The Residence comes with a full bed, a butler, and a private bathroom.
“Everything about the space is simply brilliant,” he wrote on his travel-deals blog, TopMiles.
Huang got to check out the Residence on a flight from Sydney to Dubai, which would have cost $23,000 one way.
Huang’s ticket was actually for another part of the plane, in a luxury “apartment” that retails for $6,500. Huang got it for $108 dollars and 60,000 AAdvantage miles, he says. Business Insider has previously confirmed with airlines that his booking methods are legitimate.
But The Residence was empty that flight, so the crew let him spend some time in it. Here’s what the whole experience was like, in Huang’s own words.
Note: All photos and text are used with permission.
On the day of my flight, I quickly checked in and headed to the relatively new Etihad lounge. The lounge was separated into two distinct sections, one for dining and one for lounging.
I especially liked the wooden bookshelf, which gave the area a bit of a home-away-from-home feeling.
There were only two showers in the lounge, so I decided to first take a shower before the lounge got busy.
After my shower, I decided to eat dinner. A waiter introduced himself and informed me that I can order as many dishes as I want from the a la carte menu. I started my meal with the seared scallops. The scallops were perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of moisture. Overall, I'd recommend sticking with the appetizers and having something light, to leave room for the feast waiting for you on board the plane.
Soon enough, it was time to board. An attendant escorted me to the boarding gate and introduced me to the cabin manager, who walked with me all the way to the plane. Upon boarding, I was greeted by the first class butler and shown to my seat.
The apartment was huge, with enough space for a lounging area with a convertible sofa and a separate reclining chair. Lengthwise, I'd say the apartment is equivalent to at least 4 economy seats side by side. The apartment seats are so big that only one seat can fit on each side of the plane.
Adjacent to the seat and across from the bench is a vanity mirror area where you can find an amenity kit and other hygienic items.
Unlike the small mirrors found on Emirates, the one in the Etihad Apartment is as big as the ones found in your typical bathroom. Except this is not your ordinary mirror, as this one is fit with automatic lights that turn on whenever you open the closet, making you look like a million bucks.
Underneath the vanity mirror is a minibar filled with soft drinks and bottled water. Adjacent to the mirror is a small closet where you can hang your clothes. Like Emirates, the overhead storage has been removed to give the space a more airy feeling. Storage of baggage is located under the bench instead.
Two flight attendants cater to the passengers on the first apartments, with additional service from the butler that usually serves the residence. That means even though my flight was nearly full with 6 out of 8 seats occupied, service was excellent throughout the flight. The butler introduced himself and asked if I would like something to drink, so naturally I asked for some champagne.
Because Etihad takes service very seriously for its first class passengers, its butlers are trained at the world-famous Savoy Hotel. Attention to detail is paramount, and I was thoroughly impressed by my butler's attentiveness and professionalism throughout the flight. Etihad doesn't serve Dom Pérignon or Krug. It serves Bollinger Grande Annee 2005 instead, which retails for around $100 a bottle.
My seat was 3K, a rear facing seat, so during takeoff I was being pulled upwards, sort of like going backwards while on a roller coaster. I enjoyed the experience, but if you are prone to motion sickness, I'd recommend sitting in the even-numbered rows instead.
I wanted to be surprised and earlier told the onboard chef to make whatever dish he could come up with. The chef then personally delivered the dish, which was a mixture of different types of grilled meat. I was extremely amazed of how tender the meat was -- this definitely tasted better than any of the dishes I had on the ground.
At this point I was completely stuffed and had to decline dessert. After dinner, I decided to change into something more comfortable. Etihad provides complimentary cotton pajamas for first class passengers.
Etihad has two bathrooms for its first class apartment passengers: one has a shower, while the other one, located at the tip of the nose, is a bit longer and more spacious (similar to Emirates).
Later, the butler knocked on my apartment door and asked me if I would like to take a look at 'The Residence.' I noticed he had changed into a completely new outfit, complete with a trench coat and white gloves, which is the uniform butlers wear when Residence passengers are on board the aircraft.
The Etihad Residence is made up of three separate spaces: the living room, an in-suite bathroom, and a private bedroom. The living room is where guests can lounge around, have a meal, and enjoy the view from the windows. It's around the same size as a standard apartment seat.
The main showpiece is the entertainment system's huge 32-inch LCD screen, currently the largest in the sky.
The sofa has pop-out footrests, and you can partially recline the seat so you can lounge comfortably during your flight.
After a brief overview of the living room, the butler unlocked the door and we walked into the private area of The Residence. Instead of having a sofa that converts into a bed, The Residence is furnished with an actual full double-sized bed. This is a first among all airlines.
To add to the sheer opulence, Etihad has four feather pillows, and another two smaller side pillows for good measure.
There is also a 27-inch TV at the end of the bed so you can lie down comfortably while watching your favourite entertainment program.
One of the things that really impressed me was the extremely innovative and state-of-the-art lighting system of The Residence. Through a control panel you can regulate all sorts of lighting options for the floor, ceiling, and wall.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The butler came back to let me know that the turbulence had subsided and I was free to go back to my apartment. After my brief but amazing experience on The Etihad Residence, I asked the butler to prepare my bed. While I got ready, the butler converted the apartment couch into a flat bed.
Unlike the bed in The Residence, the beds in the Etihad Apartment are essentially converted sofa seats with mattress cushioning on top, similar to other airlines' first class products. However, compared to the usual first class seat that has more cushion, The Apartment's sofa is naturally quite firm. This results in a relatively hard sleeping surface.
Etihad is currently one of two airlines with an onboard shower, the other being its UAE rival, Emirates. Unlike Emirates, Etihad doesn't have any shower attendants or a first class bar on board. However, I'm not one to complain since it was still a shower at 40,000 feet, which is an incredible feat.
Each apartment guest is allowed five minutes of hot water, with a lit up shower dial that indicates how much water you have left.
As I dried off, I couldn't help but notice that Etihad adorned its shower bathroom with lots of mirrors, which I found quite interesting. I also found that the ceiling was once again designed with Etihad's geometrical light pattern.
After my amazing shower, I headed to the Etihad onboard lounge to order 'breakfast,' which is essentially anything in the a la carte menu.
The onboard lounge is a place where restless business and first class passengers can go to socialise. Unlike in Qatar and Emirates, there is no onboard bar here, although you can easily grab the attention of a flight attendant to order anything you want.
Unfortunately, at this point we were hitting some extremely strong turbulence, so I had to head back to my seat.
Soon after, the onboard chef served me breakfast, complete with his chef's special, consisting of mostly lamb and a freshly made egg. It was absolutely delicious and just as good as the mixed meat platter I had for dinner.
After watching a few TV episodes, the captain informed us that we were set to arrive in Abu Dhabi. Since we were flying against turbulence almost the whole time, the flight time ended up being around 15 hours, which was more than enough time to enjoy the Etihad Apartment.
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