BOOKED: I’m Flying The Etihad Residence To Sydney!

Arguably the pinnacle of commercial aviation is The Residence, which debuted in December 2014, and is exclusively available on Etihad’s A380s. This is a three room suite at the very front of the upper deck, which has a living room, bedroom, and private bathroom with shower. On top of that, the suite comes with a private butler. On the surface it seems like something that’s unrivaled in commercial aviation.

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The catch, of course, is that it’s expensive. Really, really expensive. While you can score a great deal by redeeming miles for the Etihad A380 First Class Apartment (which is located right behind The Residence), there’s no efficient way to redeem miles for The Residence.

How pricing in The Residence has changed over time

When The Residence was first introduced, the pricing was obscene. A one-way ticket between Abu Dhabi and London cost ~$21,000, a one-way ticket between Abu Dhabi and Sydney cost ~$25,000, and a one-way ticket from London to Sydney via Abu Dhabi cost ~$40,000.

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The Residence is still really expensive, though I’ve shared some opportunities to fly it at a more reasonably price, at least compared to the above numbers:

Booked: how I’m reviewing The Residence

I’ve been trying to decide on the best way to review The Residence (and no, I’m not doing a Kickstarter this time). 😉 Do I fly it to Mumbai, or do I try to find some other deal?

To be clear, I realize reviewing The Residence won’t be useful for those looking to redeem miles & points. Miles & points will always be the primary focus of this site, though I’ve consistently been getting requests to try other new airlines and branch out a bit — those airlines range from Azerbaijan to Ukraine to Garuda Indonesia.

However, there’s no product review that has been more requested than The Residence, and I found a way to review it that won’t totally break the bank, at least compared to the previous ~$25,000+ sticker price that we saw. So let me explained how I booked The Residence from Abu Dhabi to Sydney.

If paying for the flight directly, Abu Dhabi to Sydney would cost ~17,660USD. That’s actually about a third cheaper than it used to be, but it’s still a lot of money.

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If you take that same trip but originate in Cairo, it costs ~9,000USD. Okay, I’ll gladly take a flight out of Cairo to cut the cost of that ticket in half.

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But it gets better. If you were to book the ticket roundtrip, you’d pay a total of ~13,100USD. That’s because The Residence has lower pricing if you book roundtrip rather than one-way, at least between Cairo and Sydney.

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Incrementally paying ~4,000USD for a one-way ticket in The Residence doesn’t seem bad, but I’m perfectly happy flying the product just one-way.

The good news is that there’s an easy way to do so. To get half of the roundtrip pricing, you don’t actually have to complete a roundtrip in The Residence. Instead you just need to complete any roundtrip that will price. So I combined an outbound in The Residence with a return in business class out of Thailand (back to Cairo). The return cost about $500 in business class (since it was also half of the roundtrip pricing), so in the end the ticket cost me ~$7,000.

Let me be clear — that’s still a lot of money. But that’s also a quarter of what the pricing initially was in The Residence, and that’s a price I don’t mind paying when I think of the content I can create around this.

Since I’m sure someone will ask, I should mention that The Residence can seat up to two people. When it was first introduced, the cost to take one or two people was basically the same (you just had to pay the taxes for the second passenger). However, one of the side effects of them having lowered the pricing is that they’re in many cases now charging more for the second passenger.

So in this case half of the roundtrip fare for one person would be ~$6,500, while half of the roundtrip fare for two people would be ~$8,850, so it’s an additional ~$2,350 for the second passenger. I’ll be taking this trip solo, especially since The Residence doesn’t comfortably sleep two people, best I can tell.

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Bottom line

I can’t wait to review The Residence. While it’s still costing a lot of money, it’s only a fraction of what it cost when it was first introduced. I’m happy I’ll get to experience it on a longhaul flight, rather than just the flight to Mumbai, where I feel like I wouldn’t get the full experience.

I’m coming into the experience pretty skeptical, in the sense that I’m not convinced there’s all that much substance to the product. So while I’ll no doubt be as giddy as humanly possible, I’m curious to see if the product lives up to the hype….

Comments

  1. @ ringingup — I can credit at the rate of 400% to either Etihad or American (though on American it unfortunately doesn’t count towards status).

  2. is this why you keep posting about how much work you do on-board flights, for proof in an audit about deducting 100% of the fare?

  3. Would etihad even let a gay couple share the residence bed?
    In general, I understand that flying in a bed hundreds of people have boinked in is no different than a hotel room, but still. For some reason it just seems dirtier on a plane

  4. Nice work lucky! Enjoy the trip. I’m sure this comment thread will shortly be filled with jealous haters complaining about spending $7000 on basically one flight. Just ignore them.

  5. Jealous of, and excited for you! Can’t wait to read the review. And here I was thinking that my next international trip to London on Qantas/Singapore Suites in first was exciting.

