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Well-heeled high flyers will find another first class suite on their shopping list with this week's debut of Etihad Airways' Airbus A380 on the Sydney-London route.
With Etihad's chic superjumbo going up against the incumbent superjumbo squad of Qantas, Emirates and Singapore Airlines, Australian Business Traveller compared the four airlines flying an Airbus A380 with first class between Australia and London.
Our call? Etihad's game-changing A380 first class suite now rules the Sydney-London skies.
That popular route boasts some non-A380 first class options, too – most impressively on the Boeing 777-300ER from British Airways...
... and Singapore Airlines, which has its latest first class on flights from Sydney and Melbourne.
They're both exceptional first class seats, but for this comparison we kept a tight focus on the Airbus A380.
In addition to showcasing each of the superjumbo suites we polled pricing for a Sydney-London return flight in first class around the middle of August 2015 (our dates were an August 10 departure and August 19 return), and allowed for a few days' flexibility on either side in case lower fares averaged out the pricing.
Etihad A380 first class
Etihad Airways has christened its Airbus A380 first class suite as 'The Apartment', and it's not hard to see why.
Each Apartment has a total area of 3.6 square metres (39 square feet) and is finished in Poltrona Frau leather.
And while other first class seats generally follow the convention of converting into a flat bed, either by laying the seat down or flipping it over, Etihad's primo cabin has a seperate seat and bed.
And the seat's not just a seat: it's more of a reclining leather-clad lounge chair.
Across from this is a full length ottoman which opens into an 80.5 inch long and 26 inch wide bed.
Several of the suites have connecting doors so that passengers travelling together can share the experience.
Each suite also has a 24-inch flat screen TV, its own chilled mini-bar, a personal wardrobe and a vanity cabint with lit make-up mirrors, stocked with luxury branded amenities.
Passengers in the nine Apartments also have access to a single shower suite.
Located between the first class and business class cabins is The Lobby.
This social area features a lounge and bar with leather sofas, marquetry table and large-screen television.
Where it flies: Etihad's Airbus A380 begins plying the Sydney-London route (via Abu Dhabi) this week; Etihad's Boeing 787, which also launches this week on a new direct route Brisbane and Abu Dhabi, has its own upmarket first class cabin (below).
The price: during our travel period Etihad's discounted 'First Suite Saver' fares were sold out, but even the top-rate 'First Suite Freedom' fares saw the Sydney-London return trip costed as $12,388 – almost $1,400 less than Emirates, Qantas and Singapore Airlines, for what's clearly a superior product.
Emirates A380 first class
Etihad's UAE neighbour and globe-striding competitor Emirates has, to date, been the one to beat in the private suite sweepstakes.
Savvy travellers opt for the staggered middle suites (A, E, F and K) where the beds are 79 inches long, compared to the shorter 70-inch beds in the aisle suites (B, D, G and J).
That said, the design is heavier on the gaudy golden bling than Etihad's more contempoary international style.
Creature comforts include a personal mini-bar and snack basket, so you needn't leave your little haven for almost anything but a trip to the loo – or the inflight bar, if you want to mingle with the business class brigade.
There are two shower suites available among the 14 suites.
Where it flies: The Emirates Airbus A380 flies daily from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to London via Dubai. (You can also hop the A380 from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Auckland for the ultimate in trans-Tasman indulgence.)
The price: doing the Sydney-London jaunt all the way in an Emirates A380 suite came in at $13,768.
Singapore Airlines A380 first class
As the worldwide launch customer for the Airbus A380, Singapore Airlines created the ground-breaking 'private cabin' concept – and it's still one of those must-try travel experiences.
The interior was crafted by French luxury yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste, with a soft leather armchair hand-stitched at Poltrona Frau.
A single bed of 76 inches folds out from the wall of the suite...
while any pair of suites in the middle of the A380 can be transformed into a 'twin suite' with a double bed – provided there's either nobody in that adjacent suite, or you and your neighbour are on very good terms.
Where it flies: Singapore Airlines' Airbus A380 is scheduled onto daily Sydney-London (via Singapore) runs.
The price: Singapore Airlines has a flat rate for its A380 suites, which during our travel period costed a Sydney-London return trip at $13,721.
Qantas A380 first class
Alone among this first class foursome, Qantas chose to outfit its A380 superjumbo with a more conventional seat than an almost fully-enclosed private suite.
The Flying Kangaroo still tags this as a suite, and that's not inaccurate.
The high walls which wrap around your wide plush seat afford a good degree of privacy, and many other airlines sport a similar seat-as-a-suite design in first class, so we're not going to argue over nomenclature.
Qantas' A380 first class remains one of the best, but it's up to the passenger to judge how it compares to the chi-chi private suites of its superjumbo competitors.
Where it flies: Qantas' flagship Airbus A380 does daily Sydney-London and Melbourne-London services, with a stop-over in Dubai.
The price: Our ticket came in at $13,760, comprising $6,724 for the Sydney-London leg and $7,036 for London-Sydney (yes, we know those numbers sum out by a dollar).
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