No, unfortunately I am not flying Etihad The Residence today, although I have actually sneaked a peek inside the real thing onboard one of the Etihad Airbus A380s. But I got yet another chance to go inside one of the full-size mock-up cabins of The Residence to take a few photos and speak to two of the butlers, including ‘Thomas The Butler’, who I have in fact met twice in the past. We met once during an exhibition and then he has even served me onboard, in the Etihad First Apartment on the Airbus A380, as there was no one travelling in The Residence on that flight.
The Residence is basically a private flat on the Etihad Airbus A380 with a combined living room and dining room, a hallway, a bathroom with toilet and shower, and a bedroom with a double bed. It can be booked for one or two passengers. The price of the ticket also includes a private butler on the flight who (other than the purser) is the only person who is allowed to enter The Residence and to speak to the passengers, and who will be available throughout the entire flight, serving food and drinks and taking care of all possible requests. The butler, the purser and most likely the captain are also the only passengers who will know who is travelling in The Residence.
All butlers have been trained at the Savoy Butler Academy at the Savoy Hotel in London. When there are no passengers booked in The Residence the butler will work as a Food and Beverage Manager in the first class cabin.
In the price of the ticket the passenger can basically order anything possible through a dedicated service desk. Any ‘anything’ could mean a special wine, a special dish to eat, a Playstation (to use with the TV) or the favourite brand of toiletries for the bathroom. The airline will do their outmost to arrange whatever request the passenger has, of course assuming there is sufficient time to arrange what the passenger asks for.
The Residence is located on the upper deck of the Airbus A380, in the first class cabin on the left hand side, just by the front staircase. Just like in the First Apartment suites there are high walls and sliding doors to give some privacy.
The first thing inside is the combined living room and dining room with a large beige sofa with Poltrona Frau leather, the same type of leather used by Ferrari. In front of the sofa the passenger will find a large 32″ TV. As mentioned this is also the dining room during the flight. The dining table is stored in the side panel which also contains a small minibar with chilled drinks.
On the immediate right after entering The Residence there is a small hallway and corridor leading to the bathroom and the bedroom. The bathroom is the first room on the left hand side, not particularly large but in contrast to all other bathrooms and lavatories onboard this one is private. It contains a toilet, washbasin and a shower, which can be used for 5 minutes. Bathrobes and towels are available and the preferred brand of toiletries can be ordered in advance through the service desk.
At the end of the small corridor is the bedroom with a double bed, also in Poltana Frau leather, and in front of it a 27″ TV with the same functionality as the TV in the living room. The inflight entertainment system onboard is the Panasonic eX3 which can both be used using a remote control or the touch-screen functionality on the TV screen.
And given the setup of the mock-up cabin you can apparently have breakfast in bed, watching a movie or your favourite TV soap, which is not too shabby after a good night’s sleep in a double bed on an Airbus A380.
But The Residence comes at a price. Be prepared to pay a whopping 20,000 GBP for a return ticket London-Abu Dhabi. But then you get the best product and the best service regular commercial aviation has to offer in the sky today, if you do not want to book a private jet.
But is it worth it? Well personally I think Etihad’s First Apartment is a truly fantastic product, one of the best first class products in the air at the moment, and it has many of the features which are also part of The Residence, including a very large and private suite with a separate bed, a large TV, an excellent selection of food and drinks, private minibar, turndown service and shower, even though the bathrooms are shared with seven other passenger.
However, if you want to try something truly unique and you want the ultimate privacy, a private butler, perhaps travelling for a once in a life time special occasion, and have some ideas how you would make the most of it, then surely go for it!