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How would you rather make the seven hour hop between London and Abu Dhabi – reclining in business class aboard Etihad Airways’ 787 Dreamliner or enveloped by opulence in the airline’s A380 first class? Chances are you’d pick the latter any day of the week.
From July 25, travellers have the opportunity to do just that, as the first of Etihad’s long-grounded superjumbos makes a triumphant return on the key international route, specifically EY11/EY12.
By December, the double-decker A380 will appear on three of the Gulf carrier’s four daily connections between the cities, leaving just a single Dreamliner flying on the route. The ones to look for are EY11/EY12, EY17/EY18 and EY19/EY20.
Making the trip even more memorable, Etihad’s famed Residence is available as the ultimate upgrade on selected A380 superjumbo flights. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Etihad A380’s first class Apartment suites, of course.
Executive Traveller has always rated these as among the world’s very best first class suites thanks to their spacious 39ft2 (3.6m2) footprint, a wide leather lounge chair and a separate ottoman which converts into an 80” long lie-flat bed, plus upmarket touches such as a chilled mini-bar and vanity mirror with make-up lighting.
But Etihad’s The Residence goes above and beyond: it’s a deliberately superlative super-suite created to out-luxe rivals such as Emirates and Singapore Airlines during a hyper-competitive time in the air travel landscape.
After all, which other commercial jets let you enjoy a private lounge room and a bedroom with a cosy double bed and your very own shower suite?
Etihad has since cut back on its last-decade extravagances, removing not only the Resident’s dedicated butler and the A380s themselves, until “a surge in demand for air travel across the airline’s network” set the stage for the superjumbo’s return.
The ultimate upgrade
If you’re travelling in first class, you’ll have the opportunity to claim The Residence as an upgrade to your first class booking for what Etihad describes as “an optional extra for guests to further enhance their First experience” to the “ultimate flying experience with exclusivity, privacy and comfort.”
An option to upgrade from Etihad’s A380 first class to The Residence is now beginning to appear on the Etihad website during the ‘seat selection’ stage of the booking process, priced at around USD$2500 for the one-way leg between Abu Dhabi and London Heathrow.
It’s understood this same rate applies to either a single passenger or a two-person booking – and The Residence was intended to be comfortably shared by two – making this two-person upgrade an exceptionally appealing proposition.
Of course, some adjacent Etihad A380 first class Apartments can be opened up to create a shared double bed, too.
As a benchmark, at the time of writing Etihad A380 one-way first class fares between Abu Dhabi and London are around £3000-3500 (based on sample dates across late October and early November), and adding a ride in The Residence lifts the bill by around £2000.
Etihad says travellers in The Residence will see meals “prepared from an à la carte menu which will be served on designer tableware... indulgent options range from gourmet cuisine to lighter refreshments and include luxuries such as champagne and caviar and The Residence Signature High Tea.”