Etihad’s apartments on their A380 aircraft are arguably the best first class seats in the sky. While they can be booked with Velocity, Etihad Guest or Aadvantage miles they’re generally pretty hard to come by cheaply on revenue tickets. There have definitely been some great fat finger fares that have briefly popped up since the product was introduced, though these were usually departing from cities that were a bit of a pain to position to (for me anyway).
Upgradeable legs on economy fares
I’ve recently found a way to fly in the Etihad apartments on the cheap and even though it can be used on a ticket that departs my home city, I’m the first to admit it’s not perfect.
Etihad currently fly their A380s into London, Sydney, Melbourne, New York and Mumbai from their hub airport, Abu Dhabi. Of these destinations, Mumbai is by far the shortest flight clocking in at about 3.5hrs each way and that’s the route where the apartment can be flown on the below fare, though it also includes the return positioning flights to Abu Dhabi. The problem is that the longer flights are in economy but I still think they’re amazing fares. They work out of Australia, Europe and South East Asia but as far as I can figure out not from North America.
These are economy class fares that allow the sectors between Abu Dhabi and Mumbai to be upgraded to either business class or first for a very reasonable surcharge. As this is a mixed cabin airfare, it’s going to require access to a GDS to be booked so you’ll most likely need to get a human travel agent to book it in for you.
Example departing Australia
Here’s an example departing Sydney:
So, in the above itinerary, the first and last flights are in economy and the second and third flights are in first class. The total price for this itinerary is just under AU$2300.
Example departing Europe
Here’s an example departing London:
So, the same deal here. The flights between London and Abu Dhabi in each direction are in economy and the flights between Abu Dhabi and Mumbai in both directions are in first class. The total price for this ticket is about GBP1200 all in.
Considering the cheapest fares just for Abu Dhabi to Mumbai return in first class with Etihad are about AU$2650/GBP1550, I reckon these fares are pretty amazing.
They also don’t have a minimum stay requirement so you can easily do a same day turn if you just want to use the fare to have an awesome day of lounges and flying. Even though the flights in the apartments are only 3.5 hours each way, when you factor in the ground experience I think it’s still a great way to blast some cash.
Something to be aware of with these fares
There’s one thing to be very aware of. Depending on the GDS being used, you may find a very tempting result pop up. Please trust me that you will not be able to use it. If you or your travel agent are using Sabre, this will not happen, it’s just if it’s on Galileo or possibly another Travelport package. Basically, when you quote a mixed cabin itinerary, you can use a command that gives you the best possible price for seats in the cabins held. If you do that with these itineraries held in economy and first as outlined above, it will tell you to book the Abu Dhabi to Mumbai flights into P class in both directions. P class is the Residence. The reason it does this is that Travelport are unable to register P class as an exceptional booking class so it’s registered with them as full first. Etihad WILL NOT honour this and you are wasting your time and money by ticketing it. Trust me on this, I found out the hard way and I absolutely pushed it as far as I could. Etihad take the Residence very seriously and are not about to let a GDS shortcoming allow passengers to fly in it that cheaply.
BUT! These fares still represent an amazingly cheap way to try out the first class apartments and you will actually be able to use your ticket if booked in regular first class.
When departing out of Australia, the booking class you need for the economy flights is L and for the first class flights it’s F. When departing out of Europe the economy flights are in Q and the first class flights are in F.
Travel beyond Mumbai
Etihad seem to have fares that allow these sector upgrades to many ports in India and the subcontinent, so if you’d rather go to Delhi or another city they’ll still work the same way, however Mumbai is the only destination in that part of the world that they service with an A380. What you can of course do is fly through Mumbai on your way to another city, still upgrading the same flights into first and then carrying onto your final destination in economy on a codeshare or partner airline flight.
Here’s an example that goes into and out of Goa:
So, that’s economy class between Sydney and Abu Dhabi and between Mumbai and Goa in both directions and the first class apartments between Abu Dhabi and Mumbai in both directions. The total price is still just under AU$2300.
These fares are a pretty epic way to try out the apartments on a revenue ticket. The only reason I haven’t booked one yet is the thought of boarding that last long leg from Abu Dhabi in economy after flying in what’s probably the best first class product in the market. I think that just might break me.