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  • Nick Burgess

The Etihad Residence - How Millionaires Fly

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

The Etihad Residence - The Ultimate Plane Ticket

Mark this as a milestone, folks. This might actually be the first Millionaire Lifestyle entry that was so exclusive that it probably no longer exists. Think of this as an "in memoriam" send-off to one of the most outrageous, most exclusive ways to fly commercial. To the first apartment in the sky, I present to you: The Residence Suite, by Etihad.

What Is Etihad Airways?

Etihad Airways is the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, specializing in luxury commercial travel. Etihad Airways is not one of those airlines that really appears on the radar of an American passenger. When we think of an airline, we think of our big carriers: Delta, United and American. When you expand globally, you actually realize that, of those three, only Delta really holds a lot of weight internationally. When you start to make your way to flagship cities, like London Heathrow, Paris or Rome, you begin to discover the higher-end airlines that were previously secretive to those out of the loop. Etihad falls squarely in that category alongside other Asian airlines like Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines (which has their own unbelievable first class studio in "The Suites").

Based out of Abu Dhabi International Airport in the United Arab Emirates, Etihad has a sterling reputation worldwide for being one of the highest-end luxury airlines you can fly. Their economy class are commonly regarded as some of the best in the sky, and they only ratchet up the luxury from there. Their business class is internationally renowned, and the first class passengers in the upper deck aren't exactly complaining either. Etihad was one of the first airlines to test fully enclosed suites for their business and first class cabin, a trend that is just now reaching carriers like Delta who recently unveiled their new Delta One Suite.

So, to stay on the bleeding edge of innovation in the skies, Etihad stepped their game up even further and introduced "The Apartments."

the etihad residence cabin
The Etihad Apartment, courtesy of Point Hacks

The first time I saw these, I was floored. The Etihad Apartment is a self-contained unit with a closing door, giving you complete privacy in your own cabin. It has an over-sized chair for the main passenger in the suite, with a bench in case a loved one wants to come and hang out with you, or a business partner swings by to get some work done (what a prick, by the way). When you want to grab some sleep, the bench actually folds down into a double bed in the sky, giving you maximum room to stretch out. How do you make the bed? You don't! That is taken care of by the flight attendants. So what are you doing while you wait for the bed to get made? You have a shower. Seriously.

Etihad Residence First Class Shower
Etihad A380 First Class Shower

Did I also mention "dine on demand?" Sure it's 3am but you're in the mood for champagne and caviar. Hit your button on the included remote in your suite and BOOM, food is served, courtesy of the onboard chef that's there to cater to your every whim.

All this sounds pretty sweet right? Well Etihad decided that this just was not opulent enough for the top 1% of their passengers, so they stepped it up. Introducing, The Residence.

Diving Into The Etihad Residence

Let's start by saying this: this ticket is EXPENSIVE. Like, whatever you're thinking - double it. The fare cost depends on the route you're flying, but the average ticket cost on The Residence is between $31,000 and $68,000. After you're done picking your jaw up off the floor, I'll tell you what you get for what is essentially one year's paycheck signed over to the oil barons of the Middle East.

First, you get access to the exclusive airport lounge. This is really only a perk if you're flying through their Abu Dhabi hub, but it's almost worth it just to fly there and check it out. Worried about getting to the airport? Don't. Your private Audi A8 will be waiting for you at any requested time from your hotel to shuttle you to the airport, where you're rushed through check-in and security and then guided to the private lounge.

Etihad First Class Lounge that comes with the etihad residence ticket
Etihad First Class Lounge, courtesy of One Mile At A Time

From there, you're greeted by a stunning first class lounge entrance upon arrival. But you aren't just any first-class passenger, sitting the with the paupers in their Apartments. You're a Residence flyer! You get access to the lounge-within-a-lounge.

