First class travel blogger Sam Huang recently documented his experience flying in the most luxurious accommodation in the sky to date — Etihad Ariways’ The Residence.
In his blog, Top Miles, Huang documented purchasing his tickets, which cost him only $108 out-of-pocket, his experience in Etihad’s first class lounge, boarding to his First Apartment, and then getting an exclusive experience in The Residence on board the Etihad A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner.
On Etihad Airways, there’s Economy class and the spacious Business class, but above that level is the First Apartment, and even above that is the ridiculously luxurious and expensive Residence.
Flying in the First Apartment costs $6,500 for just one way from Sydney, Australia to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates — that same flight in the Residence goes for over $27,000. Huang’s full trip would end in Male, the Maldives, but from Sydney to Abu Dhabi he would be traveling in the First Apartment.
Huang booked a ticket in the First Apartment section for a total of $108 — he also redeemed 60,000 AAdvantage miles.
Huang explained that he had to email Etihad Airways beforehand to get into The Residence:
“With my fingers crossed, I contacted Etihad and to my surprise, they agreed to give me a tour if the Residence was unoccupied during my flight. Upon boarding, Etihad staff informed me that The Residence was empty and therefore they would allow me a brief tour.”
With his ticket booked, Huang’s journey began at Etihad’s lounge.
“Upon arrival, I was warmly greeted by the lounge attendant. She immediately took my carry on and stored it in one of the luggage lockers.”
“The lounging area is beautifully furnished with classy white and brown leather chairs.”
“There were only two showers in the lounge, so I decided to first take a shower before the lounge got busy. The shower room was well designed and had a large rain shower head.“
“After my shower, I decided to eat dinner. A waiter introduced himself and informed me that I can order as many dishes as I want from the a la carte menu.
“I started my meal with the seared scallops.”
“I then had the pan-fried halloumi, an Arabic dish with baba ganoush (roasted eggplant). Like the scallops, the dish was delicious.”
“After half an hour, the waiter served my lamb rump. Unfortunately, the rump was too well done and a bit tough.”
“Finally, I finished with a piece of chicken leg, which was also a bit too dry, but still much better then your typical American lounge food.”
The Etihad First Apartment Experience
“Soon enough, it was time to board. Since I was planning on having a brief tour of the Residence, Etihad rolled out its Residence boarding experience for me, so I was able to board before everyone else, including other first class passengers.”
“Upon boarding, I was greeted by the first class butler and shown to my seat. My mouth was wide open in amazement as I saw my apartment for the very first time.”
“The Apartment was huge, with enough space for a lounging area with a convertible sofa and a separate reclining chair. Length wise I’d say the Apartment is equivalent to at least 4 economy seats side by side. The Apartment seats are so big that only one seat can fit on each side of the plane.”
“Adjacent to the seat and across from the bench is a vanity mirror area where you can find an amenity kit and other hygienic items.”
“Two flight attendants cater to the passengers on the First Apartments, with additional service from the butler that usually serves The Residence. That means even though my flight was nearly full with 6 out of 8 seats occupied, service was excellent throughout the flight.
“The butler introduced himself and asked if I would like something to drink, so naturally I asked for some champagne.”
“My champagne arrived promptly, along with a hot towel, dates, and a welcome letter from the cabin manager.
“Etihad doesn’t serve Dom Pérignon or Krug and instead serves Bollinger Grande Annee 2005, which retails around $100 a bottle.”
“My seat was 3K, a rear facing seat, so during take-off I was being pulled upwards, sort of like going backwards while on a roller coaster. I enjoyed the experience, but if you are prone to motion sickness, I’d recommend sitting in the even numbered rows instead.”
“Shortly after take-off I was offered another glass of champagne, along with nuts and olives.”
“The on board chef then came by, introduced himself to each first class passenger, and personally took our orders. This kind of personalized service can make in flight dining a really pleasurable experience.
“Unfortunately, Etihad doesn’t serve caviar in first class, and instead offers an amuse bouche starter.”
“I was then served chili crusted king prawns, which was absolutely delicious. The prawns were firm, yet juicy.”
“I then had an Arabic soup. The presentation was superb, and I enjoyed watching the butler pouring soup from the serving bowl into the actual soup bowl filled with vegetables. For a moment I forgot that I was on a flight and not in a 5-star restaurant.”
“Since I was flying on a Middle Eastern airline, I decided to also try the Arabic mezze.”
“Afterwards I was given a sorbet palette cleanser before my main course was to be served.”
