Etihad Selling Upgrades To The Residence On A380

Etihad Selling Upgrades To The Residence On A380

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As of the summer of 2023, Etihad Airways brought back its Airbus A380s. With this, the airline made some major changes to The Residence, which is the carrier’s famous product that’s better than first class.

While I first wrote about this earlier this year, I wanted to revisit this topic, since we now have more of a sense of what The Residence experience is like, and who exactly can upgrade. Furthermore, Etihad has announced that the A380 will operate a second route, so I wanted to go over that pricing as well.

The basics of Etihad’s Airbus A380s

First for some background, Etihad grounded its Airbus A380 fleet at the start of the pandemic, and everything was pointing toward those planes just being retired prematurely. Fortunately the airline had a change of heart, and Etihad brought back its super jumbos as of the summer of 2023.

Specifically, at least four of these jets will be returned to service. Etihad currently flies these planes between Abu Dhabi (AUH) and London (LHR), and as of April 2024, we can also expect the A380s to fly to New York (JFK).

The Airbus A380 is a joy to fly in general, though Etihad has especially nice premium cabins on these jets. The return of the A380 means we’ve seen the reintroduction of the Etihad First Class Apartments, as there are nine of those on the plane. This is one of the most impressive first class hard products out there, as there’s just a single aisle in the center of the cabin, and one suite on each side.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment cabin
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment

The most famous thing on Etihad’s A380s, though, is The Residence, which is a private three room suite located at the front of the first class cabin. Before the plane was grounded, this was the most exclusive product available in commercial aviation. Not only did it offer a special hard product, but it also offered a fully customized soft product, with butler service, and the ability to request your own meals and amenities.

Etihad A380 The Residence bedroom
Etihad A380 The Residence living room

Etihad is focused a lot more on profitability than in the past, and The Residence didn’t ultimately seem to be all that profitable, as it was empty a vast majority of the time. With the A380s returning to the skies, the airline has changed up how The Residence works. So let’s go over all those details.

Etihad selling upgrades to The Residence

Etihad no longer sells tickets directly in The Residence. Instead, Etihad gives select first class passengers the opportunity to upgrade to this product for an additional fee.

You can either reserve The Residence at the time of booking, or after the fact, through Etihad’s booking management function. The catch is that only those people who booked a cash Etihad first class ticket are eligible for this — those who redeemed miles, whether through Etihad Guest or a partner program, aren’t eligible for this.

So, what’s the cost?

  • Between Abu Dhabi and London, an upgrade from first class to The Residence costs ~$2,500
  • Between Abu Dhabi and New York, an upgrade from first class to The Residence costs ~$4,500
Etihad The Residence upgrade cost to London
Etihad The Residence upgrade cost to New York

Note that Etihad has primarily just brought back The Residence hard product, and largely not the soft product. Those who book The Residence receive the following incremental perks over first class passengers:

  • You receive an escort through the airport
  • You receive a private room in the Etihad First Class Lounge
  • You receive enhanced tableware and glassware onboard
  • You receive premium bedding and a private shower

Meanwhile unlike before the A380s were grounded, tickets in The Residence no longer include private butler service, an enhanced food & drink menu, or the ability to customize the experience by requesting special food, drinks, etc.

The one thing I find kind of quirky about the pricing for The Residence is that the upgrade cost is the same for one or two passengers. You’d think that there would be a discount if you’re upgrading two passengers rather than one, since you’re opening up an additional first class seat that can be resold. It’s not like there are any incremental costs to that second passenger, since there’s no differentiated food, drinks, etc.

If you’re traveling as a pair and want to upgrade, it almost seems like you’d be better off just upgrading one person, so that you have an extra first class suite as well. That assumes the airline doesn’t restrict another passenger from joining you in The Residence. Logically you’d think that wouldn’t be an issue, if the airline is only selling a differentiated hard product. However, that’s not how the airline may view it.

Logically, you’d think the airline would almost let two paid first class passengers simply assign The Residence, since it seems like a win-win.

The Residence has a private bathroom & shower

Is upgrading to The Residence a good deal?

The upgrade prices are obviously quite a bit to spend to just upgrade a seat and for some minimal incremental perks, especially when you already have an amazing first class seat. So, is there any value in upgrading? A few thoughts:

  • If you’ve ever wanted to experience The Residence and are willing to splurge, I think this is a pretty good opportunity, especially when you consider that flights in The Residence used to cost $25K+ one-way
  • For those actually paying cash out of pocket for first class, the upgrade cost is potentially a fairly small upcharge, as this gives you a lot more space
  • I think Etihad’s biggest issue will be making the average first class traveler aware of this opportunity; us avgeeks of course know about this, but most first class traveler just booking a flight based on the best schedule might not be aware of this

The most significant restriction here is that you do need a cash Etihad first class ticket in order to be able to upgrade, which will limit a lot of potential interest. Then again, Etihad has some attractive cash first class fares. For example, you can book a first class fare from Thailand (Bangkok or Phuket) to London via Abu Dhabi for around $2,500 one-way, or from Jakarta to New York via Abu Dhabi for around $3,000 one-way.

