while (there was a brief delay) and eventually we were invited to board. We boarded through Gate 10a, designated for First and Business Class passengers.

After what seemed like a 3km walk on the jetbridge I made it to the immense A380. I was welcomed aboard and invited to make the oh-so-coveted left turn into one of the most beautiful cabins I've ever seen.



Most First Class cabins will have two aisles on the A380, but Etihad's product features fully-enclosed suites that are so wide there's only one aisle. It doesn't seem like the most spacious environment but that's fine, the individual Apartments are plenty big!

I found my Apartment, 5C, and was greeted with champagne (Bollinger), Arabic coffee, and some dates.



The Apartment is MASSIVE. The actual seat is huge and then there's a long padded bench (which folds out into a bed) where you could easily seat 2-3 other people.

I noticed that the passenger for The Residence had yet to arrive, so I poked my camera into the living room and bedroom and was able to get off a few snaps.





Emirates has a great bar on its A380s. Etihad countered with a Lounge, which basically amounts to two big semi-circular booths facing each other. I stopped by quickly as boarding finished up so we could depart.

Before we started our taxi to the runway I also stopped by the restrooms, which were absolutely beautiful (for airplane restrooms of course).



I took a peek inside the shower suite, which I'd use later during my flight. It was similarly furnished, with a variety of Bergamote gels and sprays available.

The Flight

We had a smooth takeoff through the clouds above London and set our course for Abu Dhabi. My champagne flute was refilled for me and I went to see the Lounge set up for flights. I always end up with stuff all over the place in my seating area (which leads to cluttered pictures), so I set up my tripod in an empty Apartment to get some really clean pictures.





I then wanted to see if the in-flight setup was different for the Lounge than I saw before and indeed it was. That said, it wasn't really the most useful space. A man and his wife were sharing a champagne toast on the seat to the left of my camera and it didn't seem like a good time for chit-chatting so I went back to my seat.

The Food

I had the option of eating whenever I would like (which is a great touch of Etihad) and decided to dine shortly after takeoff. Etihad has a designated onboard Chef, who came to discuss the various menu items with me and make recommendations where helpful. The inflight manager also stopped by and told me all manner of things about the crew, specifically that the plating of this particular Chef was some of the greatest in the airline, which made me excited (I love good plating).

I took my seat and my flight attendants made my table for me. Had I been traveling with someone there would have been plenty of room for the to join me during the meal service, and even enough room further down the bench for some random person to sit there and creepily watch me and my travel companion eat.

The meal began with a prawn starter



The plating was indeed amazing, just like the inflight manager promised. I decided to skip the salad, because why salad, and went right for the steak!

The steak was cooked incredibly well, the fries and potatoes were perfect.

They asked what I'd like for dessert and must've noticed the crazy look in my eye when they suggested that they could bring out a dessert sampler for me. I accepted their offer and also asked for a Dragonslayer to drink. They were unaware of what a Dragonslayer was (a Bailey's on the rocks, called a Dragonslayer because I'm a fairly manly dude with a beard and don't want to be caught ordering Bailey's on the rocks) but we got it sorted and shortly afterward an amazing dessert sampler appeared.



I finished my dessert and the Dragonslayer and was greeted by a trippy bottom of the glass reflecting Top Gear playing on the TV.

Ahhh. What a meal. Great plating, wonderful taste, and diverse flavors. As they cleaned up my table one of my flight attendants (a Dutch guy who was fantastic) came over and asked if I'd like to sleep. Honestly I didn't but asked if he wouldn't mind making up the bed anyway so I could get some pictures. He suggested I stand with my camera as he was making the bed so I could get some pictures of the process. Gotta love it when flight attendants help with the blog!

The bed layout is where the First Class Apartment concept shines. I still felt like I had plenty of room had I wanted to use the seat. The enclosed suite helped everything feel private and roomy. The bed itself wasn't the most comfortable airplane bed I've ever slept on (that title probably goes to Cathay Pacific) but would've been perfectly fine had I wanted to sleep.

As we came closer to initial descent I requested a shower. My flight attendant made the shower suite ready for me and I went into the suite.

The shower head is in the top left of the picture and the control console is on the wall to the right. There's a timer there because you're limited to five minutes of water. The good news is it doesn't have to be five consecutive minutes of water so you can turn the water off to apply shampoo/conditioner and soap, then turn it on again to rinse.

The sensation of taking a shower had to be kind of overrated, right? No, it was freaking awesome. Even the momentary turbulence was kind of fun. Being limited to only five minutes was actually really interesting, I ended up with plenty of time left over, which makes me wonder how much water I/we waste during our showers. I dried off, got dressed, felt about 1 million times better (having been awake for like 30 hours at this point) and made my way back to my seat as we began our descent into Abu Dhabi.