  6. Does this mean an overnight in Cairo? If so, have you considered going into the city and giving the new St Regis a try? Frankly, I would be more excited for a St Regis review; though, I will be curious to read your opinion as to whether the Residence experience is actually significantly superior to that offered by the Apartment.

  7. @ Ben — Is it that The Residence doesn’t comfortably sleep two people or that you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing it with Ford? Do you expect that anyone (airline, other customers, government authorities) would have an issue if the Queen and I shared the Residence? Does the living room have a bed that the second person could use, similar to The Apartments?

    If we booked for two people and both included our AA numbers, would we both earn 400% mileage? Given that we have 4.1 million AA miles, the value of incremental AA miles for us is about zero, so I’m not sure that it really matters….

  8. @ Gene — I don’t think anyone would have an issue with it. The problem is that there’s only a double bed, and it likes it might even be smaller than that. It’s my understanding that the living room couch doesn’t turn into a bed, which I find rather strange. So if you’re traveling with someone it almost seems more comfortable to have two Apartments, so both people get a bed. And yes, I think both people would earn full miles. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

  9. @ Imperator — I had no clue there was a St. Regis. I’ll be sure to check it out in the future. Unfortunately I’m visiting before it opens.

  10. Great work and research to make it happen for a cheaper price point. Looking forward to your review

  11. “So I combined an outbound in The Residence with a return in business class out of Thailand (back to Cairo). ”

    Lucky: How did you do this ? with the multi city ? Have a great trip !

  12. @ Mike S. — I had to book with a travel agent to get that, and it had to be a travel agent who could issue tickets in Egypt. So that was a further challenge.

  13. You could also credit the miles to Air Berlin (OneWorld). You’ll get 400%, and they do count towards status.

  14. This is AWESOME!!! If there’s award availability in F for that AUH-SYD flight, hopefully Ford can snag it so both of you can be on the same flight. I’m almost certain EY would be ok if you guest him to your Residence since he’s already on the upper deck in F.
    Looking forward to your review!

  15. How will you be connecting from Sydney to Thailand? It would be a good opprotunity to try out Thai’s a350 Business class

  16. @ Hugh B — I booked the return for way later this year, so am not taking that right away. My hope after getting to Sydney is to review Virgin Australia business class to LAX.

  17. I still can’t work out your routing. Is it CAI-AUH-SYD then BKK-AUH-CAI? Are you flying the return legs?

  18. Niiice. Any chance you might start doing instagram stories to get us a more live look at things? Cheers

  19. Fly via Mumbai please! I would like to see a review of the GVK lounge on the domestic side. Without exaggeration, I believe it’s the best domestic FF/business class lounge in the world.

  20. Lucky, I read this everyday, and this is one of the most exciting times I’ve opened a post. Very excited, I know you always document everything in detail, but with this being such an incredible experience, any chance of an even more in-depth review? Like a whole trip report just for the one flight?

    Keep up the great work, and much love from London,

    Matt

  21. Oh my goodness you are finally doing this
    How much time will you be able to spend in the Residence lounge?
    And will you request specific movie or food for the flight?
    Thank you!

  22. I had a recent overnight flight on Etihad in the first/apartments. Flight attendant accidentally smashed a glass on the floor – shards everywhere. First was full, but the Residence was empty. And they refused to move me into it preferring to lay down some blankets on the floor and hoping I wouldn’t cut my feet. (Couldn’t even downgrade me to business as that was full too). They really protect the Residence and make some poor health and safety decisions doing so. Customer service has since failed to respond to me. Hope you get better treatment than I got.

  23. @ Kayeung3 — I’ll certainly arrive at the airport early! 🙂 They haven’t contacted me yet, so I’m curious to see what they offer in terms of letting me customize the experience.

  24. Would amex travel have been able to ticket this for you? Presumably one of their travel offices in the middle east can issue out of Cairo? Just curious to see if you could have paid with MR and gotten the 50% off!

  25. @ Dan C — It’s a good question, and I’m not 100% sure. I’m not that confident that they’d be able to use Egypt as the point of sale, though I certainly could be wrong. I also didn’t have enough Amex points to test that out.

  26. Hi Lucky,

    Great to hear this news. And I agree with Scott above. Would love to see you start using Instagram stories on your trips. The frequent, informal pictures are always fun. Separate but related… do you have a personal snapchat you use only with friends?

    Matt

  27. @ Matt — Thanks, I’ll see what I can do! And nope, don’t use Snapchat (technically I have an account because I signed up at some point, but don’t think I’ve ever sent a snap).

  28. Ah perfect, I thought you might be keen to tie in the new Virgin Australia J class in with this one. I’ll be taking it for the first time in May, and it’s meant to be great.

    They’re also flying the configuration BNE-LAX, MEL-LAX and MEL-HKG if I’m not mistaken – if you can’t find award space on the SYD-LAX leg.

