Etihad A380 Residence class: Etihad puts Airbus A380 on Sydney-Abu Dhabi route

The most luxurious class in the sky has touched down in Sydney, with an Etihad Airbus A380 making its first flight to Australia.

The Etihad super-jumbo features "The Residence", a three-room private "apartment" that is a step above first class and costs about $27,000 for a flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi.

Etihad confirmed that the first Australian customer for The Residence had booked, but they wouldn't name the passenger or route for privacy reasons. The did confirm that the passenger would fly The Residence in its first week of operation from Sydney.

The three-section private cabin for two passengers features a lounge area, a bedroom and a bathroom with shower. There is also an on-board butler solely to service these guests, trained by the Savoy Butler Academy in London, part of the Savoy Hotel. It is located at the front end of the aircraft on the upper deck.

The residence bedroom features a double bed, joined to the living room by a short corridor. The living room features a two-seat leather couch, a dining table and private mini-bar. Both the living room and bedroom have LCD television screens for in-flight entertainment.

The space, covering almost 12 square metres on the aircraft, is unprecedented in commercial airline travel.

The United Arab Emirates carrier took delivery of its first Airbus A380 – the largest passenger plane in the world – late last year and began flying the super-jumbo in December on its Abu Dhabi-London route. The Residence sold out the first 10 flights a month before its debut.

Etihad will fly the A380 on one of the airline's two daily services between Sydney and Abu Dhabi. The first flight into Sydney arrived just before 6pm on Monday and was scheduled to depart on its return leg at 9.25pm. The airline has ordered 10 A380s in total.

In March, the airline launched an extensive advertising campaign featuring Australian actress Nicole Kidman enjoying the Residence suite

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Etihad's A380s carry up to 498 passengers, with two Residence guests, nine first-class, 70 business-class and 417 economy-class passengers.

The size of the A380 has allowed airlines to do things with the interiors that would have been impossible previously. Singapore Airlines, the first airline to take delivery of A380s, set the precedent by creating private "suites" in its first class cabin. Emirates, too, broke new ground with its A380 by becoming the first airline to install showers on board for use by first-class passengers.

Travellers at the pointy end of the cabin have increasingly become a focus point for competition among airlines, as carriers compete for the dollars of the most lucrative passengers.

Etihad rival Emirates announced last month it would revamp its first-class seats to put a greater focus on privacy. Qatar Airways has plans to create a double-bed cabin.

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See also: Flight test: Emirates first class
See also: The airline seat that makes being in the middle great

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