A380 first class suites: Qantas, Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines compared

By David Flynn, June 1 2015
A380 first class suites: Qantas, Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines compared

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.

Also read: 10 things you should know about Etihad’s A380

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.

Also read: Emirates to launch new first class 'private bedroom' for Airbus A380, Boeing 777

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.

Also read: Singapore Airlines plans all-new A380 first class suites for 2017

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).

Also read: Sampling Qantas' A380 first class degustation menu

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

EK and SQ first class product looks bit dated compared to EY. Love the J class for SQ and EY. very nice!

Its a little sad that Qantas happens to have the least ritzy product yet has the highest prices. The Etihad First Class Apartment clearly is the best value for money here.

Etihad's product, IMO, looks by far the coolest.

17 Feb 2012

Total posts 121

That is a reflection that Qantas carries the highest staff costs, by a country mile. 


Oh, I'm very aware Qantas has the highest staff costs. Still, you'd think that maybe if they did something like Etihad and replaced the current First Class with a set of (say) 10 FC Apartments, they'd have less FC passengers and thus would have lower labor expenses?

On the other hand, maybe most of the costs are fixed rather than marginal so lowering capacity wouldn't help at all. Plus, I bet the staff costs for a first class flight attendant are basically nothing compared to all the other staff costs QF is subject to.

04 Dec 2013

Total posts 154

Qantas is light on the bling, but is a very, very good and sophisticated product.  I've flown QF first many times on 747s and A380s, and never fail to be impressed by the staff, service and food. 

Not been on EK first, but on Etihad the seat was very good and they tried to bring all the bells and whistles, but the food was not quite up there and they just didn't make it seem as smooth and effortless as QF do.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 592

SQ still better all-round for A380 suites experience...except maybe the private room in changi could be better

You're right. Frankly I prefer less bling to more... I've done Emirates First for a total of 26 hours and whilst it is truly magnificent, it looks like it was designed for rappers.

I've never flown QF First on the A380, but I have had the 747 First product. I know QF do a damn good job - I just think given how competition is intensifying they do need to put some more effort into things... They need the Business Suite on the A380, without question. They need those Dreamliners and I think a new First hard product would be a good move.

QF do a good job and I wouldn't want to come across like I were claiming otherwise. But given they need to compete with SQ, the ME3 etc, and VA on the Transpacific route, Qantas needs to offer competitive products in all classes. Australia is a very well-served aviation market (at least from the big cities), but Skybed and Skybed 2 are superceded products.

19 Jun 2014

Total posts 32

I don't like the colour scheme used in Eimrates. It's too much gold. I prefer something like BA and Qantas.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 504

Yeah IMO the gold makes it look plain cheap. Business is fine but not first.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 May 2014

Total posts 14

I thought it was dated for Emirates too, until I flew with them 3 times in first class. It actually feels really nice, maybe not exactly modern, but definitely luxurious.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Jan 2012

Total posts 260

I've only ever flown international F on BA, and that was extremely underwhelming to say the least. EY J was streets ahead of BA F, so I can only imagine how incredible The Apartment would be to fly in!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Apr 2011

Total posts 106

I'd be happy with any of them if my employer was footing the bill - otherwise, Etihad looks luxuriously comfortable if paying my own way. I learned something useful as well ie. judging by the absence of seatbelts, turbulence doesn't affect the pointy end of the aircraft ;-)

23 Aug 2013

Total posts 8

Not to mention that most people in the pics appear to be borderline anorexic...

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jan 2014

Total posts 341

And borderline midgets... Sorry, little people

I believe you've made a mistake on the EK suites. 

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)

This conundrum where some are longer than others refers to business class, not first class, where they are identical in length.

In any case, there are no B,D,G and J suites in F, only A (window), EF (middle) and K (window again).

02 Jun 2015

Total posts 1


I think now Etihad airline the best after his new airpleans like A380 & boing 787. 

thanks ETIHAD

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 171

Good article, thanks David.

Without being a tool I've flown: EY, EK, SQ, QF all First a few times in the last 12 months. SQ has aged, sorry to say, as much as I like the SQ traditions (The Private Room in Singapore is under par). EK doesn't feel all that special either, EY well I was quite happy with the product and service. QF? I still have a soft spot for, it's good, no complaints and does what it needs to.

However....Etihad (and Abu Dhabi as an Emirate) have the money to spend and the management team with the foresight to take it to the next level. I'd pobably say the EY product is going to take a lot to beat.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 592

SQ was absolutely the best of any offering prior to EY...having said that, I do like the upper deck F on LH 744s.  Not private suites but the smaller upper deck gives the feeling of being on a private jet.  The seperate bed is quite comfortable aswell.

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Apr 2015

Total posts 11

Pity you have a middle east stop - I prefer to stretch my legs in Singapore or take a night or two.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 171

Duncan - Could not agree with you more! 

This is another topic all together. The QF/EK partnership was just not a smart one for the enjoyment factor. This said it has been hugely benefical for me and my companies interests as a hub.

I personally just don't enjoy the cultural restrictions of the Middle East, not matter how it is dressed up. Singapore & SE Asia is a better fit for Australia, our outlook on the world and our market.

05 Aug 2011

Total posts 16

SQ & BA is far better that Qantas in all ways.

06 Jun 2014

Total posts 7

My wife and I recently had the pleasure of experiencing Fiirst Class on British Airways { 777 }{ 2 legs } , Cathay Pacific { 777 } { 2 legs } and Qantas { A380}.  We just loved the Cathay Suites and Cathay's service, food  and cleanliness was exceptional.  Not far behind was Qantas and then British.  Of course the personel you get has allot to do with the experience, on one British they were ok , another excellent.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Sep 2013

Total posts 187

Daivid - the article is primarily on the A380s, however you did drop in a teaser about the BA 777s.  We have just scored a couple of BA First Class seats on award points LHR-SIN in July.  When I saw the aricraft designated as a 777 I wondered how this flight would compare with an A380.   Jordan below gives us a hint things would be as you would expect, have you done a road test that we could refer to?

Thanks as always

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 592

Seats are pretty much identical:


09 May 2015

Total posts 33

The EY product is pretty much over kill...and the "apartment" with the seat adjacent to the door (as opposed to the seat next to the window is more than rediculous). Basically, it's too big...when I fly, I want to feel like I'm on a plane, even in First Class, and not that I'm sitting and sleeping in my room back home. The standard suite products of the other airlines profiled accomplish this in a still very luxurious fashion. As to those kangaroo fares yikes...I'm flying F-class on EK next month from Bangkok  to Frankfurt return for about US$ 4000.


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