It has been almost 2 years since Etihad Airways released their top notch and phenomenal "The Residence" on their A380 which features: a living room, separate bedroom and an on-suite shower room; It is the only three-room suite on any commercial airline, designed for two people travelling together.
The fare is beyond the reach of most people's budget, Abu Dhabi to London is priced at nearly $20,000 one way! Recently, Etihad have re-priced the Residence fare and made it a little more affordable. Not many people that I know have flown it, and there are very few complete reviews of what you will get for the outrageous price you paid. With that curiosity, I jumped on the bandwagon and bought the cheapest fare available, a one way from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai to see what this top product offers!
After 2 hours of my booking, the VIP Concierge of Etihad called and greeted me. My preference of butler, male or female, dietary preferences and arrival details were all noted. There was a small delay on the day of departure, the VIP Concierge kept me informed and updated throughout the whole planning process.
My day started when not only one, but TWO cars showed up to collect me! There was an upgraded white Audi A8 Limousine to transport myself and a Toyota Previa to carry my luggage, of which I had none.
I was warmly greeted by 2 Etihad hosts on arrival at the airport. They were already waiting at the doorstep before my Limo had arrived. I was surprised that no check-in was required; they had already issued my boarding pass and proceeded to escort me through the immigration and security screening. We headed straight to The Residence Lounge which is hidden inside The First Class Lounge. Admission to this lounge is only for those flying The Residence. There are no other ways, period. I arrived at the lounge to find my personal lounge butler, Mr Salah, already waiting at the door to welcome me.
Upon entering the lounge, it really took my breath away..... It is luxurious, private, spacious and pleasing to the eye. The lounge is just the right size, not too large or too small. The lounge design is in the same contemporary luxury style that underpins the Etihad First Class Lounge design. Apart from a generous lounging area, it offers private dining for up to 4 passengers at the same time. It also has its own bar setup on the side table with a coffee machine. My personal lounge butler gave me a tour of The Residence Lounge, showing me my own private bathroom which includes a shower. It also features a private prayer room with cleaning area.After the tour, before I ask anything. My personal butler Mr Salah already have the champagne open and ready to pour....The hospitality was wonderful.
Bollinger La Grande Année 2005
Mr Salah is French-Algerian; he is incredibly friendly and humble. We make a good connection from the beginning!
After some lounging, it is time for lunch in the private setting of The Residence Lounge. The dining ware is designed by Vera Wang especially for The Residence.
The canape is Abu Dhabi Farmed Caviar. I had my share of doubts about this before trying, but it was surprisingly good and creamy. I love how the Caviar is presented, with a set of 3 silver spoons and a real pearl spoon!
I very much enjoyed talking with Mr. Salah; he has incredible knowledge about all the lounge has to offer. We found out we have a few common friends at Etihad and we that both share a love of France, of course.
The Executive Sous Chef of Etihad, Steve personally came to deliver me the first course and every course after.
What an honour to dine like this!
Starter: Chicken Liver Pate, beautifully plated.
Main Course: Grill Duck Breast
I think Etihad have the best plating of any airline fine dining that I have seen.
Dessert: Mille Feuille
The food tasted fine despite the ongoing challenge to get fresh produce and ingredients in the Middle East. I loved the presentation even more than the taste! On a personal level, I still think Air France Salon La Premiere offer the best food however Etihad have tried very hard here and certainly deserve recognition.
After a full lunch, Mr. Salah suggested that we walk over to the Cigar Lounge to try some of the fine cigars they have on offer. The Residence Passengers are entitled to try any cigar free of charge. Mr. Salah has incredible knowledge on cigars; he patiently explained the intricacies of every cigar on offer. I eventually settled on a Hoyo de Monte.
Well, I was having too much fun and time was my enemy. I ran out of time quickly while I was enjoying everything The Residence Lounge has to offer... In case you have more time, there are many more facilities such as: spa, shave, styling salon, gym, relaxation area and a full bar that you can also enjoy in The Etihad First Class Lounge.
The Residence Lounge is almost like a 2nd home, but in a great luxurious way. I felt totally relaxed with unmatched attention, care, privacy and luxury. The butler is at my service anytime. I strongly recommend arriving at the airport at least 4 hours or more prior to your flight departure time, to enjoy the excellent facilities and benefit associated with your Residence Flight. Residence guest are entitled to complimentary spa and shave/style. Also not to mention a fine cigar and a glass of cognac!
Etihad printed me 3 set of boarding pass so I can keep two of them as souvenirs. Nice thoughts.
I was transported to Gate 61 by this golf buggy below, among my escort, driver and a bell boy.
My Savoy hotel trained, impeccable dressed, personal butler, Leanne, greeted me warmly at Gate 61 and escorted me onto The A380 along with my entourage; my dispatcher friend, gate agent, escort and bell boy
This is the moment I have been waiting for. Finally, I have set foot in The Residence and quickly settle in. The seat is so wide that I think it could fit four people easily.
