A three-room “penthouse in the sky” with butler on call, Etihad airline’s new Residence suite is redefining first-class air travel.
Every decade, something revolutionary happens in air travel. British Airways’ introduction of flat beds in business-class, Virgin’s launch of premium economy, the rise of Emirates and the liquids ban are four of the most influential moments in global aviation in recent decades.
We’re only four years into this decade but its moment has already arrived. Abu Dhabi airlines Etihad is creating a whole new class above first class: Residence Class. The UAE flag carrier reckons super-wealthy travellers are prepared to spend $20,000 (£12,725) – that’s the one-way fare, when flying from Abu Dhabi to Heathrow – to get a private-jet-style experience on a commercial airliner.
The Residence has a sitting room with space for two adults, with seats made from Poltrona Frau leather. There’s a champagne fridge, dining tables and a 32-inch television. Unlike the suites on Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Etihad’s first class, the walls reach the ceiling. You are completely alone.
From a sitting room, a corridor leads to a bedroom with a 7ft by 5ft double bed, and a 27-inch television. A doorway off the corridor leads to a bathroom with a shower.
With a butler on call, most Residence passengers will not want to leave their hotel suite in the sky but, if they do want to stretch their legs, they can walk to The Lobby lounge and bar, just down the aisle.
With the centre of gravity of the global economy shifting eastwards, Etihad boss James Hogan believes CEOs, government officials and wealthy families will choose to upgrade. “We are in the right part of the world, at the right time, for this product”, he says. “We have created an experience better than a private jet for a fraction of the price”. (Residence fares allow for single or double occupancy).
Emirates has announced that it will launch its own “bedroom concept”. Tim Clark, Emirates boss, says: “We’re talking fully enclosed rooms, with all the amenities that you’d expect in hotel or a private bedroom on a luxury yacht”. British Airways is spiffing up first class on its Boeing 787 extended-range jets entering service next year. And Air France has come up with a simple way to offer privacy. Passengers in the new Air France “La Premiere” suite can close a curtain if they want to be left alone.
Etihad’s Residence, the world’s best first-class cabin
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