With Etihad Airways bringing back its Airbus A380s this summer, we finally know what’s going to happen to The Residence…
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 will bring back its super jumbos as of the summer of 2023.
Specifically, at least four of these jets will be returned to service, and for now the plan is for them to fly exclusively between Abu Dhabi (AUH) and London (LHR).
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’ll see 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.
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 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. We knew the airline was planning some changes to The Residence when the A380 is reintroduced, and we now have those details.
Etihad will sell upgrades to The Residence
This is what most of us had speculated, and it’s now official, as first flagged by YYCCL3 on FlyerTalk. With the A380s returning in the coming weeks, The Residence is once again bookable… however, not in the same way as before. Rather than being bookable outright, The Residence is now bookable as an upgrade for first class passengers.
You can either reserve The Residence at the time of booking (if booking through Etihad), or after the fact, through Etihad’s booking management function. All confirmed first class passengers who booked directly with Etihad seem to be able to upgrade to The Residence, though there are some reports that those on partner award tickets aren’t seeing that option (only time will tell if that’s a mistake or intentional).
So, what’s the cost?
- An Abu Dhabi to London upgrade to The Residence costs 9,190 AED (~2,503 USD)
- A London to Abu Dhabi upgrade to The Residence costs 1,987.90 GBP (~2,513 USD)
Note that Etihad is just bringing back The Residence hard product, and not the soft product. So don’t expect that you’ll get private butler service, better food and drinks, etc. What I’m not sure of yet is some of the minor details of the service — will the premium bedding for The Residence be available, will your private shower be usable, etc.?
The Residence can accommodate up to two passengers. One thing I find strange 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.
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. It seems that shouldn’t be an issue, if the airline is only selling a differentiated hard product.
Is upgrading to The Residence a good deal?
$2,500 is obviously quite a bit to spend to just upgrade a seat, 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, $2,500 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
I imagine we’ll see quite a few people splurge on this. Just manage your expectations when it comes to the soft product, since I don’t believe it will be differentiated.
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 is bringing back the Airbus A380 as of the summer of 2023. The plane is probably best known for The Residence, which is the private three room suite at the front of first class. Etihad won’t be bringing back the full soft product for The Residence, but the airline will still be seating people there.
Now we know exactly how that will work. Etihad is selling upgrades to The Residence for ~$2,500 one-way between Abu Dhabi and London, for anyone confirmed in first class.
What do you make of Etihad’s approach to selling The Residence?
Has anyone yet confirmed an upgrade yet with a previous booking? Can’t seem to find any confirmations?
So for an update, after talking to multiple agents this week and having it escalated I got a call back from a manager and stated that mileage tickets (Even EY Miles) are not eligible for these upgrades. If someone has gotten a different result would love to know.
Dang. I'm in Abu Dhabi this week. Sure wish this was happening sooner.
Has anyone been successful in booking this? I dont see any options online to upgrade. However when I click on "Seat selection", I see the residence seats are not bookable. Not sure if that means they are already booked or if they are not available.
You might have to actually do it at the time of booking, or phone in if you have an existing booking on EY stock. Partner redemptions need not apply (I called and asked).
so it does need to be booked with EY miles not possible with AC or AA miles and later request cash upgrade? This sounds a bit different than what was described in the article.
I booked with EY miles but still not showing up in manage booking. Agents on phone saying it is not available to book at the moment. Know the availability is there to upgrade when doing another booking. Seems like only for new bookings at the moment.
Yes, from the article I figured partner bookings were eligible. I called in as well, the agent wasnt even aware of the difference between Apartment and Residence. She said you are in first class sir, you cant upgrade any more, then I hung up
My award booking redeemed with AA miles doesn’t show this cash upgrade option and when chatting with Etihad agent they said they cannot do anything on partner award booking, is it true?
Thanks for the credit ! Now I just wonder if now that they are already cheapening the product in more ways than one, will it be available for a buy up at check in, possibly at a lower price?
Mine wasn’t showing for a September booking. Called and they said they are still not able to upgrade. Awesome phone agent escalated and hopefully will get a call back with some good news! Still exited to fly The Apartment nonetheless.
I hope they don't remain on just the LHR (and probably CDG) route. Like many have said, the route is too short to enjoy this. Yes, for a 15hr trek to Sydney one would actually consider this.
Let's wait and see what the soft product will be like.
For SYD route, maybe USD5000 one way, would you pay?
If the a380s appeared back on SYD/MEL routes than the proposition could be very attractive but for at max 6 hours after take-off to / from LHR it seems a waste to have so much space and so little time to enjoy a meal and sleep / shower.
Bring them back to Sydney!
If it was a longer flight, certainly but London AUH is quite short...