Leanne asked me if I was comfortable and what my beverage of choice was. She closed the door and left me alone while she prepared my drink. Immediately I felt the overwhelming privacy and I understood why this is worth the outrageous price tag, it is total luxury and exclusivity! I am in my own oasis on an A380 that carries 500 passengers!
Prior to departure, Leanne offers traditional date and Arabic coffee.
I received a welcome letter with my name printed in Gold!
I do settle in well and it already felt like it was my 2nd home. I recorded the whole flight on my GoPro.
Another Etihad A380 parked next to us.
I picked up the menu and was shocked to see my name on the cover!
The Residence really does deliver a personalized travel experience!
Let's have a look what the menu offers on this short flight to Mumbai.
Lining up on Runway 31R, view from the tail camera of the A380.
Our flight time was 2 hours 39 minutes tracking directly East over Oman and across The Arabian Sea.
Our cruising height was 41,000 feet. Plane Registration was A6-APD.
Every seat in First and Business Class was occupied. The plane was at near full capacity, carrying a load of 490 out of 498 passengers on-board!
I enjoyed sitting up in my own sanctuary on such a flight but I can imagine it is a pressure test for all the crew. The chef has to deliver mine and 9 other First Class Passengers’ meals of many courses within 2 hours. Every crew member goes straight to work after the seat belt sign is turned off......
I decided to relax in the bedroom first and then eat later before landing....
Back to The Residence, the hallway leads to a bedroom with a 6-foot 10-inch double bed, with designer Italian bed linen.
My personal butler, Leanne, showed me the bedroom, she highlighted that I will have completely privacy in full with the bedroom door closed.
There is the usual service call bell and a panic button in case I need assistance.
I was given Christian Lacroix designed sleepwear. They are, without doubt, the most comfortable First Class Pyjamas that I have experienced.
With the bedroom door closed, I enjoy total privacy.
The bed has a proper firm mattress with a very soft and comfortable pillow. Don't be deceived by the look, I believe it can fit two people (as a double sized bed) as there is more room to my right (wall). I really enjoyed the total privacy and felt totally relaxed at 41,000 feet in the sky!
Leanne returned later with my starter, Abu Dhabi Farmed Caviar! I can dine in my own comfort on my bed. She admitted to me that I was the first passenger to use the wooden tray for dining in bed; she was a bit nervous that things might go wrong...
Could this get better? Caviar and watching the A380 chasing the setting sun...
After having my starter, I decided it was time to head out to the lounge area to have my main course.
The table has been set. Again, it is Vera Wang designed tableware.
Multiple hot bread selection.
Main Course: Lobster Tail with garlic butter sauce.
This has to be the LARGEST lobster tail I have ever had. It was huge and I have to admit that I could not finish it.
Dessert: Texture (ice cream, halva and jelly)
Across the 3 rooms Residence as the night arrive.
After dinner, Leanne came back and showed me to the bathroom and the shower.
She brought me a bathrobe, which I thought was a very nice touch and also my first bathrobe on-board an airplane.
The toiletries are provided by Acqua di Parma from Italy.
I found even the toilet paper has The Residence logo!
Before arrival into Mumbai, I was served with a glass of Sencha Green tea for more Zen and relaxation!
After 2 hours 39 minutes of flying, our A380 landed at Mumbai safely. I have a winning feeling from my heart. I was nervous and was not sure before the flight but everything fell into place and I felt accomplished.
Although a short flight, I have utilized The Residence to full and experienced all it has to offer. My personal butler, Leanne, could finally relax and I've invited her to sit down together while waiting to deplane.
My butler, purser, chef, food and beverage manager, crew all came to bid me farewell.
Of course we need to seize the moment and grab a few photographs together!
I was greeted by the Mumbai ground team and they assisted my transit onto my onward flight.
A truly unique and bespoke travel experience, delivered with complete discretion and limitless hospitality.
Etihad The Residence is a truly unique and bespoke travel experience. There is nothing quite like it! It has to be the BEST commercial airline travel I have experienced up to this day. Etihad team delivered a faultless travel experience. Every step of the travel is taken care of. I think my photos and video describe the product best.
I am now already planning a longer 2nd flight in The Residence.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of the Etihad staff that assisted me during my travel.
Is it really worth the money?
I think yes! The extraordinary experience you receive is worth a lot more!
How is it different to Etihad First Class on the A380?
The Residence offers a much larger area, with your own bedroom and on suite bathroom with fully privacy. You have your own butler to take care of your every need. You do not share anything with any other passenger. It is all about being exclusive! The attention you receive is second to none. Not to mention The Residence Lounge and its very private offerings!
I use Momondo to search extensively across the best airfare before buying it. Have a look at this post to see how it is working for getting a cheaper ticket! Momondo definitely features the best First and Business Class deals of any Flight Search Engine out there. I have put together many useful travel tips and airfare promotions in my Smart Travel section to guide you travel in more luxury with lower price!