We landed smoothly and I bade a fond farewell to the crew of the flight. It was a wonderful flight in every sense of the word.

The Service

The Middle East Three are frequently criticized for their service. Not that it's bad, it's just seen as being a bit inconsistent sometimes. In fact, I think that's the general conclusion I came to last year when I flew Etihad's A340 First Class to Washington. I was curious how the service would stack up here, especially since I'd be flying Qatar the next day. I can confidently say that the Dutch flight attendant I had was one of the top 2-3 flight attendants I've ever had. He addressed me by name, saw that I was an Excited Photographer Passenger and went with it, and made some great recommendations to me. I told him about the blog and gave him my card, I really hope he reads this! On the other hand, though, the lady who assisted him couldn't have been more indifferent. She did everything to the standard she was required to but it took the entire flight to even get a smile out of her. That said, the Dutch guy did such a great job that I barely noticed.

As long as Etihad service looks more like the Dutch guy than the other girl they'll be successful for a long time. The cabin was amazing, the A380 flies smoothly and quietly, and the food was excellent. Etihad set a high standard for Qatar to meet on my flight with them the next day!
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Old Dec 21, 15, 11:04 am
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Great trip report! Looking forward to the rest!
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Old Dec 21, 15, 1:59 pm
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Got to subscribe for an itinerary like that!
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Old Dec 21, 15, 2:06 pm
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What a great addition to my Monday . Thanks for sharing, I'm looking forward to the rest.
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Old Dec 21, 15, 5:30 pm
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Originally Posted by alexisonsmith View Post
Great trip report! Looking forward to the rest!
Same here! Hope the rest of your trip goes just as well.

Looking forward to any comparisons you might want to draw between the three airlines.

And thanks for sharing all of this!
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Old Dec 22, 15, 9:31 am
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(select images here, all images available at http://andystravelblog.boardingarea....lounge-review/)

After a completely nondescript lounge and flight from AUH-DOH on a Qatar Airways affiliate, I was greeted at the jetway by a Qatar Airways staff member who had a sign with my name on it. She escorted me past the teddy bear at DOH and directly up a massive escalator to the brand new Al Safwa First Class Lounge.



I was granted entry, on account of me flying Qatar Airways in First Class later that day, and was immediately in awe of the size of the lounge, it is MASSIVE. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The Lounge
Every ceiling you seemed to look at was like 30-40 feet tall, every wall was sheer and vast. There are seating areas interspersed throughout the lounge, and it’s so big that I cannot imagine it ever being crowded. The seating areas all seemed to be different from each other, sometimes the seats would be similar to a typical airline lounge, another area would feature semi-enclosed office chairs, yet another area iPads and power outlets for use by guests. I tried to walk around and take it all in and was continually blown away at the architecture and yet another vast space.





Pretty much any hallway or door you came to had signs directing you to and around the various features of the lounge, which was helpful because it was hard to find my way around initially. What I found useful was figuring out where everything was in relation to the Big Copper Desks, which made everything a bit easier.



Heck, even the bathrooms were amazing!



I settled on some chairs near the restaurant area and the giant “water bowl” installation. I found the giant water bowl ironic a few weeks later when sudden torrential rains closed the lounge due to flooding but I understand it’s been re-opened.



The Peculiarities
I got out my video camera and walked further around the lounge. What I found were random sushi areas, a dessert bar seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and an arcade with nothing plugged in. Qatar has an amazing space but I thought to myself how easy it would be to miss out on everything the lounge has to offer!

Sushi/Food Area
There was an artfully displayed carved watermelon next to a refrigerator full of sushi and another food counter with a chef waiting to take people’s orders. A nearby table was set up for what seemed to be quite a nice dinner, should you and a bunch of your business associates happen to be traveling in First with Qatar.

The space was really nice, but it was off to the side of the lounge and I nearly missed it!

Dessert Bar
There was a sign pointing to a Kid’s Area and I wanted to see what Qatar’s version of a kid’s area would look like, but randomly the first room I walked through (attempting to go to the kid’s area) was a pretty amazing dessert bar!



I never really saw any staff walk through here, nor any other guests, so I can’t imagine how many people had no idea this dessert area wasn’t here unless they happened to be going to the kids area!

Arcade and Book Room
The kid’s area was down a hallway after the Dessert Bar. On the left was a room full of children’s books and a really ornate foosball set.

Then there was the arcade/video game room next to the book room. It had all manner of video game systems and most of them were unplugged or didn’t work, including the amazing looking F1 racing game where you got to sit in a replica of Qatar’s F1 car.

The two Wii systems were on but there were no controllers of any sort. I’m sure they’ve since been turned on, it just seemed almost creepy, such a nice room where nothing worked.

Family Area
There is a huge room full of what can best be described as living rooms or cabanas for families with kids if they need their own area at the lounge. To get there you have to walk through the dessert bar, don’t turn down the kid’s area hallway, and walk into the room in front of you. There are quite a few of these cabanas, which are really nice!



