So Etihad Claims Demand For The Residence Is Strong, Eh?

Around the middle of last year Etihad announced the details of their new A380s, which they started flying in late 2014. While Etihad is far from the first carrier to fly the A380, they really innovated unlike any other carrier in terms of the onboard product.

I had the opportunity to fly the Etihad A380 inaugural flight in a First Class Apartment, which is simply an incredible product. I’d argue it’s by far the best first class “hard product” in the world.

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I’d say that the First Class Apartment actually outshined The Residence, which is the part of the plane which got the most attention. The Residence is a private, three room suite (you have a living room, bedroom, and private bathroom with shower) with butler service. It’s unlike anything which has ever been offered in commercial aviation… and not surprisingly it came at a steep price tag.

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As of now Etihad flies their A380s to London and Sydney, and starting on December 1, 2015, Etihad will begin flying their A380s to New York as well.

How much does Etihad’s A380 The Residence retail for between Abu Dhabi and New York? ~$32,000 one-way:

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There was an interesting BloombergBusiness article yesterday about demand for Etihad’s The Residence between Abu Dhabi and New York. Apparently demand has been overwhelming:

Even at $32,000, people are lining up to book Etihad Airways PJSC’s three-room suite between Abu Dhabi and New York.

“We have experienced an overwhelmingly positive response to the Residence within the U.S. — beyond our expectations, in fact,” Etihad Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said Monday in Orlando. “We are seeing healthy forward bookings.”

Hear that, folks? People are “lining up” to book Etihad’s The Residence between Abu Dhabi and New York. Etihad has experienced an “overwhelmingly positive response beyond [their] expectations.” And they’re seeing “healthy forward bookings.”

How many seats has Etihad sold so far?

An Etihad spokeswoman, Katie Connell, declined to give specifics about how many Residence fares had been sold on New York flights.

While Etihad might not be willing to reveal forward bookings, the good news is that we can. Etihad only has one of The Residence on each A380, so you can always see whether it’s booked or not.

So between December 1, 2015 and the end of the schedule, there are 410 flights between Abu Dhabi and New York operated by the A380 (205 in each direction). That means there are potentially 410 flights on which The Residence could be booked.

On how many flights between Abu Dhabi and New York is Etihad still selling The Residence? You ready for this? You sure?

409.

That’s right, Etihad has sold The Residence on exactly one flight between Abu Dhabi and New York between December 1 and the end of the schedule. And that’s the inaugural flight between New York and Abu Dhabi.

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But hey, you heard it straight from Etihad — apparently having sold The Residence on a single flight is “beyond their expectations.”

Comments

  1. Maybe they will have a good sale, and you can buy a ticket and give us a review! You could have a giveaway for the second seat, or even maybe a charitable fundraiser (not for yourself, or course… 🙂 ) That would actually be pretty cool, especially if you could raise a bunch of money for a worthy cause.

  2. Amazing that Bloomberg couldn’t be bothered to do basic, gumshoe fact-checking. What’s that practice called? Oh, right, journalism.

  3. “I’d say that the First Class Apartment actually outshined The Residence, which is the part of the plane which got the most attention.”

    Why? Because you were unable to wrangle yourself a booking in The Residence and so weren’t travelling in the topmost cabin? It would help substantiate your argument if you followed up with reasons in the same post.

  4. umm people don’t book expensive revenue tickets 6 months in advance…..clickbait article

  5. Where within Etihad’s quote do they specify the JFK-AUH route? I think your ammo for this post is based on some plain old sloppy journalism on Bloomberg’s part.

  6. Hey Lucky, when was the last time you saw F open on Etihad A380. Have been checking for the past month or so, and I don’t see any seats open on JFK – AUH, in either direction. Booked in C in March, but would love to try F.

  7. Perhaps they’re practising overselling in the front cabin now … you never know just how many no-shows you’ll get on a $32K ticket.

  8. Doesn’t surprise me. I don’t see this as a “seat” that would be booked too far in advance. The people that can afford it don’t plan their travel that far ahead.

  9. – You did not sit in the residence, you cant judge. No one would believe the apartment is better
    – He did not say that was for JFK
    – No one who has $$$$$ books over 6 months in advance
    – He did not say people are lining up, he said healthy forward bookings.

    to me this seems to me like a typical media article, “pushing an agenda” or shaping an opinion

  10. Absolutely a “marketing gimmick” like statement from the Etihad CEO to say people are lining up to book the Residence.

    Though as someone commented above the type of travellers that would book the Residence would not plan their trip so much ahead of time. Only an aspirational traveller would plan much ahead to book the Residence. Moreover as its just 1 Residence per flight the fare would not change whether it’s booked 6 months or a day before the departure.

    Would be nice to know how many Residence seats have Etihad sold on the LHR-AUH from the time of inaugural flight to now. Is it actually possible to find that out?

  11. This is hard to judge. I would have to imagine a lot of these tickets are sold extremely last minute to the type of crowd that is considering “do I call for the private jet or just fly commercial”, as opposed to vacationers planning out honeymoons months in advance. And again, this is otherwise dead space on this aircraft, even if the average occupancy rate is not as high as the rest of the plane there is minimal opportunity cost by having it as an option so they might still be fair in stating they are pleased with the results.

