Long live the Residence: Etihad will keep flying its Airbus A380s

May 27, 2020

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Good news for fans of the superjumbo and Etihad’s most premium product the Residence, as the airline confirmed that its A380s are here to stay.

While all 10 of Etihad’s A380s are currently grounded due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, on Wednesday, Etihad quashed rumours that it will stop flying the superjumbo.

“The Airbus A380 remains an important part of the Etihad fleet and is well suited to a number of key routes, which are planned to be gradually reintroduced once international restrictions are lifted, and global travel picks up”, an Etihad spokesperson told Executive Traveller.

Related: Will the Airbus A380 fly again once travel resumes?

In the same announcement, the airline expressed its commitment to the delivery of the 20 A350-1000s that it has on order.

By keeping the A380 in its fleet, Etihad is retaining its famed Residence product, which is only available on the superjumbo. The Residence is one of the most exclusive ways in the sky to travel.

In total, Etihad operates two routes to the U.K. — London Heathrow (LHR) and Manchester (MAN). The A380 only operates on the Heathrow route. In the U.S. the A380 operates the Kennedy to Abu Dhabi route.

Related: The ultimate guide to the Residence

Cash tickets to fly the Residence are often astronomical, as are the mileage costs. A one-way flight between Abu Dhabi (AUH) and London (LHR) will cost 2,198,487 Etihad Guest miles. Yes, you read that right — more than two million miles. Keep in mind that you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Etihad Guest miles at a 1:1 rate.

You won’t be able to use your AAdvantage miles for the $32,000 Etihad Residence Suite that TPG founder Brian Kelly himself flew in back in 2015, but they could get you an Etihad first class apartment.

Availability on Etihad’s only nonstop, A380 flight from the U.S. — between New York-JFK and Abu Dhabi (AUH) — is very hard to come by in first class departing JFK, though it’s a bit better from AUH. In either case, it can be a spectacular use of AAdvantage miles; you’d need just 90,000 miles each way — though unfortunately you can’t book these online anymore.

As an alternative, you could book one of Etihad’s other A380 flights into or out of Abu Dhabi. Currently, there are four other cities served by the superjumbo, and award rates vary:

  • London-Heathrow (LHR): 62,500 AA miles each way
  • Paris (CDG): 62,500 AA miles each way
  • Seoul (ICN): 50,000 AA miles each way
  • Sydney (SYD): 100,000 AA miles each way

Again, none of these flights are bookable on AA.com, and pay close attention to the flight you book. Many of these cities currently have multiple daily flights, and not all are operated by the A380.

Your first-class flight on a 777-300ER would still be quite comfortable — just not the full experience of Etihad’s First Apartment.

Related: No American Airlines and Etihad partnership is not ending

Business class booked via Etihad on the A380 direct from JFK to AUH was just over $7,200 round-trip, and first class would carry an even higher price. The cash price to book the Residence from JFK to AUH on the A380? A cool $38,000.

We’re seeing fewer and fewer A380s in the sky thanks to the coronavirus outbreak. Unfortunately, the A380 has been high on many airlines’ list to ground because of the number of seats to fill, the cost to operate the aircraft and decreased demand. If you had a never-ending supply of Eithad miles, you could book the flight from JFK to AUH in the Residence for a cool 2,115,556 miles plus $11.50 each way. Ouch.You could also do business class for about 716,000 Etihad miles.

Long before the arrival of the coronavirus, the impending death of the mega-jet has been ongoing since February 2019 when the Airbus factory in Toulouse announced it would stop the production of the A380 entirely.

Related: Inside the Residence with TPG video

Related: Booking the Residence with points

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Etihad no longer flies to London Gatwick.

Additional reporting by Nick Ewen and Clint Henderson. Featured image by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy.

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