The First Class of Etihad’s Residence Butlers in the Sky Have Graduated. Here’s Who They Are.

When Etihad’s Airbus A380 takes to the skies, it will include the most luxurious accomodation by far in commercial aviation — in addition to what looks to be an amazing first class, there will be a single three-room “residence.”

The residence offers:

a single or double occupancy 3 room cabin with double bed, 2 dining tables, lounge room, private shower suite (4 minutes of water) and dedicated butler. The Residence is 125 square feet.

The living room has a reclining sofa, dining tables, and a mini-bar as well as a 32 inch television. A door separates the living room from the bedroom and shower room. The bedroom has a 27 inch TV.

The Residence can be booked with miles.

Cranky Flier thinks the Residence is clever because it makes effective use of otherwise dead space.

[T]he A380 normally has a lot of wasted space at the front of the upper deck. There is a big staircase that goes downstairs at the front and that leaves awkward areas on each side that can’t be used for seating. Most airlines have failed to find anything great to put there.

Here’s what Qantas does with the space, quite common amongst carriers:

Etihad is known presently for their onboard chef concept in first class. This is something their CEO did back when he ran british midland as well. It’s hit or miss, the idea is one of the flight attendants is designated chef and has actual restaurant experience. Some are quite good, others aren’t, it’s a matter of personality, talent, and motivation.

With the Residence the idea is to take it a step farther, and offer the guest or guests of the Residence a butler trained by the Savoy hotel in London.

It’s more or less your own private flight attendant, not dissimilar when you’re the only person in a first class cabin (although in that case you have more than one flight attendant to yourself).

It’s not quite as exotic as it sounds, either, becoming a Residence butler entails two weeks of instruction and one week at the Savoy.

But the very first class of Etihad Residence butlers have graduated.

The 13 graduates hail from Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Jordan, Mexico, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, Tunisia (one each) and the United Kingdom (three).

Etihad claims,

“The flying butlers will provide a level of service that no traveller has ever experienced in commercial aviation,” said Aubrey Tiedt, Etihad Airways’ vice president for guest services.

And the Savoy, under contract with Etihad, echoes the sentiment,

Sean Davoren, the Savoy’s head butler, praised Eitihad’s first crop of graduates, saying they combined “the discretion of a traditional English butler with the efficiency of a 21st-century personal assistant”

After three weeks. Really?

Other butlers are skeptical.

“There’s not a lot for a butler to do on an airplane,” said Robert Wennekes, who runs the Netherlands-based International Butler Academy and who has worked in the industry for 35 years.

“A butler is an executive manager of a household. I’m sure these stewards do a wonderful job, but it misses the point.”

I suspect like the Etihad onboard chefs, and like service in the Middle East generally, this will be good but somewhat hit-or-miss and likely over-promise and somewhat under-deliver. Not that I wouldn’t like to give the Residence a shot!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I can’t wait till I can book this with AA miles! I have so many from all the 100K exec cards I got.

  2. The Dutch guy echoes my sentiment exactly. I’m sure they’re great as personal flight attendants, but what can a “butler” possible do on an airplane that an FA can’t? I believe their short training is as a result of that — not much to teach them, really.

  3. Singapore Suites weren’t either for quite a while, but now they are…and for reasonable redemtions!

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