Reflecting On Etihad Residence Class Kickstarter Campaign

Filed Under: Etihad

In early May, Etihad Airways unveiled the cabins they would be placing on their A380s, which they will begin taking delivery of later this year. To say that the cabins were revolutionary would be an understatement.

Etihad Residences living room

The pinnacle of Etihad’s new product is The Residences, which is a private, three room suite with a butler. You get a living room, bedroom, and bathroom with shower. It’s ridiculous, and really kind of turns first class into “second class.”

Not surprisingly the Etihad suite comes at a hefty price tag of $25,000 one way between Abu Dhabi and London, which makes even first class look cheap by comparison.

I’m the only person to have independently reviewed every A380 first class product in the world:

When I heard about the new Etihad Residence class, I was simultaneously excited and sort of sad.

That’s because I knew there would be no realistic way for me to review the “top” product on this A380. I’ve been able to redeem miles for the top cabin on every airline’s A380, though there’s no practical way to redeem miles for the Residences (Etihad charges their Etihad Guest members over two million miles for a one-way ticket), so I decided to try something that has never been done before.

Based on suggestions by some readers, I decided to run a Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter is basically a platform that allows you to receive contributions towards creative projects. Some people use it for philanthropic purposes, while others use it because they think that Detroit needs a statue of Robocop.

What makes Kickstarter unique is that you set a fundraising goal and then people can contribute. But if the goal isn’t reached, no contributions are taken.

So it really is an “all or nothing” thing.


Anyway, I figured I’d provide a quick update on the Kickstarter campaign and also share some further thoughts:

I’m sorry!

First of all, I’m really sorry it took me so long to write this post. The Etihad Kickstarter ran through the end of May, and in the first few days of June my dog passed away.

I’ve spent the past three weeks in Florida with my mom and dad, and have been running on “autopilot” a bit too much. I haven’t had the mental energy to really reflect on this campaign, so didn’t feel like I could do it justice.

I’m really sorry, and I appreciate all the interest in an update.

The Kickstarter campaign wasn’t funded

The Etihad Kickstarter campaign ran through the end of May, and in the end nearly $18,000 worth of contributions were made by over 500 backers. That’s absolutely amazing.

So in the end it wasn’t funded, but it sure as hell was a fun experience.

I posted about the Kickstarter campaign twice in the first two days it ran, and during that time we raised $12,000. I’m confident we could’ve reached the goal if I had written about it a bit more, though I promised I wouldn’t shove the campaign down your throats, and I think I stayed true to that promise.

I’m equally happy whether it’s funded or not. Truly.

Thank you!

The amount of support for this Kickstarter campaign was amazing.

Thanks to those of you that backed the campaign financially. Thanks to those of you that backed the campaign in spirit and words. Thanks to those of you that thought the campaign was completely ridiculous and laughed at it.

As I explained when I launched this:

  • What gets me excited every day is trying something new. Some people suggested running a Kickstarter, and I figured why not give it a shot? It was an absolute blast, I learned a lot, and I couldn’t have been happier with how it turned out. This was simply an awesome experience.
  • The amount of support was just overwhelming. When I launched the campaign I told people there are a million better ways to spend your money, but that didn’t stop people.

So thank you, thank you, thank you!

It’s amazing how much interest there was

I expected there would be a fair amount of interest in the campaign, both positive and negative, but frankly I could have never anticipated the response. The Etihad Kickstarter campaign was seen by tens of thousands of people, and was even picked up by the “mainstream,” including Forbes, Gizmodo, The Daily Mail, USA Today, CBS This Morning, and…

Are you ready for this? Possibly my favorite is, where I was named one of “the 500 People, Products & Trends That Will Define The Next 12 Months” in their Pulse Report.

While I’ll never in a million years do even a tenth as much good for society as does, I still thought that was pretty damn cool! I’ll have to add that tidbit to my location based social networking applications!

