Etihad Ups the Ante with Premium Cabin Redesign
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has upped the ante again in the perpetual race to win the loyalty of fliers with thick wallets, hefty expense accounts and American Express Black Cards. The airline has announced that its new Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 aircraft will offer over-the-top experiences to passengers who are not content with run-of-the-mill first class offerings.
The Residence is a three-room suite designed for two passengers traveling together on A380 aircraft. Featuring a living room, bedroom and ensuite bathroom, fliers who book The Residence will be able to relax on a leather couch while watching a 32" television, help themselves to drink from a mini-bar, sleep in a double bed and shower upon waking – all while enjoying the services of a butler and in-flight chef.
If you'd prefer something a little more understated (and you're willing to share a shower with the rest of first class), the A380 will also offer the First Apartment. This enclosed cabin – which can be combined with an adjoining First Apartment if you're traveling with a friend – features a chair and ottoman that folds into an 80" bed, 24" television, wardrobe and vanity, and mini-bar, as well as room to walk around.
For those traveling on the B787, Etihad's "regular" first class has gotten an overhaul. (And who are we kidding? There's nothing regular about it.) Now known as First Suite, each seat, which folds out into a 80.5" bed, is enclosed in a private alcove complete with wardrobe, mini-bar, Etihad's state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment and other accoutrements. The partition that separates adjoining First Suites can be lowered, for passengers traveling together, to form a double bed.
Business class on the A380 and B787 has also received a makeover. Now known as the Business Studio, each seating now has 20 percent more personal space than Etihad's existing business class seats and every seat has aisle access. Business Studio seats fold into 80.5" fully-flat beds and feature 18" touch-screen TVs.
If you're reading this and starting to have a panic attack about your next long-haul flight on Etihad while crammed into a coach-class seat – fear not! Even coach-class seats have gotten an upgrade, and are now outfitted with Etihad's Economy Smart Seat. These new ergonomically designed seats now offer lumbar support, "fixed wing" headrests, an in-flight entertainment and connectivity hub and a mood lighting system that promises to help you relax, sleep and arrive revitalized. (although probably not as relaxed and revitalized as those travelling in The Residence.)
Your Turn, Emirates
Etihad's announcement came just days before Dubai-based Emirates took top honors at the Business Traveller Middle East Awards 2014. The airline snagged a host of coveted awards, including Best Airline Worldwide, Best First Class, Airline with the Best Business Class and Airline with the Best Cabin Staff.
Emirates' A380 first class also features private suites with sliding doors, a seat that converts to full-sized bed, mini-bar, wardrobe, entertainment center and more. Which, sadly, all sounds a bit mundane once you start comparing it to your next flight in The Residence.