The Etihad Residence Lounge, courtesy of One Mile At A Time
The Etihad Residence Lounge, courtesy of One Mile At A Time

Once you're in, you're in, so buckle up. The travel blog "One Mile At A Time" does an excellent job of documenting his travels through the lounge with his butler. In it, he outlines the custom meal he discussed with his private chef (with similar capabilities to the in-flight chef), a private spa and shave experience and a wine tasting, all from the comfort of his own lounge. Also note the dining tables, which are the same wood color and trim as the three-room suite you get when you're onboard. When you're a Residence passenger, you also get to select if you'd like to board the plane first, or last. Once you decide and your incredible lounge time is over, it's time to board the plane, shuttled there by your own guide in a golf cart.

Here's where it gets interesting: you get three rooms. Three. It's the largest of the first class suites in the aviation industry, and it isn't particularly close. Your main living room is the Apartment that I mentioned earlier, except you're in the front row of the cabin, but more on that later. You get all of the amenities of the Apartment, from the private living space to the over-sized chair and bench to the huge TV and in-flight entertainment. You also get your own cabin crew, including a personal butler who, rumor has it, went through intensive training at the prestigious and exclusive Savoy Hotel in London prior to their employment on the plane. Popular travel YouTuber Sam Chui described the personal touches that Etihad included in his Apartment, including a framed photo of himself, weirdly.

So let's talk about why you're at the front of the plane. It's because that is where the other two rooms are housed, and your Apartment is connected to them via a private walking area accessible only to you and your own butler. Here, you can open the door into your private, separate bedroom! Where as the typically Apartment flyer sees their bench turned into an admittedly world-class flat bed, you get a full bedroom, complete with a big television set packed with in-flight entertainment and a continuation of that butler service.

The Etihad Residence Bedroom
The Etihad Residence Bedroom, courtesy of The Points Guy

In order to get to the bedroom, however, you have to walk past your own personal ensuite bathroom. Complete with sink, personal vanity unit, toilet and onboard shower, this Residence basically rivals any one-bedroom you'd find in London or New York.

The Etihad Residence Private Bathroom
The Etihad Residence Private Bathroom, courtesy of The Points Guy

Why Do I Want This?

You serious Clark? After everything I listed above, you're still on the fence? This is actually the first installment of this series I've written about where I'm fully in. I would sign up for this in a heartbeat if I had the cash, or the credit card points which is how your favorite travel bloggers have experienced Etihad's first class.

However, I have some bad news: if you haven't already flown this, you probably never will.

Due to the size constraints of both The Etihad Apartments and The Etihad Residence, these award-winning cabins are only available on the Airbus A380, commonly referred to as "The Queen of the Skies" due to its sheer size of this remarkable aircraft. The plane also has to lug around enough water to run the multiple on-board showers, as well as the extra room for The Residence and the heft of the Apartments. For this reason, it's incredibly expensive to install these cabins, and the A380's are very expensive to purchase. This is why Etihad limited The Residence to ten total airplanes in their fleet, and it only ran routes between flagship cities like Abu Dhabi, London and New York. However, despite the cost and limited availability of the cabins, these were selling out! Passengers could not get enough of the experience. Then, like in all other facets of life for the last 18 months, the unthinkable happened: COVID struck and airlines were grounded.

Even as air travel began to tick back up in mid-2021, Etihad cut luxury positions like butlers and chefs to make the return to travel more cost-effective for their bottom line. This eventually trickled down to the booking classes, and it seems like we have seen the last of The Residence, and probably even the Apartments. In an interview with Etihad Aviation Group CEO Tony Douglas earlier this year, "The National News" learned that the ten A380's currently parked at derelict airstrips are unlikely to return to service.

I'm crushed by this. This was a bucket list item for me, and it's now likely a dream unfulfilled. Maybe one day we'll see Etihad reintroduce something like this as its profitability picks up, or maybe a competitor like Emirates or Qatar will pick-up the trend. For now, we can't cry because it's over. We have to smile because it happened. To a very, very select few.


Did you fly The Residence? I'd love to hear from you! Drop me a line in the comments below. And don't forget to sign up for my email list so you can get these in your inbox as soon as they post!

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