It amazes me how incensed some people are

I said from the beginning that the idea was crazy.

I said from the beginning that there are a million better ways you can spend your money.

And I said from the beginning that you shouldn’t contribute.

As I said, my hope was that those contributing simply viewed it as an entertainment cost, because this is something that would give them a kick.

I was just as thrilled by people that said “this idea is crazy, you’re nuts” as I was by people that contributed $500+ to the campaign.

But what I found incredibly fascinating is just how incensed some people were. They couldn’t just say “hah, this idea is nuts,” but instead had to call me and especially the people that backed the project idiots, telling them that something like this shouldn’t be allowed, and/or that they shouldn’t spend their money this way.

That concept fascinates me.

Like I said, it’s totally beyond reasonable to think the project is crazy, but to judge people that feel otherwise and choose to contribute is just mind-boggling.

A lot of people suggested that there were better charities to spend their money on. And I totally agree, there are better ways to spend your money, but this was never intended to replace charitable contributions.

At the end of the day I would guess that most people budget their money, and hopefully allocate money for charity differently than they allocate money for entertainment. In other words, when you go to the movies on a Friday night you don’t say “hmmm, should I watch the One Direction movie (great movie, by the way!), or should I save a starving child?”

But, thankfully, that’s a vocal minority.

I try to live by the motto of “what other people think of me is none of my business.” As long as I can look myself in the mirror and do something in good conscience, I ultimately feel comfortable making that decision.

Bottom line

The Etihad Kickstarter was just such an amazing experience.

I interacted with so many great people, got some awesome feedback (both positive and negative), and at the end of the day got to pursue something completely different than I’ve ever done before. While I have an awesome “job” to begin with, what gets me going every day is trying new things and seeing the results, and this was no exception.

Again, a huge thanks to everyone that supported the campaign, be it financially, in spirit, or by telling me I’m nuts. Hopefully many of you found the whole thing as amusing as I did.

  1. What was the name of the AA PR employee that chastised you on twitter? I found the whole situation hilarious but that’s what I’ll remember most. LOL

  2. you were so close to the goal… i was hoping your parents would chip in the rest last minute.
    oh well… would have been fun to read teh report.

  3. @ Lantean — Worry not, I have plans to try out “The Apartments,” at least.

    And as far as my parents chipping in go, as I’ve said before I’m no trust fund baby, and my parents aren’t really in a position to spend that kind of money.

  4. @Lucky

    ok then, what is the plan?
    since the ticket price is the same for two, will you take one of your LOYAL readers?

  5. @ Lantean — The Apartments, not The Residences (Apartments ticket prices are on a per person basis). 🙂

  6. The comments to the original kickstarter blog post were free entertainment for at least the first two days!

    I agree with you, how/why some people were so incensed was amazing — and they kept coming back to post after saying they were done with the blog. lol!

  7. @ Lantean — They’re not, but I managed to make a speculative booking before the switchover.

  8. The fact you can’t understand at all why it would upset people shows how out of touch with the real world you actually are. You offered zero of your own funds, and your claim that ‘it’s for the readers’ couldn’t be a bigger lie.

    Your parents should have done you a big favor growing up and had you get a real job, so you could see some of things ‘normal’ people have as their priorities. That way instead of doing a kickstarter to raise money to waste, you might have thought of a more humble use.

    And as I’ve asked 1000 times, I’ve yet to see you give back in any way.

  9. @ Tyler — You’ve left 42 comments on this blog, and 90% of them have involved asked for proof of how I give back. As I tried to explain to you, in a previous post:

    “@ Tyler — Maybe I’m old school, but I don’t believe in grandstanding about the charitable things I do. When I do good it’s not so I can show off and say “look at what a good person I am,” but because I genuinely want to do good.

    I can appreciate people that want to “give in public” and totally respect that, but hopefully you can respect that this isn’t the approach everyone takes.

