In May of this year Etihad unveiled the interior of their A380. They’ll be taking delivery of the first of their 10 whale jets later this year.
Given that roughly a dozen airlines already operate the A380, I wasn’t expecting to see anything revolutionary beyond what we’ve already seen on other A380 operators, like onboard bars and showers.
However, Etihad really innovated, with the introduction of The Residence, which is the first of its kind on a commercial place. It’s a three rooms, 125 square foot suite with a personal butler.
The concept is brilliant. There’s quite a bit of dead space located at the top of the upper deck of the A380 due to the curvature of the aircraft, so why not install a bedroom and shower up there, and market it as something out of the ordinary?
Etihad’s The Residence bedroom
And that’s exactly what Etihad did. As you might expect, this product comes with a hefty price tag. A one-way fare between Abu Dhabi and London will set you back ~$21,000:
Etihad’s second A380 destination will by Sydney. Want to fly all the way from London to Sydney in The Residence? It’ll cost you a cool ~$40,000 one-way.
There’s no doubt that sounds astronomically expensive, though in fairness up to two people can occupy The Residence for that price, which takes out the sting a little bit… maybe?
So, is The Residence actually selling? Bloomberg ran an interesting story about The Residence yesterday, indicating that it has already been booked for the first 10 flights:
The $20,000 ‘Residence’ suite on Etihad Airways A380 superjumbo, featuring three rooms and a dedicated butler, is already sold out for the initial 10 flights, the Gulf carrier said.
Bookings for the ultra-luxurious cabin boasting a double bed, living area and shower cubicle are running far ahead of the usual 50 percent reservation-rate for first-class berths, Etihad Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said today in Dubai.
“We’ve been quite happy with the takeup,” Hogan said at an industry conference. “There’s a market there.” The price charged for the sole Residence berth on each A380 will cover a one-way, eight-hour trip only, while permitting dual occupancy.
Here’s the video that accompanies the story:
Now, I’m not actually sure I’d judge the success of The Residence based on initial bookings. No doubt there will be a slew of people wanting to try it for the novelty, but will it actually sell long term?
I see no reason it couldn’t. There are many levels of “super rich” — there are those that can afford to pay for international first class, those that can afford to pay for private jets, and then those that are somewhere inbetween.
Even if Etihad doesn’t always sell The Residence, they won’t be taking much of a loss on it. It’s not really different than just having an empty first class seat, given that the bedroom and shower aren’t in an area where they’d otherwise be generating revenue.
And let’s be honest, pride and competitiveness is as important as profit to some Gulf carriers, and this product certainly helps in that “battle.”
I can’t wait to try Etihad’s A380 First Apartment on the inaugural flight between Abu Dhabi and London later this year!
Do you think there’s a market for The Residence long term?