Despite how nice they are and how big the room is that contains them, they’re pretty easy to miss.

The Day Bed Rooms
I didn’t get any pictures of these rooms but they have quite a few rooms that come complete with shower and double beds for you and your traveling companion. Oddly enough there are no charges for these rooms, which end up containing the only free showers in the lounge. The Spa, next to these rooms, has quite a few services available for purchase but even showers have a cost, which I found peculiar compared to the competition.

The Food
I came back to the main dining area for a bit of food, but not too much since I had a nice flight departing in a few hours. The bar area was fantastic and nicely furnished.
qatar al safwa lounge review

One of the great parts of the Al Safwa lounge, yes, the same lounge that charges for a shower if you’re not in a day bed room, is serving Krug at the bar!
qatar al safwa lounge review



I grabbed my champagne and was seated at a table close to the only other people eating in the lounge at that moment, which I thought was weird. Regardless, the table settings were very nice.

I ordered a steak, which was lovely although I only ate about half of it.



So, what did I think?
This lounge is equal parts Game-Changer and Huh? It’s really the only way of explaining it. The physical space is unmatched by any other lounge in the world, period. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. But then all the peculiar bits have to be factored in. Obviously improving the soft product is easier than improving the hard product, so my hope is that the service levels will be retooled to better inform guests about the lounge and the services available (although it needs to be said that anyone I asked for help was very kind and quick to point me in the right direction).

Once the services are tweaked and some navigational things are better displayed, this will truly be the best airport lounge in the world. I had a great visit and definitely want to go back.


Last edited by bthotugigem05; Dec 26, 15 at 11:15 pm
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Old Dec 22, 15, 9:32 am
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Originally Posted by alexisonsmith View Post
Great trip report! Looking forward to the rest!
Thanks so much, looking forward to sharing it with you!
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Old Dec 22, 15, 9:33 am
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Originally Posted by chongl View Post
Got to subscribe for an itinerary like that!
Hopefully the report meets your expectations, it was fun to fly!
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Old Dec 22, 15, 9:33 am
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Amazing photos, thank you for posting.

I've never seen anything like that in my life on a plane! An apartment, literally! LOL
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Old Dec 22, 15, 9:34 am
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Originally Posted by Madone59 View Post
What a great addition to my Monday . Thanks for sharing, I'm looking forward to the rest.
Glad to enhance your Monday!
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Old Dec 22, 15, 2:22 pm
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(limited pictures here, full post at http://andystravelblog.boardingarea....-class-review/)

Qatar Airways has a firebrand of a CEO, His Excellency Mr. Akbar al Baker, who is known for uncompromising attention to detail and for doing great work with Qatar Airways. When Qatar announced an order of A380s everyone was curious what direction they would go with their First Class. As I spoke about in my review of Etihadís First Class Apartment, the Middle East Three (Etihad, Emirates, Qatar) compete fiercely with one another, one-upping wherever they can. Emirates has enclosed suites with showers on their A380? Etihad introduced an even bigger suite with showers on their A380. So what would Qatar do? Even more shower? Hot tub? What would His Excellency come up with? I left the Al Safwa lounge determined to find out.

There was a special boardingarea (ha) for Business and First Class passengers located on a mezzanine level above the Economy passengers, since we were sitting on the upper level of the A380. I waited with a few other passengers and finally we were invited to board in one group. I was greeted warmly by a flight attendant and

oh.

my.

goodness.

The cabin was beautiful.




The Flight
I was sitting against the window on the first row. The only other passenger in First was in the second row against the other window and slept nearly the entire time so it felt like I had the cabin to myself.

The seat was immensely comfortable, maybe even more comfortable than Cathay Pacificís 777 seat. The finishings were tasteful and elegant without being showy. Itís almost as if Qatar didnít want to play Emirates and Etihadís game with their A380 First Class cabin, they wanted tastefulness without gaudiness and they nailed it. Sorry for going on and on, it was that good.

Once we took off I had a look around the rest of the First Class area, including the restrooms, which were massive and similarly elegant to the cabin. The toilet was actually under the leather bench, giving you plenty of room to change into the provided pajamas if you pleased.



The top of the stairwell featured an awesome chandelier and cool wall display, had to get a few pics of it.



The dinner service began with caviar. Iím still not quite sure how Iím supposed to eat caviar, but Iíve finally developed a taste for it and it was wonderful!



For the main course I chose a chicken dish that had some distinctly Indian flavors to it. I didnít like it very much, but thatís probably more my taste than it was the food not being prepared well.



For dessert I went with a multi-layered chocolate mousse/tart sort of thing. It tasted incredible and the plating was excellent as well.



After dinner they brought by a sampler of chocolates as a gift for us, they were delicious (I ate them later on the trip).