    There’s such a thing as being a charitable person that gives in private and doesn’t feel the need to talk about it in public. If that’s not your style I respect that, but it is mine, and hopefully you can respect that as well.”

    If you’re convinced I’m a bad person, how about not reading my blog anymore? There’s absolutely nothing I could ever say that would satisfy you. Maybe it’s time you find a new hobby other than being the “charity police?”

  10. It was very courageous to do the kickstarter campaign, Lucky! I myself chipped in a few dollars and no, it did not come from my charity donation budget.
    Nonetheless, I look forward to reading your EY Apartments trip report! In addition, with the miles/points world, you never know what will happen in the future. You flew SQ Suites a few years after its introduction so who knows? EY Residences may be attainable through points after a few years.

  11. I wouldn’t chastise you as much as Tyler did but the whole kickstarted was quite hypocritical. You and other bloggers like TPG make enough to just pay for it. But this would have probably angered some readers who do not realize how big businesses your blog and others can be.

    Your blog is a business. Asking people to contribute while you will make more money through affiliate credit card links is a tad hypocritical.

    Anyways, you have some very loyal readers out there who seem to be more than cheerleaders.

  12. @ Tyler

    The fact you can’t understand at he is free to start a campaign, his readers are free to NOT contribute, and you are free to never read his blog again shows how out of touch with the real world you actually are.

    Trolls be trollin.

  13. LOL, full of yourself much Tyler? You are a better person than all of us and we thank you for your presence. You should do some genuine good and GTFO haha

    I enjoy reading your blog Ben and guess what… I contributed $0.00 to your kickstarter.

  14. Also to comment, I can’t log into twitter anymore. Is there some issue with the system, or is it designed not to log into twitter?

  15. Hi Lucky. I was hoping that your flight would have been funded. That would have been an awesome trip report. What tips do you have for my own campaign? ( It’s similar, in that it’s only for pure enjoyment and for some amazing Trip Reports. Support should be given to better causes first as this is only for entertainment.

    Any thoughts you have would be appreciated!


  16. The amount of vitriol spewed when this started and the continues today(Tyler) is pathetic. Who cares what the Kickstarter campaign is for??
    If Lucky started one to raise funds to snort coke off a stripper’s butt in Vegas it would be HIS. No one has to read about it, no one has to contribute, no one HAS to do anything!
    If you don’t like it, please shut the EFF up and go on.
    I for one did not contribute nor would I, but it sure was entertaining.
    And as for someone publicizing their “giving something back” then it’s not really charitable, now is it?
    Tyler, you sound intelligent, but you are a serious troll.

  17. Ben,

    The whole thing was great entertainment – especially that AA social media gal’s disgust – she sounds like a real expert at directing the spending of OPM, her husband (or future ex-husband) should be warned… 🙂

    @Tyler – No one is forcing you to read this (or any other) blog. Seriously dude, you need a hobby other than internet trolling – What a lot of us can’t understand is why at 40, your parents would continue to let you live in their basement, eat their food and use up their electricity playing xbox all day instead of getting as you say “a real job” and a girlfriend like normal people…

  18. Agree with most that Tyler seems to be over the top critical.

    I personally love Lucky’s blog and appreciates his work. I didn’t contribute to the Kickstarter campaign because I prefer to add that amount to my own travel funds, but I have no issues with what other people want to do with their own money.

    By the way, the new blog format is nice.

  19. I will agree I thought it was a bit selfish at first, but if people wanted to pay for a solid review of the residences program and that you were taking a reader with, well hey in the end I had a change of heart on that and thought it was a cute idea.

    NOW, If people do want to donate to a good cause, we’re raising funds for our dog who was hit by a car that kept going and have 7K so far in bills from it. Sure paying 7K for a dog seems ridiculous until you realize that you get a dog and its your job to take care of them, not kill them when the bills get too high. Link through my name.

