The Etihad A380 Residence In 10 Pictures

Filed Under: Etihad, Travel

Last Saturday I night I flew the Etihad Residence from Abu Dhabi to Sydney, and boy, have I had a hard time “recovering” from this high. So far I’ve shared a “10 pictures” post about the Residence Lounge at Abu Dhabi, which exceeded my expectations by a long shot. I’ve also shared how Etihad did with some of the special requests I made for my flight.

This post is about my initial thoughts on the flight itself, which departed Abu Dhabi at around 10PM on Saturday. At the gate I was introduced to Johan, the fantastic South African butler who would be taking care of me. He greeted me at the gate, and then walked me onto the plane, so I was the first to board.

The Etihad A380 First Class Apartment cabin is familiar to me — I’ve flown it many times before. However, today I would be in the Residence, which is the private three room suite at the very front left of the cabin. As you can see below, there’s a higher wall around the Residence compared to the rest of the seats.

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Here’s the thing — I’ve been in the Residence a couple of times before to see it, and I’ve always thought “meh, well my First Apartment is really nice too.” But when you actually experience a flight in the Residence it feels very different.

First is the living room, which has seating for two. The Residence can accommodate up to two passengers, so the seat has two tray tables, two sets of headphone jacks, etc. Across from the seat is a huge ottoman with plenty of storage, and also a massive personal television.

Waiting on boarding was a fresh fruit basket, as well as a bunch of other goodies.

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But of course the highlight of the room is the private bedroom, which is separated from the rest of the cabin by a door. My gosh, I can’t even explain how giddy I was when I actually got in the bed. I was expecting it might feel a bit claustrophobic, though I didn’t get that feeling at all. In reality the bed was incredibly soft and comfortable, the bedding was high quality, and the pillows were extremely plush. Best of all there’s no light pollution of any sort when you’re trying to sleep.

This bed is incredible. The one caution I’d add is that the Residence accommodates two people, though you better be ready to cuddle if you want to sleep with soemone else in the bed at the same time. It’s marketed as a double bed, though I suspect in size it’s somewhere between a twin and double bed.

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Then the Residence also has a private bathroom and shower. As someone who is usually grossed out by airplane bathrooms, there’s nothing quite like having a private space. In first class you’re usually limited to five minutes of water, though I was given 10 minutes of water (I suspect since I was traveling alone).

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This is simply an incredible setup. Don’t get me wrong, the First Class Apartment is amazing as well, but having a fully private space is something that can’t be fully appreciated until you actually tried it. I was much more impressed by the hard product after flying in the Residence than I thought I’d be.

Even though I only slept for four hours, it was the best airplane sleep I’ve ever gotten. Just do be aware that the bed would be a tight fit for two people.

Now let’s talk a bit about the service. One of the other unique aspects of the Residence is that you get a Savoy trained butler. Their only job is to look after you. Literally. Some first class products have personalized service, while the Residence is next level.

My butler was Johan, who was incredible. My biggest fear going into this trip was that I’d have a not-great butler. I’m a tough critic of service, though at the same time I’d feel horrible if I had a butler and said “s/he just wasn’t that good.” It’s one thing when I say that generically about a crew, but I’d feel very bad saying that about a single person who was assigned to me.

Fortunately Johan was a gem. Some people are just passionate about their job, and their positive energy is contagious. Johan was one of those people. I loved the approach he took towards his job — he loved working the Residence, and thought his job was “easy” (in a good way, in the sense that he gets to have fun with it and truly create a great experience). Keep in mind that Etihad butlers double as food & beverage managers when the Residence isn’t occupied, and in the meantime several readers have reported having Johan as a food & beverage manager, and also mentioned how great he was.

On the surface you’d think service in the Residence would be a bit awkward given the 1:1 ratio. The door to the Residence always remains closed, so every time the butler provides service, they both open and close the sliding door. Furthermore, there’s a delicate balance between giving passengers their privacy but also providing personalized service.

Well, service in the Residence was both proactive and reactive. That’s to say that the general service concept was that you can push your call button whenever, and Johan would appear within a moment. But at the same time, whenever there was service, it was phenomenal, and Johan was proactive about the service flow, like suggesting when he should prepare the bed, prepare the shower, etc.). Johan was polished, charming, and a true professional. His attention to detail was top notch.