  12. Looks like everyone else already made the most important point so no need to pile on but I would still be interested in finding out how its selling (or not) on the other routes over the next 3 months or so. Im guessing that Sydney flight is generally empty but I can see the London flight really being booked up pretty regularly.

  13. Now, now Lucky, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Everyone expects a little hyperbole with marketing statements made to the media, some creative stretching of the truth (like American Airlines offering “world class catering” lol).

    This article seems angry, and I don’t understand the angst.

    Who cares about demand levels for Etihad’s The Residence (and I posted myself here and elsewhere that The Residence was often going to fly empty). You have to remember that the space it occupies was otherwise going to be wasted or highly inefficient space, that Etihad creatively turned into a golden marketing opportunity/product differentiator (that as a side bonus, when it gets used, offers excellent profit margin).

    Personally I think Etihad was very smart in keeping it ultra exclusive (no onboard tours after the first couple of weeks, no op-up or upgrade possibilities) in order to continually sustain interest (even if mostly lookie-loo) beyond what the actual product itself logically has.

    From my view, it doesn’t make sense to book the Residence expect in very limited situations/circumstances, but that doesn’t make me begrudge it. And it doesn’t worry Etihad that if often flies empty.

    I’m sure the experience itself is great, and no doubt some people it’s not directly aimed at, are nonetheless willing to bite the bullet just for the Instagram opportunities. Of course Etihad may overstate demand, it’s marketing (where white lies are told frequently, repeatedly, and the unvarnished truth rarely gets a look in). At the end of the day, it’s nothing to raise more than a half cocked eyebrow and cheeky grin at 🙂

  14. @SamJess – I couldn’t agree more. I don’t get the point of this article. The quality of posts on this blog is really deteriorating.

  15. It is just an assumption that the one that is not available was actually sold, not kept off inventory for an executive or media opportunity.

  16. Don’t get the haters in comments. First of all, Lucky DID get a chance to visit The Residence on the inaugural flight because the person who booked it gave tours to other first-class passengers.

    Secondly, this is the exact quote from Etihad CEO and it DOES refer to JFK-AUH:
    “We have experienced an overwhelmingly positive response to the Residence within the U.S. — beyond our expectations, in fact,” Etihad Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said Monday in Orlando. “We are seeing healthy forward bookings.”

    Look, Lucky isn’t arguing that the Residence isn’t cool or that people who book it must book very far ahead. He’s just fact-checking the comments from the CEO. I’d like to see anyone argue that 1 out of 410 is a “healthy” forward booking rate. If it were 5-10%, maybe.

  17. You sound like a petulant teenager. Perhaps you wanted Etihad to allow you to fly in the residence comp? Maybe with all the publicity you have received this a none to subtle message to their PR team to get you on so you can try it.

    Did you purchase the Apartment or was it a press trip/freebie or miles? You seriously want your readers to believe that the Apartment is better then the Residence? #nocredibility

  18. You all are overlooking the most important question….

    What does the butler do if its empty???

  19. And we’re just assuming the one out of inventory is actually sold. But I do agree there little reason to book this space in advance. It’s in the real of private jet fliers.

  20. It really annoys me when people are labelled haters when they are simply taking an opposing viewpoint. Debate assists in preventing bad ideas prevailing.

  21. Lucky, you sound quite jealous in this article. How could you say the first apartment is better than the residences without actually staying in it. You seem very childish

  22. Related question – they charge a bit more than 16k$ for an apartment seat and 32k$ for the residence than can be occupied by two people? Sounds like a no-brainer for a couple then to go with the residence, doesnt it?

  23. MarkD: The real question, in my opinion, is what the hell is the difference between a “butler” and a flight attendant? It’s not bloody Downton Abbey.

  24. @MarkD – the butler joins the other flight attendants with their duties. Sometimes in business, sometimes in the apartment class. Kind of a floater. They do have to fly because they have had people book the residence less than an hour before the flight (which, I imagine, would actually be par for the course with the residence).

  25. The type of traveller that can afford this fare is not going to like the idea of paying all this money to reach the middle of the dessert, having to wait for the connection in a tiny room area and connecting in a cramped cubicle configuration.

  26. With the exception of FF awards, premium cabins tend to be booked very close to flight time so it’s no surprise that the Residence has yet to be booked on these flights. And we know how inaugural flights with new aircraft tend to be delayed in their start date. Start date is almost a half-year from now. More accurate would be checking the month-out take-up on the current LHR and SYD routes.

  27. So I don’t think they need to sell many of these seats. As you have said yourself, this is more or less wasted space, so there isn’t much opportunity cost in having them go out empty. Further, they have garnered tons of free marketing from the media attention The Residence has received, which should offset a lot of the fixed costs of development and maintenance of the Butler service (though it sounds like they still work in other cabins when The Residence goes out empty). All in all, if they sell 10% of their seats (most likely at the last minute as people have pointed out), they should be ahead in the game, even if it goes out empty those other 360 times.

