Res­i­dence in the sky

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - HIGH FLYER -

Eti­had has raised the bar in lux­ury air­line travel with its new of­fer­ing of com­fort and class for movers and shak­ers, writes Peter Holmes

THEY don’t mess around when it comes to avi­a­tion in the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE).

While Dubai-based car­rier Emi­rates rewrote the rules of the sky in re­cent years by putting bars and show­ers in its A380s, fel­low UAE air­line Eti­had Air­ways, based 120km down the way in the cap­i­tal of Abu Dhabi, has gone one bet­ter by cre­at­ing The Res­i­dence, pos­si­bly the most ex­trav­a­gant travel ex­pe­ri­ence in the his­tory of commercial avi­a­tion.

The Res­i­dence, which will be in Eti­had’s A380 me­ga­lin­ers from the end of this year, is a pri­vate, 11.5sq m, three-room self-con­tained cabin lo­cated on the up­per for­ward deck. It fea­tures a liv­ing room, dou­ble bed­room, sep­a­rate en­suite shower and a ded­i­cated but­ler trained at The Savoy But­ler Academy in Lon­don.

The Res­i­dence has cus­tom car­pets, ta­ble mar­quetry and soft fur­nish­ings, can be used by up to two pas­sen­gers, and will set you back an eye-wa­ter­ing $US20,000 ($A21,500) for a one-way flight from Abu Dhabi to Lon­don. Fares for flights from Aus­tralia are yet to be set.

The A380 will fly be­tween Mel­bourne, Syd­ney, Abu Dhabi, Lon­don, New York and Paris.

Eti­had, the 10-year-old air­line headed by Aus­tralian James Ho­gan, is at­tempt­ing to lure pas­sen­gers away from not only other commercial air­lines but from the pri­vate jet in­dus­try.

On Mon­day, as part of the mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar launch, Ho­gan and a bevy of Eti­had heav­ies fronted more than 100 me­dia flown in from around the world at Abu Dhabi’s Fair­mont Bab Al Bahr ho­tel.

Ho­gan said the air­line spent five years re­search­ing cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions and build­ing pro­to­types for its new con­fig­u­ra­tions and ser­vice of­fer­ings, in­clud­ing The Res­i­dence.

By tak­ing ad­van­tage of cur­rently un­used space on the plane and by re­con­fig­ur­ing seat lay­outs Eti­had was able to cre­ate more room in its busi­ness and first-class of­fer­ings. One of the de­sign­ers told Es­cape that among the orig­i­nal con­cepts was a twolevel apart­ment, how­ever even out­ra­geous lux­ury has its lim­its.

While the A380’s The Res­i­dence was the big ticket item at the press con­fer­ence, Eti­had also an­nounced new of­fer­ings for first, busi­ness and econ­omy class trav­ellers.

For those with plenty, but not enough to book The Res­i­dence, the A380’s First Apart­ments will be fully pri­vate suites with a sep­a­rate re­clin­ing lounge seat, full-length bed, wardrobe, per­sonal van­ity and mini bar. Nine First Apart­ments will be built on the up­per deck in a 1-1 con­fig­u­ra­tion, cre­at­ing the only sin­gle aisle first class cabin avail­able to­day. It is 74 per cent larger than Eti­had’s cur­rent first-class suites. Guests in First Apart­ments will have ac­cess to a shower. Fif­teen min­utes of hot wa­ter is avail­able.

On Eti­had’s forth­com­ing B787 Dream­lin­ers the First Suite will be con­structed in a 1-2-1 con­fig­u­ra­tion along a unique curved aisle that looks ap­peal­ing and cre­ates more space. Each First Suite has a large seat and ot­toman which con­verts into a flat bed.

On the A380 and B787, Eti­had’s Busi­ness Stu­dios all have aisle ac­cess and 20 per cent more per­sonal space than cur­rent of­fer­ings.

Econ­omy pas­sen­gers will have ac­cess to the new Smart Seat which has a fixed wing head­rest, lum­bar sup­port and 11-inch mon­i­tor.

An­other of the new fea­tures on the A380 is The Lobby, an area for First and Busi­ness Class guests with a semi­cir­cu­lar lounge, large screen satel­lite TV and bar. It can be used for meet­ings, play­ing board games or watch­ing live sport­ing events.

The air­line is also redesign­ing its gal­leys, hid­ing the equip­ment be­hind screens dis­play­ing Ara­bic fret­work.

The A380s will have full mo­bile and Wi-Fi ser­vice, while the B787 will be equipped with Wi-Fi.

“These new liv­ing spa­ces will raise in-flight prod­uct and ser­vice stan­dards to the high­est level yet in commercial avi­a­tion,” said Mr Ho­gan.

“When we took a new busi­ness model to the sky in 2004 it was with a clear man­date from our share­hold­ers to be safe, best in class and to be prof­itable, and all that cri­te­ria dur­ing the last 10 years we’ve ticked off.

“Ev­ery­thing we’ve achieved has been about bench­mark­ing against the finest in restaurants, ho­tels and of course other commercial air­lines.

“Pre-2008 we had no or­ders booked and it was very hard for us to get the at­ten­tion of the man­u­fac­tur­ers. In 2008, we signed on for 200 Boe­ing and Air­bus air­craft with a list price of $US43 bil­lion, and that has given us a clear road map un­til 2020. We’re very fo­cused on how we cre­ate points of dif­fer­ence so the jour­ney for our guests is re­mark­able. The first commercial flights in­spired the guests, they promised lux­ury, ex­clu­siv­ity and it was an era of ro­mance. At Eti­had we are keen to recre­ate those feel­ings. It’s not about be­ing the big­gest.”

Ho­gan told Es­cape that, un­like in other cat­e­gories, no pas­sen­ger would ever be up­graded to The Res­i­dence. You’ve ei­ther got it, or you ain’t.

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