Even at $32,000, people are lining up to book Etihad Airways PJSC’s three-room suite between Abu Dhabi and New York.
The Residence, as Etihad calls its over-the-top luxury offering, will be available on New York-Abu Dhabi flights in December when the airline puts an Airbus A380 superjumbo on the route instead of a Boeing 777. The living room, private bathroom and two-person bedroom are separated from other passengers in the nose of the doubledecker jet’s upper level.
A private butler, who comes standard with a Residence fare, took visitors on a replica of the suite Monday at the Global Business Travel Association convention in Orlando, Florida, and noted that the shower is big enough for two people at a time.
“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.”
Showing off the mockup and talking up U.S. demand for the Residence offered Etihad a respite from its feud with the three largest U.S. airlines. American, United and Delta airlines have complained to U.S. officials that Etihad and other Persian Gulf carriers are using state subsidies to compete unfairly, an assertion that Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways Ltd. deny.
Etihad spent six years developing the Residence and has deployed it on A380s on overseas routes, such as Abu Dhabi to London. New York will see the ultra-luxe offering starting on Dec. 1. The airline sold its first New York Residence ticket within hours of announcing the switch to A380s in March.
An Etihad spokeswoman, Katie Connell, declined to give specifics about how many Residence fares had been sold on New York flights. For the forseeable future, though, the suite will remain very exclusive airborne real estate.
The Residence is offered only on Etihad’s A380s, and the airline has only ordered 10 of those from Airbus Group SE. There are no plans to offer the service in the U.S. outside of New York, Hogan said in an interview.
Etihad’s Persian Gulf rivals are upping their luxury games as well. Emirates, the region’s largest carrier, is developing a more-exclusive first-class offering featuring a bedroom concept. Qatar Airways has its own double-bed cabin in the works.
The competitors’ efforts won’t require Etihad to make any changes in the Residence, Hogan said. “There’s nothing like it.”
Selling the one Residence booking available on Abu Dhabi-New York flights would be a revenue haul equivalent of about 26 of Etihad’s “economy saver” seats on that trip, based on prices from the airline’s website for December. The cheapest of those tickets lists for $1,225.