  28. Everyone here keeps claiming that no one books first class in advance, this is just not true. I’ve been watching syd – auh closely as I’m hoping to give the apartments a go and most days have only 2-3 seats available months out. Many are even sold out. From my observations the residence is booked 1-2 days a week max.

  29. You’re a certified idiot . The A380 service to JFK doesn’t start till December , no one is going to book these 6 months in advance

    If this is your way to cheat yourself into the cabin try harder, with cash . You’re not exactly poor

  30. TO EVERYONE COMPLAINING THAT IT WASN’T THE NEW YORK ONE – It says “within the US” demand is strong. It never specifically mentions NY, but it does state within the US.

  31. @tk

    The reason why it’s harder than you’d expect to even buy a seat in Etihad’s A380 First Apartment, is that so many people rushed in to grab an award seat via AA (mostly) when availability was pretty open. Then you add the normal rev pax numbers and suddenly it’s full (or nearly full) cabin for First Apartments. It is a limited seating cabin to begin with, so it doesn’t take much.

    Anybody who came late to the party now has a harder time finding seats (and very hard time, if looking for redemptions), especially if fussy about particular seating. So much demand, limited supply in comparison.

    Etihad’s A380 First Apartments – so hot right now! 🙂

  32. @ SamJess – Let me just give a rebuttal to your laughable comments:

    “You did not sit in the residence, you cant judge. No one would believe the apartment is better” – If you had read this blog regularly you would know he has in fact sat there and visited the residence a few times whilst on the inaugural as his friend/fellow aviation geek was staying in the Residence.

    “He did not say that was for JFK” – The Residence onboard Etihad A380 only flies to JFK in the USA. So how could the CEO not be referring to the JFK if that is the only destination in USA with the Residence product? Duh! If you knew the basic facts my dear fellow, I don’t think you would be so quick to make such an utter fool of yourself.

    “ He did not say people are lining up, he said healthy forward bookings.” – The Bloomberg article did say people are lining up, the CEO said they are seeing healthy forward bookings for the Residence for the USA. Nothing misrepresented or distorted in what Ben said at all, however the same can’t be said about your comment.

    I for one thought this is a very interesting and insightful article.

  33. @ Mike m — Are we reading the same article? Hogan is quoted as saying they received an overwhelmingly positive response in the US. Based on what metric? I totally agree most people don’t book it far in advance, but then the correct response would be “this is typically purchased by last minute travelers, so demand remains to be seen.”

  34. @ David — Totally agree, I’m still convinced The Residence is a smart concept. But doesn’t change the fact that it’s not selling on US routes yet, despite their claim of “healthy forward bookings.”

  35. @ Daniel S — Indeed, in that case The Residence could be worthwhile. That being said, keep in mind that first class is much cheaper than that if originating your ticket out of another city. Meanwhile The Residence doesn’t really get much cheaper.

  36. You’re not exactly poor

    I was worried that the RS article would result in a surge of jealous trolls. It seems like I was right.

  37. Lucky, do you have any plans/intentions to someday try “The Residence”? Would love to see a trip report!

  38. “The man who flies around the world for free.”

    “We are seeing healthy forward bookings.”

    Spot the difference.

    Time to grow up, kid.

  39. A number of people here have pointed out that the residence is not usually booked well in advance. To check this, I looked at SYD-AUH Residence bookings for the month of August.

    1 day is booked.

    30 flights still for sale.

    I can see them lowering the redemption cost to an event 1,000,000 EY Guest miles once they realise its almost always going out empty.

  40. Hi Lucky – I had an AA award ticket on EY metal in F that was ticketed. I added AA connecting flights on both ends and they gave the miles back while it re-tickets. That was 10 days ago. AA says it just takes a little time but, to me, 10+ days seems exorbitant for a reservation to ticket. It is “on request” according to aa.com. Is this normal? I know EY awards always took a few days but it’s 10+ now for a reservation modification that didn’t touch the EY flights. The EY PNR does work on the EY site and I do see my reservation there. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  41. What are the chances Etihad replaces their current 777 on the LAX route with an A380 do you suppose?

  42. Any idea what lounge Etihad is using for the Residence passengers at JFK? They cannot possibly be using the Wingtips Lounge. I believe the only other lounges at JFK open at the time of the A380 departure (14:30) is the Swiss Airlines lounge and the Air India one. All of which are nowhere near sufficient for someone paying ~$32,000 USD for a one way flight. I assume they want a lounge of their own but I don’t think there is space in T4.

  43. @BHill – i think yours is the laughable comment here…

    “You did not sit in the residence, you cant judge. No one would believe the apartment is better” – If you had read this blog regularly you would know he has in fact sat there and visited the residence a few times whilst on the inaugural as his friend/fellow aviation geek was staying in the Residence.
    I guess those few minute visits made him an expert on all matters related to The Residence? When he has experienced a full flight in the Residence then I will wait to read his opinion – not this one based on ‘sitting there and visiting the Residence a few times’ on an invite from someone on the flight…

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