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I’m incredibly fortunate to have already had many fantastic travel experiences in my life. I’ve been on some extremely memorable first-class flights around the world and I’ve eaten at incredible restaurants that I could never forget. So, when it came time to experience The Residence on Etihad’s inaugural flight from New York to Abu Dhabi, I knew I had to maximize “The Residence experience” for all it was worth. And knowing that the inaugural flight was during the same week as Thanksgiving, it was the perfect opportunity to have some fun while testing the airline’s flexibility.
So, I made an unusual request. I called Etihad and told the representative that, if possible, I’d like to request a meal – a very American Thanksgiving meal. The agent on the other end told me that the airline would do its best to accommodate the request – and it did. So, I was going to be flying 35,000 feet in the air three days before Thanksgiving with my own personal butler (Eren, who was wonderful) serving me a turkey dinner. I couldn’t wait.
When I got on board, I was greeted by Enrico, my chef who was from Italy, and a personalized menu. Few things make you feel more like a VIP than having your name at the top of an in-flight menu like it was made only with you in mind – it was a great touch. At our TPG reader event in D.C. earlier this month, I talked with Keri, who runs the Heels First Travel blog, and she told me she would be on the same inaugural flight – turns out, she was sitting in the row right behind me, so I asked her if she’d like to join me for Thanksgiving dinner on Etihad.
When it came time for dinner, I decided it was too tight of a squeeze to try and fit all of us in The Residence – my cameraman, Keri, myself and Eren and Enrico. That’s one of the drawbacks of The Residence. Although it’s unlike anything else in the commercial skies, it’s quite cramped between all three rooms. So, we decided to take advantage of the lounge between business and first class. Eren and Enrico had no issue with serving our dinner in the lounge whenever we were ready to eat.
It’s worth noting that this lounge is open to both first- and business-class passengers. So while we were eating, if anyone from either cabin had wanted to join us that would have been fine, but at no point did anyone ask to join. We were pretty much uninterrupted in the lounge with our turkey dinner the entire time — it was great. That being said, if you’re going to travel on the A380 in business class, I’d advise not to select the front row of the cabin. It’s right next to the lounge and could get rowdy based on who’s in there.
When we sat down in the lounge, we decided that all of the wines on the menu looked great, so naturally we wanted to do a taste test. We blind-tasted the reds and whites that were offered on board — my favorite was the Line 39 Pinot Noir from California.
Then, it was mealtime. Enrico told us they baked the turkey a little in the airport, sealed it and brought it back on board where he cooked it the rest of the way. Even with the lack of resources he had on board, the preparation made for a phenomenal final product. The drumsticks were perfectly cooked — it really felt like a homemade Thanksgiving meal. We were also served salad and a variety of sauces, which I ended up mixing and matching with the turkey — turns out, turkey and truffle sauce is amazing.
We were also served a magnificent cornbread and a strawberry cream shortbread. The meal ended with a decadent pumpkin pie. My wildest dreams had come true. Here I was somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean eating a Thanksgiving dinner on an inaugural flight. It was a phenomenal experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Looking back at the flight, I wouldn’t change anything — except this. Everything from the service to the food (with the exception of the caviar) was unparalleled. Requesting the Thanksgiving dinner as a Residence passenger was one of my favorite parts of the flight and The Residence experience, as a whole. Don’t expect the same experience if you’re flying on the A380 but not in The Residence. But hey, it never hurts to ask!
Happy Thanksgiving to you — wherever you may be in the world!
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