It appears that Etihad is very likely not to ever fly its Airbus A380s again, according to the airline’s CEO. And that means they’ll no longer offer the First Apartment product or The Residence which is the most luxurious seat in commercial aviation.
Of its 10 Airbus A380 superjumbos, Mr Douglas said: “We have now taken the strategic decision to park the A380s, I’m sure it’s very likely that we won’t see them operating with Etihad again.”
I’ve flown Etihad’s First Apartment almost as much as Cathay Pacific first class over the years. It’s been my favorite use of American AAdvantage miles, and of course Etihad is both an American Express and Citibank transfer partner.
It’s been my go-to for trips to the Maldives (5 of my last 6 were on Etihad). I’ve visited the Mideast many times, alternating between Etihad and Emirates. And I’ve even chosen Middle East stops enroute to Australia because First Apartment redemptions for both long haul segments made the journey so easy.
Etihad introduced its ‘Apartment’ – really a room that has a separate seat and bed, and of course a shower available in the cabin for first class passengers – when they took delivery of their first Airbus A380. At the time it was arguably the best first class in the world, though now some prefer Emirates new first suite, the new Singapore Airlines A380 Suites, or ANA’s new first class.
Part of the divider between adjoining Apartments slides down, and passengers traveling together could this ‘be in bed beside each other’ which was special.
Despite advances at other airlines it remained a top 5 product in the world and it was regularly available using miles for routes like New York JFK – Abu Dhabi, Paris – Abu Dhabi, and Abu Dhabi to Sydney and Melbourne. Using American miles you did have to know a booking trick, and availability often only showed for flights to the U.S. when searching roundtrip awards originating in Abu Dhabi on the Etihad website (but you’d book by phone anyway).
What’s nuts is that the First Apartment wasn’t even Etihad’s best product. The ‘Apartment’ in the first row on the left side of the cabin was turned into “The Residence” by combining it with what some A880 operators used as a dead space or lounge space, giving it not just a sitting area but also its own bathroom/shower and separate bedroom.
Residence guests had their own butler, who was Savoy Hotel-trained in the U.K. and had to wear butler attire when serving the Residence. Etihad would customize what they would have on board for a Residence guest based on advance requests. When no passengers were booked into the Residence the butler acted as a flight attendant on board.
Now, just because the First Apartment may depart as a redemption option doesn’t mean there’s no longer a luxurious Etihad product to use miles for. They may have eliminated first class chefs but their first class suites remain fairly spectacular.