  20. Lucky, I keep asking because from what I’ve gathered in the blogosphere you haven’t given much back. Those that say I’m a troll don’t understand pure math. You make a very large amount of money off of your readers, which is not bad in itself at all. But to then ask for money when you didn’t even offer a penny yourself is shameful. If you had said ‘I’ll match every donation that comes in’, I’d have zero flack with the kickstarter campaign-I’d actually applaud you on an innovative idea that you also had a vested interest in.

    Imagine a CEO who has had great stock option payouts the last few years from his employee’s hard work then asking his employees to pay for an executive trip that he promises ‘isn’t for him but for the company’.

  21. Lucky, I think that you’re a real entrepreneur who thinks outside the box, but your problem is that you’re too nice 🙂

    Also, thanks for the writeup, I didn’t participate in the funding but it was a nice idea and it would have been truly entertaining. If I was Etihad, I’d get you on that A380’s first flight in the Residence, with a friend of your choice, and reap that sweet almost-free PR.

  22. The internet is a strange and fascinating place. Some people seem to have quite a lot of time to spend expressing various forms of outrage. Sure hope they can find some way to channel that energy a bit more positively.

    FWIW, here are one reader’s thoughts on the campaign. I didn’t pledge anything to the kickstarter campaign. I was conflicted about it because I have great respect for your blog. I’ve received invaluable information from your posts, and I love the fact that you take time to personally answer all kinds of questions (and do it politely, even when people could find the answer themselves if they took a few minutes to search) So I considered contributing, as a way to support the blog. But in the end, I didn’t think it was the best use of resources for several reasons. First, I don’t even support the concept of the ultra luxury plan that Etihad has. I don’t think it’s a good development because it takes away valuable space for first class and/or business seats that many of us at least have a shot at. (Also, I suspect that its really just a publicity ploy). Second, I was not convinced that a report on the trip would provide any useful information to your readers, since the chance of anybody buying that product was slim to none. Still I can respect people who supported the campaign. The report would have been entertaining, and there certainly is value in that.

    Thanks again for all the work you do. (And thanks for the entertainment that we got just reading about this idea.)

  23. It would have been fun to give something back after the hours of entertainment and information you’ve provided over the years (regardless of the fact that it’s your business purpose to do so and you receive compensation from performing your work.) You’ve built up a lot of goodwill among most followers such that raising contingent gifts of nearly $18K was pretty easy to do.

    Your location-based social media applications? Tell us more… 😉

  24. As someone who pledged $500 towards this, I definitely don’t regret or wish to change my decision. The whole point of the exercise was to have some fun and experience something we won’t get otherwise.

    To be honest, the main reason I put forward an offer is as a thank you to Ben for putting this blog together. He is one of few people with such a huge and honest range of views/opinions of the airline industry. I will do anything to further his blog and I’ve definitely benefitted more than the money I said I would give.

    Also for some people this is a lot of money and Ben wasn’t asking anyone to give more than they can. The comments on kickstarter said that some people gave their money to charity and that’s without doubt a better place to put it.

  25. Who is this Tyler jerk that seems to have a love/hate relationship with Lucky? He apparently can’t stay away, and yet apparently hates every moment he spends on the site. Can’t we declare him a waste of digital space? I would contribute a few dollars to that project!

  26. Sorry for the opprobrium, but I thought it was a great idea and a reasonable purpose for a Kickstarter. I’m certain you could have made $25,000 by beating the drum on it, but I understand choosing not to given how angry some folks were about it.

  27. You know what Tyler, that is your opinion, but realize the fact that Ben (unlike the UAE) does not have bottomless pockets, he has to make money to survive in the ‘real world’ as you call it so back off. You don’t have to ever comment on this site or read this blog, and he did this project for his readers enjoyment, so I do not see why he has to contribute a dime. If you don’t want to contribute then that is fine, but see the perspective of others and realize what is going on in the ‘real world’.