“I wanted to be surprised and earlier told the on board chef to make whatever dish he could come up with. The chef then personally delivered the dish, which was a mixture of different types of grilled meat. I was extremely amazed on how tender the meat was. This definitely tasted better than any of the dishes I had on the ground.”
“After dinner, I decided to change into something more comfortable. Etihad provides complimentary cotton pajamas for first class passengers.”
“Etihad has two bathrooms for its First Class Apartment passengers: one has a shower, while the other one located at the tip of the nose is a bit longer and more spacious (similar to Emirates).”
“One thing I noticed during the flight was the use of patterned light throughout the plane, highlighting Etihad’s signature geometric pattern which was inspired by the modern architecture in Abu Dhabi.”
“After a few minutes, the turbulence subsided and the butler knocked on my apartment door and asked me if I would like to take a look at The Residence.
“I noticed he had changed into a completely new outfit, complete with a trench coat and white gloves, which is the uniform butlers wear when Residence passengers are on board the aircraft.”
The Etihad Residence
“The Etihad Residence is made up of three separate spaces: the living room, an in-suite bathroom, and a private bedroom.
“The living room is where guests can lounge around, have a meal, and enjoy the view from the windows. It’s around the same size as a standard apartment seat. Stretched across the entire length of the living room is a sofa that can comfortably seat at least two people.”
“Instead of having a sofa that converts into a bed, The Residence is furnished with an actual full double sized bed. This is a first among all airlines.”
“The private bathroom features a shower and full sized products from Acqua di Parma.
“The Residence bathroom is very similar to the one for First Class Apartment guests, except that it’s your own private shower.”
“After touring the bathroom, I asked the butler if he could take a few pictures of me sitting on the bed.
“As we were taking a couple of pictures, the plane suddenly hit a huge pocket of air and the cabin started shaking quite vigorously. The butler quickly went outside to check with the cabin crew and came back with grim face, saying that we were going through some rough turbulence, and he would have to leave for the next couple minutes due to safety procedures. He then quickly shut the door and all of sudden I was alone in the world’s most private room in the sky.”
“I first decided to test the bed. The mattress was neither too firm nor plush, and it seems like Etihad found the perfect balance of firmness. The bed is covered with Italian bed linen, which was extremely smooth and comfortable. I initially felt that having six pillows on your bed was a bit excessive, but the end result was that no matter which way you sleep, you’d still be comfortable.”
“There is also a 27 inch TV at the end of the bed so you can lie down comfortably while watching your favorite entertainment program.”
“Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The butler came back to let me know that the turbulence had subsided and I was free to go back to my apartment.
“As I left the room, I took one last look at The Residence, thankful for the opportunity to experience a truly revolutionary flight product in the world, even just for a brief moment.”
“After my brief but amazing experience on The Etihad Residence, I asked the butler to prepare my bed. While I got ready, the butler converted the apartment couch into a flat bed.”
“Unlike the bed in The Residence, the beds in the Etihad Apartment are essentially converted sofa seats with mattress cushioning on top, similar to other airlines’ first class products.
“I asked if it would be possible to take a shower. After a few minutes, the flight attendant came back and let me know that my shower was ready.
“Each apartment guest is allowed five minutes of hot water, with a lit up shower dial that indicates how much water you have left.”
“As I dried off, I couldn’t help but notice that Etihad adorned its shower bathroom with lots of mirrors, which I found quite interesting. I also found that the ceiling was once again designed with Etihad’s geometrical light pattern.”
“After my amazing shower, I headed to the Etihad onboard lounge to order “breakfast” which is essentially anything in the a la carte menu.”
“The onboard lounge is a place where restless business and first class passengers can go to socialize. Unlike in Qatar and Emirates, there is no onboard bar here, although you can easily grab the attention of a flight attendant to order anything you want.”
“Soon after, the onboard chef served me breakfast, complete with his chef’s special consisting of mostly lamb and a freshly made egg. It was absolutely delicious and just as good as the mixed meat platter I had for dinner.”
“I followed with an order of various small desert bites.”
“After watching a few TV episodes, the captain informed us that we were set to arrive in Abu Dhabi. Since we were flying against turbulence almost the whole time, the flight time ended up being around 15 hours, which was more than enough time to enjoy the Etihad Apartment.
“After we landed, I stayed behind and asked to take a picture with the amazing first class crew, to which they gladly obliged.”
“In conclusion, I am extremely grateful and fortunate to have finally gotten to experience the holy grail of all airline seats. I felt like a true Arab sheikh, if only for a fleeting moment.
“I would have to say this was easily the best 60,000 miles I’ve ever spent, and even with the recent AA devaluation, using miles is definitely still worth it to experience exceptional airline innovation.”