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Just about everything in the Residence is specially branded, and most of it has the triangular Residence logo on it. This is true of the towels, the pajamas, and even the to-go bag they give you. There’s not an amenity kit in the Residence. As Johan explained it, “the Residence is supposed to be like a hotel, so we’ll bring you what you want when you need it.” Sure enough, they had just about everything.

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The standard champagne in the Residence is a 2004 Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs, which I enjoyed. It had a nutty aftertaste, and was a bit different than my usual favorites.

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The meal service was also beautifully customized. The menu I was presented at the start of the flight was customized — it had my name printed on it, and my special requests were incorporated into the actual menu — amazing!

There’s a lot of overlap between the Residence menu and the First Class Apartment menu, except in first class there’s caviar, champagne, and you can also custom order things. In other words, the Residence menu can really be whatever you’d like it to be. Given the amount I ate on the ground, I didn’t have that much on the plane.

After takeoff I had a course consisting of Abu Dhabi farmed caviar, which I enjoyed. The silverware, glasses, plates, etc., in the Residence, are stunning.

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I then had a Canadian lobster appetizer.

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After running around like a crazy man for a few hours and then eventually sleeping, I decided to have breakfast in bed. Yes, that’s right, I had BREAKFAST IN BED. On a plane. Etihad has a special tray so that you can enjoy breakfast while watching TV in bed. So damn cool!

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I’ll of course have a much more detailed trip report soon, but to sum it up, I was very impressed:

  • The bed is exceptionally comfortable, by far the most comfortable on any plane, with high quality bedding and a consistently dark environment; however, for two people it may be a tight fit
  • Service was next level, and unlike what you’d get on any other airline, given that you have one person taking care of you; Johan was fantastic, and if flying in the Residence I’d highly recommend requesting him
  • My biggest takeaway, though, is that the standard Residence experience is just the starting point of what you can expect, and that you can request specific food and drink preferences, etc., so that it can truly be customized

I didn’t think I’d be impressed by the Etihad Residence, but it exceeded all expectations. During the flight I had a conversation with Johan about this, about how I had been in the Residence before, but about how it’s so much more impressive when you actually fly it. He said that’s the reaction he usually gets.

What a special experience, and I really don’t know how I’ll go back to any other way of flying. 😉

  1. I’m curious how far special requests can go in the Residence. For example, if you normally requested a special meal, would they be able to offer you the same level of food but, say, Kosher or Halal?

  2. Does the butler get a regularly scheduled rest break (like other FAs — although I suppose I don’t know that EY provides such a thing to their FAs)? If so, does he arrange the timing with you? How is service provided when the butler is on break?

  3. your “in 10 pictures” segments are getting too long, it’s turning into a review. The pictures and a few sentences on each would be better

  4. I think that the Residence diminishes the First Class experience in the Apartments, by making what is otherwise an industry leading First Class (at least the hard-product) and making it second class.

    For example: The personal space in the apartments is larger than any other first class product on the market, so why can’t they make the bed soft and comfortable and offer quality bedding? It seems like they offer a narrow hard bench just so that the Residence is a step above.

  5. @n, I disagree, I love the detailed 10 Pictures posts!!

    Great to hear your thoughts on this particular Billecart-Salmon. I LOVE nutty notes in my Champagne, which is why I love Bollinger (their NV is good but their La Grande Annee is wonderful). Will have to try the Billecart-Salmon. I had a glass of Dom Perignon Rose 2004 today and it left me underwhelmed. I really do think Dom Perignon is overrated! Did you have a preference between the Dom 2006 and the Billecart-Salmon?

  6. The Robflake has melted out of the KLM post and is trickling into other comment sections

  7. @ Ryan — Yep, the butler gets rest, and coordinates it around your rest. So I went to sleep right after dinner, and so did Johan. He was there when I went to sleep, and up again when I woke up. However, I was also introduced to the specific crewmember who would take care of me in the event that I needed anything while he was on rest.

  8. @ BrooklynBoy — Generally agree Dom is overrated, though I did like the 2006 one a surprising amount. As far as preferences go, that’s tough to say. I’d probably prefer the Billecart-Salmon 2004 to any other Dom vintage I’ve tried, but I really do like the 2006 Dom…

  9. Hey Ben,

    Please post the complete review. These 10 picture teasers are killing enough.