  28. Why didn’t you just fund the difference? You spend a lot on high dollar hotels, so money should not be an issue.

  29. I am reluctant to contribute to this discussion, given the tenor on both sides. Upfront, I would like to say that I was unhappy with the campaign, as I thought it was utterly inane, completely amoral, possibly immoral, and a total waste of money for all sorts of reasons.

    But the part that really bothered me was the disingenuous pitch, saying “don’t contribute to my stupid campaign” and “there are better things you can do with your money”, but soliciting it and accepting it anyway. Lucky clearly felt that it wasn’t a terrible way to spend $25,000 (as he was entirely serious about raising it), but wasn’t quite able to take ownership of his decision.

    In any case, I am glad that it failed, but remain a big fan of the blog and Lucky’s work.

  30. Ben,

    I thought your campaign was dumb, but you were certainly well within your rights to start it. People had the choice whether or not to fund it.

    Yet, I found it disingenuous that you were willing to fly in the suite as a service to your readers. Please…

    Having said that – my condolences on the loss of your family pet. As Andy Rooney once said, the average dog is a nicer person than the average person. I hope you’re left with many happy memories.

  31. Lucky, perhaps you can ask etihad to let you review the residence’s hard product when you fly in the apartment next time. That’s free PR for them.

  32. Let me just start out by saying that Ben’s Kickstarter Campaign was utterly frivolous, but if you think Kickstarter is not the place for utter frivolous projects then I suggest you take a few moments to Browse

    I think people should generally calm down about taking a moral position on what Lucky does for a living. Lucky, as far as I can feel, has worked very hard at crafting a truly unique career for himself, marketing information asymmetries in the travel market and monetising the result through his blog, advertising and services. Is this a worthy career choice? Who am I to judge. There is a market for what he does, it is legal; if you disagree with it, don’t read the blog or buy his services. As for Ben, this may or may not be a lifelong career for him, only time will tell, but I would suggest that he does it only as long as it remains personally satisfying and rewarding.

    I also think there is a false equivalency between a charitable donation and contributing to Lucky’s Kickstarter. In my mind buying into the Kickstarter was more akin to buying a book or a magazine to read a chapter or and article. And certainly thats how I thought about it in terms of my personal budget. (NB I actually failed to pledge for the Kickstarter, mainly because Ben stopped promoting it and it drifted out of my mind).

    I do agree somewhat with what Joe said, its fine to agree with the frivolity of the proposition, even point out that there are better ways to spend one’s hard earned, plenty of businesses have been built on less. But once you decide to do it, buy in to it yourself and sell it. You’re doing a disservice to those who do want to contribute by not going all-in to get it over the line.

  33. Lucky,

    I was going I give $50.

    How about this VP at Eithad I’ll donate $250 to Ben’s charity kickstarter if you give him a free seat. Ben picks the charity and if we raise $25,000 Eithad lets him fly free? Who is with me?

  34. Sorry, to hear about your dog. Wait, you have a dog? How do you travel constantly; live in hotels and have a dog? That story is worth a full post.

  35. Ben, based on many of the comments here you ought to simply ask people to give you cash via paypal. Seems like lots of folks would be happy to supplement your income just because they like you.

    So much easier than hawking credit cards!

  36. And by the way I am sorry to hear about your dog, that is rough. Hopefully he/she lived a long life.

  37. @ Tyler @ Joe – While I think Tyler was a little too rough in the first two comments on this specific post (and most of the other comments), I don’t think you are as extreme as “trolls”. However, Ed has a point. “Let me just start out by saying that Ben’s Kickstarter Campaign was utterly frivolous, but if you think Kickstarter is not the place for utter frivolous projects then I suggest you take a few moments to Browse”

  38. I can’t seem to set up a kickstarter as I don’t have a check to verify my bank if I with me… However, if you set one up I’ll pledge $250 to the charity or your choice if Eithad lets your review TheApartment for free. It’s priceless positive social media exposure for them.