The Bar
After dinner I made my way over to what I consider the best-executed feature of the Qatar A380: the bar.



The bar aboard Qatarís A380, situated behind Business Class, is amazing and was my favorite part of the flight. Itís also why I never slept on the overnight flight! The bartender was courteous, prompt, and our drinks were seldom empty. The bar has the central area above and then two long benches with seat belts on either side of the cabin so people can buckle up during turbulence without having to leave the bar. The bar was designed in such a way that you canít help but strike up conversations with those around you and before I knew it there were about 12 people in the bar enjoying the Good Life and running through quite a bit of booze!

The decor of the bar was elegant, classy, and on theme with the rest of the premium cabins.



Now normally Qatar serves Krug champagne but on this flight they were testing out Taittinger Comtes, which Iíd previously enjoyed on Qantas A380 First Class and really enjoy, almost more than Krug.



Eventually my flight attendant came back and found me to ask if Iíd like some breakfast. I had fallen into conversation with two German couples and we were having a blast and going through quite a few bottles of the lovely champagne and lost track of time. I was sad to realize that the serving of breakfast meant the flight was coming to an end.

For breakfast I had a nice little omelette with two types of sausage. It was cooked well and tasted pretty much exactly how it looked.

As the sun broke through the clouds I was reminded just how hard it is to take pictures through the window of an A380 but did my best to capture the beautiful sunrise.



We had a smooth landing into Bangkokís Sumnaskljaskjalsuerhlijhvoluihtiouwhrwvit Airport (probably misspelled). I was really bummed because I enjoyed this flight so much. I grabbed a few more pics of the cabin with better light than the night before.

The Service
The service on this flight was fantastic. My flight attendants were warm, friendly, and attentive (without being overbearing). The service felt way more like that of an Asian carrier (consistently) instead of a Middle Eastern carrier (terrigreat is the word Iíve made up to describe it). Every flight crew member I encountered was interested not only in me as a passenger but also as a person, they found out I was on vacation and asked me where else I had been, who I flew with, what I thought of Etihadís A380, etc. It was cordial and conversational without being nosy.

The Verdict
A question the flight attendants asked me at the end of the flight is how their flight compared to the Etihad A380 flight from yesterday. I figured my readers might be interested in the comparison as well.
Iíve thought long and hard about it and have settled on this phrase: The Etihad flight was a loud and shouty Lamborghini with its Apartment and separate bed while Qatar was a beautiful Ferrari, elegantly tasteful yet strong and powerful in its own right. Neither was better, they were just different.

That said, if I had to choose only one to fly again, give me a ticket for Qatar Airways.
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Old Dec 22, 15, 3:34 pm
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Holy f*** . That's the only expression that came out when I read this trip report. Both Etihad and Qatar first class looks out of this world. Great pictures and narrative too, and can't wait for the rest.
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Old Dec 22, 15, 5:41 pm
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Wow! The lounge looked amazing. So much open space, but the structural aspects are stunning as well! Just awesome.

Thanks for a great TR!
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Old Dec 23, 15, 9:56 am
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Fantastic TR! EY F apartments are amazing, I concur. Never tried the shower, so cannot comment on that, but the apartments are freaking massive!! I loved it, when I tried it. However, IMO, AUH-LHR or vv. is too short of a route to fully enjoy everything. Slept the whole time. Haha...Do you really get 6 mins of shower/water in the EY F bathrooms? It is literally a minute more than EK F! Haha..

Never tried QR F. So, how would you compare EY F and QR F on their respective 380s?

Awesome TR, once again! And keep 'em coming!
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Old Dec 23, 15, 11:14 am
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Holy f*** . That's the only expression that came out when I read this trip report. Both Etihad and Qatar first class looks out of this world. Great pictures and narrative too, and can't wait for the rest.
Thanks mp2! Glad you're enjoying it

Wow! The lounge looked amazing. So much open space, but the structural aspects are stunning as well! Just awesome.

Thanks for a great TR!
The lounge was absolutely mesmerizing jtav559, nothing like it anywhere else!

Fantastic TR! EY F apartments are amazing, I concur. Never tried the shower, so cannot comment on that, but the apartments are freaking massive!! I loved it, when I tried it. However, IMO, AUH-LHR or vv. is too short of a route to fully enjoy everything. Slept the whole time. Haha...Do you really get 6 mins of shower/water in the EY F bathrooms? It is literally a minute more than EK F! Haha..

Never tried QR F. So, how would you compare EY F and QR F on their respective 380s?

Awesome TR, once again! And keep 'em coming!
Thanks for your comments AvidFlyer1990! I actually preferred QR over EY, the bar played a huge role in that comparison though. Etihad knows it has the best first class suite concept so I felt like they felt they didn't need to try as hard on their lounge/bar area.
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