  10. Just offering my advice as A multiple trip paying customer. Talking politics is one thing, but nicks comments were unprofessional. And reflect badly on the site.

  11. Lucky do you think there’s a chance the personnel assigned to your flight were chosen specifically by Etihad corporate? Johan is great, right… is it just a coincidence that he was chosen to be your butler?

  12. @ stvr — Absolutely a possibility, and back when the Residence was first introduced I remember them telling me they do their best to pair each passenger with the best suited butler. Keep in mind that you can make a butler request, so the good news is that if you booked the Residence you could request Johan as well.

  13. With Etihad knowing that a blogger/infuencer will be reviewing the product… Maybe they paid “special attention” and possibly provided “just a little bit more”…. Who knows… First world problems, I’m sure it’d be exceptional experience no matter what.

  14. For someone lowbrow like myself, would you please craft a post at some point around the differentiation of a savoy trained butler? I look at some of these photos and see the white gloves for example and think that it is a hallmark of butlering to prevent germs or something. There may be a lot of things I am missing which you may be aware of and have experienced. This website is my window into the world of luxury and trust the content. Thanks.

  15. Where did you credit the miles? AAdvantage doesn’t have a bonus for the residence, but it does have a 300% mileage bonus. Yet with etihad guest you would get a 400% mileage bonus. So where did you credit the miles?

  16. Thanks for the review! Do you think Etihad would’ve accommodated you and Ford in the same room though given the strict laws in its home country?

  17. I’m almost afraid to ask, but … how many miles would it take to book this amazing experience? 😀

  18. Think you have a typo here:
    There’s a lot of overlap between the Residence menu and the First Class Apartment menu, except in first class there’s caviar, champagne, and you can also custom order things

    Think you mean in the residence there’s caviar…

  19. Residence seats can’t be done via award booking… Since it was I believe a $8k ticket you can do it indirectly MR (assuming the same fares display on their site) at a cost of 400k MR points… Or even Barclay arrivals for same amount of pts.

  20. On my bucket list was to fly Concorde – which we had to do just before it retired.

    From what you have described it might be a good idea to add the Residence before it goes away.

    However, with SQ retiring some of their A380’s perhaps that should be my next bucket list item before the Residence.

    thanks for the pictures – what happened to the Thermidor?

  21. Beautiful Ben!! That looks absolutely amazing!

    A question, what nationality is Johan? Swedish? German?

  22. Lucky, you supposed to review La Premiere before The Residence since the experience perhaps will taste mediocre after this.

  23. @ lucky — Thanks for the response! Dom should be releasing the 2009 vintage this year, so we’ll see how that compares! They are skipping 2007 altogether but will release 2008 at a later date, since they believe it needs more aging. Cristal is doing the same, but they did release 2007 and their 2009 is already out. 2008 is shaping up to be one of the best vintages!

  24. “I’ve been in the Residence a couple of times before to see it, and I’ve always thought “meh, well my First Apartment is really nice too.””

    That usually is the attitude of people before the get past a velvet rope…;)

  25. @Ben Dom is not over-rated. It’s just often consumed way too early. It’s made in a highly reductive style in order to develop immensely with age and vintage Dom is among the finest champagne you can experience. For example, try a bottle of ’96, ’90, ’82 Dom now, it is amazing; or if you can get a well stored bottle from the early 70’s or 60’s. I won’t even say I told you so 😉

  26. I am so incredibly proud, Johan is my brother and he works with so much passion and pride! He is excellent at what he does and nothing less than ‘perfect’ is good enough for him. And that’s besides his amazing personality. I’m glad you got to experience what we’ve been experiencing for the past 32 years.
    Thank you for your review, looking forward to rewarding the full report.

  27. @Erika Cronje, both my brother and I had the pleasure of flying with Johan on separate flights in first class apartments. Johan interacted more with my brother and his wife (who were flying back from their honeymoon) than us as we had assigned a different cabin manager for our own flight, but I met Johan and took a couple of pictures with him and told him how pleased my brother was with his own experience. Great guy who takes a lot of pride on his work. Say hello to him!

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