Since I was flying Etihad’s First Apartment three times in January and February, I reached out to Etihad to see if it might be possible to take a look at their ‘seat’ that’s even beyond first class (provided no one had booked it on my flight, of course): The Residence.
I’ve already written about the separate Etihad Residence lounge at New York JFK. And while I’m going to write a trip report about Etihad’s A380 First Class, I’m especially excited to share the inside of Etihad’s super-exclusive Residence.
Ever since the product was announced nearly two years ago, it’s been the subject of awe. It’s the product that Nicole Kidman is flying in her commercial for Etihad.
This is the most luxurious airline seat in the sky, offered only onboard Etihad’s Airbus A380 aircraft. Current scheduled destinations include New York JFK, London, Sydney, Melbourne, and Mumbai.
What they’ve done is actually sort of ingenious. They took one first class seat and added space that on most A380s is more or less unused. Airlines like Qantas have bench-like lounges up front. Others like Lufthansa have a large lavatory. But it’s not space that can be sold as passenger seats.
And they expanded the first class seat into a three room suite.
On the one hand, it’s expensive. Here’s the one-way price of first class and of the Residence from New York JFK to Abu Dhabi:
On the other hand, if you were going to buy two first class tickets, two people can share the Residence at this price.
However it’s not something you can just take a tour of. The whole goal of the product is discretion and exclusivity. Even when the Residence is unoccupied on a flight, Etihad’s crew aren’t permitted to show the product. First class passengers, whom the airline certainly wants to accommodate, will have such a request turned down.
I reached out to the airline in advance. I didn’t get to visit on my first trip flying in the First Apartment in January — the Residence had passengers on that flight. They were able to arrange it for my next trip, however.
Still we needed to do it discretely. It was explained to me that I’d be invited to see if after dinner and the cabin had generally gone to sleep, because if anyone saw me going inside another passenger might want to see it as well — and they’d have to be told they could not. As a result I had to take my photos when the cabin was at its darkest.
There’s a seating area that accommodates two passengers. There’s a private bathroom with shower. And there’s a separate bedroom.
The seating area is basically two seats, as two passengers can share the Residence. The seats recline more than Etihad’s standard first class Apartment seats do. (Since the seats don’t turn into a bed, rather there’s a separate bed in both first class and for the Residence, they do not recline all the way — some complain about first class not reclining enough, since you can’t really lounge in half seat/half bed mode I find the seat perfectly comfortable. Still the extra recline of the Residence is noteworthy.
The seating area of the Residence is actually very similar to the first class Apartment itself — except that there’s a double seat, more storage, and a bigger minibar. There’s also a larger television.
Residence guests naturally receive complimentary internet, while first class passengers (and everyone else onboard) pay.
Beyond the seating area, or ‘living room’, of the Residence is a corridor to the bathroom and the bedroom. You can close a door between the living room and the rest of the Residence, which I did when taking pictures because I didn’t want the light to seep out into the cabin of the aircraft. The living room has walls, but they don’t go all the way to the ceiling of the aircraft. The rest of the Residence is fully private.
While all first class Apartment passengers share two lavatories, one of which has a shower, the Residence has its own shower. And there’s a heated floor which is great for coming out of the shower..
Past the bathroom is the bedroom. The bed has a real mattress, not a mattress pad. The bedroom has its own television. And there’s a side table, perfect for placing a glass of water beside you.
Since the product is super-premium, they do everything they can to make the soft product match the hard product. The Points Guy flew the inaugural New York JFK – Abu Dhabi flight in the Residence, and paid $33,000 for it. He pre-arranged his dinner service in late November to be a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. They’ll have anything onboard for you that you wish.
As two different Residence butlers (the Residence has a dedicated butler for the flight, trained at the Savoy hotel in London) explained to me, they will accommodate “anything that’s legal.” That may include pre-selecting meals, or having a specially requested wine onboard.
Butlers are in communication with the ground throughout the flight, and there’s a dedicated concierge desk for the airline that can assist with implementing requests whatever they may be.
The Residence has its own specially-designed upgraded China, which I think is quite elegant.
There’s specially-designed Christian Lacroix sleepwear.
First class gets Bergamote 22 bath amenities. The Residence uses Acqua di Parmaa. And bathrobes.
You cannot book The Residence with American Airlines miles. You can book it with Etihad miles, however. And Citibank’s ThankYou Rewards points can be transferred to Etihad Guest miles for eligible cardholders. The bad news is that it requires millions of miles to do it. At least two people can share the Residence, so that sort of cuts the cost in half.
If you’re going to buy the Residence, credit the miles to Etihad Guest. While Etihad is an American AAdvantage partner, American’s earning chart for Etihad doesn’t list “P” class as earning miles. I asked American about this back in December and was told,
Since the introduction of the product, AAdvantage members have not been able to earn miles. We are in discussions with Etihad regarding AAdvantage accrual on this product and will publish the effective date as soon as we have agreement.
In contrast, Etihad awards 400% redeemable and elite qualifying miles for Residence trips.
Personally I’ll have to be satisfied booking seats in the First Apartment, a product I’ll be sharing my review of soon. Although I did get a photo of myself in the Residence.