    Also worth testing the new Qantas J seat transcon to Perth or Asia, if you want to go Aussie mad.

  29. This is absolutely awesome, for two reasons!! Firstly, reviewing such a massively premium product without having to be comped by the airline. Secondly, finding such a cost-effective (I use the term loosely…) way of doing it is a major achievement.

    I can’t wait for the detailed trip reports!

  30. Appreciate the transparency and that you’re still writing for us commoners 😉 . Sick to my stomach reading a different blogger’s $32K review on it.

  31. @ Evan — Of course not, haven’t you been reading the comments section? I’m a trust fund baby and don’t work. 😉

  32. This is super cool. I know the focus of your site is miles/points, but it’s also really fun to experience these unusual products through your reviews. Looking forward to it!!

  33. Hi Lucky ,

    Love you and your amazing blog!

    Maybe it’s time to add on a quick run to PPT or / and IPC?

    Many Aussies would love to see a successful award booking from AA award booking from Australia to PPT IPC. If anyone could pull it off it would be you.

    Also if I can offer you a personalised tour of Melbourne I would be blessed if your accepted☺️. (P.S, I am in a wheelchair so you can run away if you think I am some sort of wierdo / nutjob).

    Thanks for all the info and remember where only running from ourselves♥️.

    Perhaps you can do Kuwait 777-300 First?

    Lots of Love,

    Michael

  34. @Michael

    My partner and I will be in MEL in October. We’re too old to run, so you’d be stuck with us if you gave us a tour! HINT HINT HINT… 🙂 🙂 🙂

  35. How about trying a new hotel in Sydney rather than the miles and points favourite, the Hyatt?

    To be fair most of the choices aren’t great and in need of renovation however the Raddison Blu was renovated last year and I think is the best value in town.

    The Blue in Wooloomooloo has recently become an Ovolo (used to be Taj) so SPG affiliated and whilst I haven’t been there since it switched it’s a pretty unique property (former warf). Rooms on the botanic gardens side are the pick and the walk through the botanic gardens to the Opera house is one of the great pleasures of Sydney.

  36. For Android, the play store for Snap Chat says it’s rated for Teen.
    And looking at it, see why.
    Have enough accounts, will pass on that.
    Will read your reviews though.

  37. Looking forward to your review of Etihad’s business class product, as much as your review of The Residence. This will be your first time trying both, right?

  38. Hope you manage the Virgin SYD-LAX business class flight. Thinking of flying MEL-LAX with them next year and would love a review!!

  39. So cool Lucky! Just two things:
    1) Would make things more clear if you included in the text the final routes and also the fact that you could only do this because a travel agent in Egypt helped you book it (us noobs would kill ourselves trying to do this same thing using Etihad’s website)
    2) YES PLEASE use Snapchat or InstagramStories, would LOVE to live vicariously through your travels.

    Cheers mate!

  40. Did you book a stopover in AUH? If you’re flying in the residence you do get two free nights in a suite that retails at over 1k per night?

  41. @lucky @ Mike S. — I had to book with a travel agent to get that, and it had to be a travel agent who could issue tickets in Egypt. So that was a further challenge.

    Could we know which travel agent you use for this service? Thanks

  42. @lucky: Really glad you booked this and will review it, especially independently and not as an airline freebie. Given the recent cutbacks in the First product, especially in the AUH lounge, I can’t wait for a fair review. And I hope your butler’s cute. 😉

  43. I haven’t seen anyone mention it before, but is it possible for my +1 on the residence to use an apartment for at least part of the flight?

  44. Just had a look at the availability for the residence and oddly while the residence is available every day from the 25/6/17 to 3/7/17 ( the time I looked ) from Sydney to Cairo when booked as part of a Cairo to Sydney and then return Sydney to Cairo around the prices you mentioned. However when you try and book the Sydney to Cairo flight in the residence on each day from the 25/6/17 to 3/7/17 they are showing as sold out. Is there any reason as to why they are not willing to sell the residence from Sydney to Cairo on the same days as it is showing as available as part of a return itinerary?

  45. You should try out the PIA Premier experience to LHR and see how it adds up compared to their normal business class that supposedly is “like a first class experience”

  46. very cool, can’t wait for your trip and the report that will follow. curious how the Residence would price out of Colombo to JFK.

  47. Good luck with booking virgin Aus Syd to lax- I’ve flown the coast to coast service on the a330 (same seat) and it was really amazing

  48. Hello!

    Your latest articles say that you’re in Abu Dhabi. I’m in Abu Dhabi as well and traveling soon and would really like to meet you in person since I’m so fascinated by your blogs and especially the latest article about how you became a travel blogger.

    Have fun on your trip to Sydney!

  49. Hi Lucky,

    Great find and coverage on your experience. Thanks for the insight. One question though.
    How did you manage to find the deal? Did you search individually from all major hubs to Sydney on the Residence?

    Love your blog

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