If you want to see what The Residence was like back in the day, read the review of my flight in The Residence from Abu Dhabi to Sydney.

Etihad A380 The Residence living room

Etihad has a promotion for The Residence

While the above sums up the long-term price of upgrading to The Residence, it’s worth noting that Etihad has a promotion at the moment. For a limited time, you can upgrade to The Residence between Abu Dhabi and New York for $2,990 one-way.

This is available for bookings through December 12, 2023, and is valid for travel between April 22 and December 10, 2024, with blackout dates of June 14 through June 24, 2024. The best value here would be to book a one-way Jakarta to New York Etihad first class fare for just under $3,000. Then you could upgrade to The Residence for $2,990.

Obviously this isn’t some slam dunk value that everyone should take advantage of, as this is still a lot of money. However, this is a very special experience, and I could see some people splurging on this. You could always use points to pay the base airfare (like with Amex or Chase points, which can be redeemed toward the cost of a ticket), and then just pay the upgrade cost out of pocket.

Etihad has an upgrade promotion for The Residence

Bottom line

Etihad has brought back the Airbus A380. It currently flies exclusively between Abu Dhabi and London, and will soon start flying between Abu Dhabi and New York. With the plane being put back into service, Etihad has also made changes to The Residence, which is the private three room suite at the front of first class. This is available for a ~$2,500-4,500 upgrade fee for first class passengers who booked their ticket directly through Etihad with cash, depending on the route.

The Residence no longer offers butler service or a differentiated food and drink offering, but it does offer an escort on the ground, a private room in the lounge, and higher end tableware.

What do you make of Etihad’s approach to selling The Residence?

Conversations (16)
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  1. MC Guest

    Anyone know if its possible to pay cash fare for first class + upgrade to Residence for myself then bring spouse from business class or first (paying for that other seat with miles/points)?

    1. zz Guest

      So according to this video, https://youtu.be/DSvE-xi1oz0?si=VBqMprP1CvskWJAF&t=344, no

  2. jeffers New Member

    @Ben, any idea how to book an F ticket from GCK-JFK on Etihad.com?

    I can't get access to F fares. I search the route and it only offers Y or J, and searching F produces "no flights".

    I understand the first leg would still be in J, but unsure why the whole thing doesn't seem to be bookable... (it appears in Google Flights, but without a booking link).

    1. jeffers New Member

      Hmmm...maybe because I was on the phone. It does now show First in the right column on a computer, but appears completely "sold out" in early June... :/

    2. Sonu Guest

      actually all flights to AUH from anywhere in F are not generating any results. i would love to know a workaround if you can figure it out!

    3. Chris Guest

      Fr some reason Google flight does show flights for BKK-AUH-LHR with the BKK-AUH in bus and AUH-LHR in first when clicking on first but does not show anything for CGK-AUH-JFK when clicking first. Even on Etihad website it shows the flights from BKK to London but not Jakarta to JFK

  3. Petri Diamond

    I don't want to be nit picking, but... Please Ben, the cost is $2,500 not -$2,500. There is no discount if you book the Residence, as -$2,500 would imply.

  4. Comment Counter Guest

    Why does the number of visible comments change depending on how you sort them? It seems to happen on a lot of articles, including this one. For example, it changes from 6 to 7 if you sort by oldest vs most recent despite saying 7 comments on the header.

  5. EK-Flyer Guest

    FYI CAI-AUH-JFK in F is about $2500

    1. Terry Terajima Guest

      When and where do you see this? I’ve booked this in the past and yes it was around $6,000 USD total, but ai just checked for next October and it’s around $16,000 USD for two people.

      Thank you and looking forward to your reply with suggested/realistic dates!

  6. Mick Guest

    I still think the apartments are the most famous thing about etihad a380s. Whole suite with a separate (though narrow) bed. Onboard shower, food on demand etc.

    The residence is fun and aspirational but considering AA availability for the apartments I’m more interested in getting back there!

  7. Lee Guest

    Please keep us up to date on LAX service, even if not A380. Thanks

  8. Amritpal Singh Guest

    Time for an updated review with the (reduced) soft product?

  9. Bgriff Guest

    What do you mean "you can always use points to pay the base airfare"? I assume you mean something like booking on the Chase Travel portal and using UR points at 1.25 or 1.5 cents each there, but might want to be clearer since it makes it sound like you can use miles.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Bgriff -- Sorry, I should have been cleared. I meant using Amex or Chase points toward the cost of a ticket, whether it's through the Chase Travel Portal or Amex Pay With Points. I'll update the post to reflect that.

    2. Lukas Guest

      You can also mention that those of us with an AMEX business platinum card get an additional 35% back on the booking making it a very sweet deal.

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EK-Flyer Guest

FYI CAI-AUH-JFK in F is about $2500

1
Lukas Guest

You can also mention that those of us with an AMEX business platinum card get an additional 35% back on the booking making it a very sweet deal.

1
Lee Guest

Please keep us up to date on LAX service, even if not A380. Thanks

1
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