Etihad Airways experiences overwhelming response to $32,000 Residence tickets in the US

Even at $US32,000 ($A44,000), people are lining up to book Etihad Airways PJSC's three-room suite between Abu Dhabi and New York.

The Residence, as Etihad calls its over-the-top luxury offering, will be available on New York-Abu Dhabi flights in December when the airline puts an Airbus A380 superjumbo on the route instead of a Boeing 777. The living room, private bathroom and two-person bedroom are separated from other passengers in the nose of the doubledecker jet's upper level.

The airline is already flying A380s featuring the Residence suite to Australia, on the Sydney-Abu Dhabi route. A one-way flight on the route costs about $A27,000.

A private butler, who comes standard with a Residence fare, took visitors on a replica of the suite Monday at the Global Business Travel Association convention in Orlando, Florida, and noted that the shower is big enough for two people at a time.

"We have experienced an overwhelmingly positive response to the Residence within the US - beyond our expectations, in fact," Etihad Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said Monday in Orlando. "We are seeing healthy forward bookings."

Showing off the mockup and talking up US demand for the Residence offered Etihad a respite from its feud with the three largest US airlines. American, United and Delta airlines have complained to US officials that Etihad and other Persian Gulf carriers are using state subsidies to compete unfairly, an assertion that Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways.

Etihad spent six years developing the Residence and has deployed it on A380s on overseas routes, such as Abu Dhabi to London. New York will see the ultra-luxe offering starting on December 1. The airline sold its first New York Residence ticket within hours of announcing the switch to A380s in March.

In an interview, Hogan declined to give specifics about how many Residence fares had been sold on New York flights. For the forseeable future, though, the suite will remain very exclusive airborne real estate.

The Residence is offered only on Etihad's A380s, and the airline has only ordered 10 of those from Airbus. There are no plans to offer the service in the US outside of New York, Hogan said.


Etihad's Persian Gulf rivals are upping their luxury games as well. Emirates, the region's largest carrier, is developing a more-exclusive first-class offering featuring a bedroom concept. Qatar Airways has its own double-bed cabin in the works.

Selling the one Residence booking available on Abu Dhabi- New York flights would be a revenue haul equivalent of about 26 of Etihad's "economy saver" seats on that trip, based on prices from the airline's website for December. The cheapest of those tickets lists for $US1,225.


See also: The best and worst plane seats, named by the experts
See also: The 14 coolest things in air travel right now