    In honor of your loss may I suggest the ASPCA.

    OK, if you do ASPCA I’m in for $500!

  39. I absolutely value the entertainment that this Kickstarter campaign discussion offered. Many people also value just reading about a Residences trip report, and they’d be willing to fund the Kickstarter.

    But I think many people also like this blog not just because of the entertainment behind trip reports and first class flights, but more importantly because Lucky teaches them how they could also do it for themselves.

    What was the plan for the Residences? Show other people they can also take a Residences trip by opening their own Kickstarter campaigns?

  40. I think the Kickstarter campaign was a great idea, even though I personally decided that now wasn’t the time to spend the extra money. To suggest that it’s this or charity is a false choice; as Ben points out that same bogus logic could be applied to *any* purchase. I’ll keep reading the blog, and if another campaign comes along for a once-in-a-lifetime-type event, I’ll definitely consider it. Keep on keepin’ on, Ben.

  41. Oh well, Lucky, look at this way, all this hoopla you created at least got you free publicity and lots of new visitors to the site, which certainly doesn’t hurt you ad rate bottom line. Granted, I’m sure you’d have preferred to have the Residence trip and more ad revenues, but you can’t win ’em all 😉

    I do think you are giving waaaaay to much space to the people who were vocally negative/incensed about all this. Not sure what that says about how you felt about the whole process, but they at best merited maybe 1 or 2 lines, and then move on to the next blog piece…

    “It would have been fun to give something back after the hours of entertainment and information”
    “the main reason I put forward an offer is as a thank you to Ben for putting this”

    Tru$t me, we thank him every time we vi$it his $ite, or read/comment on his trip report$ 😉 (of course, people like Tyler ironically don’t realize that as well, or else they might make less comments and visits, but whatever).

  42. I have to comment on some of these suggestions that EY could donate a seat and have you review it. A great thing about your Trip Reports is that you don’t take handouts. Obviously if Ben were to accept a free seat to review it his review would not be a reflection of a true paying passenger. EY is going to know exactly who he is and what he is doing before he steps foot in the airport let alone the plane.

    Ben, I did donate, but because the negativity around this is bothering you I think you should just drop this for good and move on. Besides, reviewing something that we can’t use miles for isn’t necessarily pertinent to your blog.

  43. You know why I’m sick of Tyler? Because he’s as big a hypocrite as he claims you are. If he cared half as much about the state of the world as he claims in the comments section of this blog, he would stop commenting on blogs and spend that time volunteering for charity.

  44. I was so sad it didn’t get funded. I actually thought Etihad was going to chip in the rest since they even blogged about it on Twitter.

  45. Lisa-

    How am I a hypocrite? I never said I was perfect, I said that after all the success Lucky has had I find it disingenuous to ask readers for money while never giving back.

    Me pointing out that it’s good to give back as a popular blogger isn’t news- look at some of the cool things TPG has been doing for charity.

    Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t make them such a horrible person- in fact I find it ironic that those who say I was a ‘hater’ actually proceeded to throw random insults my way.

  46. @ Lisa – +1! 😀

    @ Lucky – as one of the higher-tier pledgers, I am bummed this didn’t work out and I am a bit surprised Etihad’s PR people aren’t beating down your door. Perhaps, they are afraid to run out of food again? 😛

  47. Hey Lucky, you should have asked Gino Bertuccio for a handout,he can prob give you some insider”Business tips” on currency conversion trips!

    Ask him about his connections in Caracus………

  48. L needs to come back here and explain how he could have a dog and yet spend his time globetrotting. I presume he has near-and-dear to look after his dog, full time. Mine takes all my time but she’s more than worth it!

  49. I’m surprised you didn’t kick in the $7,000 to get the rest of the way. You’ve spent $2,000 on plane tickets, haven’t you? Wouldn’t this be like 3.5 time as awesome?

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