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This week, TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig had a chance to spend a few minutes in The Residence on Etihad’s A380. Read on for his impressions of the $20,000 first-class suite.
When Etihad shared the layout for its brand-new A380 last year, the airline’s first-of-its kind super-premium suite was the star of the show. Priced higher than first-class offerings from any other top carrier, The Residence will run you more than $20,000 one-way on the 14-hour flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, and more than $32,000 from New York to Abu Dhabi once Etihad adds the A380 to that route in December. You can bring along a companion for the same price, assuming you don’t mind sharing your double bed.
We first got to experience The Residence at the Milan Expo, but the mock-up we saw in Italy earlier this summer is no match for the real thing. I reached out to Etihad ahead of my upcoming trip from Sydney to Abu Dhabi in The Apartment (which I booked for 60,000 AAdvantage miles) to request access to The Residence, which is typically off-limits to passengers even when it isn’t booked for the flight. Fortunately, Etihad was able to arrange a tour prior to boarding, and I even had a chance to try out the bed for a bit halfway through the flight.
Here’s what it’s like inside:
The Living Room
The Residence is divided into three rooms: The Living Room (pictured here), the Bathroom (just behind the TV here) and the Bedroom (at the end of the hall). It’s by no means a palace, but the space is quite roomy for an airplane.
The Living Room has seating for two, an extra-wide ottoman and a 32-inch TV.
Just like with The Apartment, The Residence has a double sliding door that, when closed, provides a fair amount of privacy.
Each seat has its own dining table that folds away when not in use.
Seat and Storage
The seats are made from fancy European leather, and are either beige or brown in color, depending on the aircraft.
Like with The Apartment, you also get an in-suite mini-bar. This one’s a bit larger, with nine drinks instead of six.
First class doesn’t have overhead bins available, so bags need to be stored in compartments built into the ottoman.
The Residence, The Apartment and business-class seats all include windows with automatic blinds. Note that while some Apartments have three windows each, The Residence only has two.
The Apartment passengers receive generic noise-canceling headphones, though Residence guests get to use Bose headsets (you’ll need to leave them behind at the end of the flight).
Bathroom and Shower
A highlight of The Residence is the private bathroom, including a small shower stall. It’s virtually identical to the shower lavatory available to Apartment passengers on the starboard side of the aircraft.
Like the shower for Apartment passengers, you get five minutes of water here, though considering you’re spending $20,000 for the flight, you can probably ask for more.
While only one guest can occupy each Apartment during takeoff and landing, The Residence has room for two.
Sure, a private seating area and bathroom are nice, but the bedroom with its double bed is definitely the selling point here. I found it to be just as comfortable as my bed at home, though quite a bit smaller.
There’s a second TV in the bedroom, letting you watch movies and TV shows or track the flight from bed.
I had to get special permission to try out the bed — don’t expect to get so lucky yourself, unless you’re planning to pay for The Residence, of course.
Overall, The Residence is every bit as special as the marketing materials imply. I was more than happy with my Apartment, however, and considering the enormous difference in price — 60,000 AAdvantage miles vs. more than $20,000 in cash — The Residence is a very difficult sell for all but the most deep-pocketed of travelers.