I Toured the Etihad Residence In-Flight Suite. These Are the Luxuries That Made My Jaw Drop

Updated: May 22, 2024

Looking to fly in luxury from New York to Abu Dhabi? Look no further than the Etihad Residence on the airline's Airbus A380.

As a frequent traveler, I’ve done my fair share of long flights, including those marathon seven-hour ones. I’ve also always been an economy flyer, but you know what? I’ve always been curious about what those swanky business and first-class cabins are like with all that extra legroom and fancy perks. Now, if you’re anything like me—either a seasoned frequent flyer or maybe the pandemic nudged you into becoming one—you’ll be excited to hear about Etihad Airways’ Airbus A380 and the Etihad Residence. After four years of being on hiatus due to the pandemic, this spring, the superjumbo made its triumphant return to the U.S. market, where flyers can take roundtrip, 13-hour non-stop flights between New York and Abu Dhabi.

But let’s get down to the real star of the show: the Etihad Residence. It’s the pinnacle of luxury in the skies—the world’s only three-room suite on a passenger plane, and it’s exclusively on Etihad’s massive A380. After getting the VIP tour of this airborne suite, Reader’s Digest is spilling all the details for you, along with expert insight from Aminah Taher, an Emirati airline marketing executive, and Nadia Bastaki, MD, the chief of human resources, organizational development and asset management at Etihad Airways.

So, get ready for an insider’s peek at the Etihad Residence on the airline’s A380. Trust me, you’ll want the scoop. 

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About the experts

  • Nadia Bastaki, MD, is the chief of human resources, organizational development and asset management at Etihad Airways. She is also the first-ever female chief at the national airline of the United Arab Emirates.
  • Aminah Taher is an Emirati airline marketing executive.

What is the Etihad Residence in-flight suite?

Nestled on the second floor of Etihad’s colossal A380, you’ll find The Residence—a space of aviation dreams! It’s not just a suite; it’s a whole other world up there, complete with a living room, bathroom and bedroom. And get this—it’s not just for solo flyers. Nope, you can book it for two, making it the ultimate luxury getaway in the sky for you and your favorite travel companion.

While the physical aspects of The Residence—such as the living room, bedroom and en-suite shower—undoubtedly offer unparalleled luxury, it is the personalized care and service provided by our premier cabin crew that truly defines the experience,” says Dr. Bastaki.

In fact, from the moment you step inside, you’re treated to a level of luxury that’s out of this world. Think gourmet meals that’ll make your taste buds sing, absolute privacy for those moments when you just want to escape the world below and designer loungewear as an airline freebie (Giorgio Armani, to be more specific)—so comfy you’ll never want to take it off.

According to Taher, “It’s the best offer that you have in commercial aviation.” She notes that having your privacy and three rooms in the air makes the flying experience “very comfortable, very luxurious and very ultra-premium.”

With that, it’s no wonder the first A380 flights were fully booked both to and from New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in April. Plus, there are repeated flyers, who according Dr. Bastaki, simply “choose to book The Residence for the onboard experience itself.”

How much is the Etihad Residence in-house suite?

To note, the Etihad Residence is only available by upgrading a first class ticket (fares vary depending on season and route). According to an Etihad Airways representative, a first-class ticket for the Abu Dhabi to JFK route are currently ranging from $7,565 to $9,858, while a first-class ticket for the JFK to Abu Dhabi route ranges from $8,500 to $16,686. If you’re thinking about upgrading from first class to The Residence on the Abu Dhabi to JFK flight, it’ll set you back an additional $4,790 for one person or $5,990 each if there are two of you.

What are the three spaces in the Etihad Residence?

Now, let’s get into the luxurious world of the Etihad Residence, where you’ll find three exclusive spaces tailored to elevate your flying experience:

Etihad Residence Living room:

I Toured The Etihad Residence In Flight Suite Living Room Option 2 Sseditcourtesy Etihad Airways

In the living room, privacy is key thanks to a sliding door that separates you from the rest of the aircraft. This cozy space, perfect for up to two people, features an elegant Italian leather sofa. It’s where you’ll be dining, working or watching your favorite films. Indulge in gourmet meals like caviar, steak and fine wines, alongside The Residence’s Signature High Tea. And don’t forget the mini bar, 32-inch TV and fold-out dining table for added convenience.

 

Etihad Residence Bedroom:

I Toured The Etihad Residence In Flight Suite BedroomMARIAH THOMAS/RD.COM


Imagine dining in bed while cruising at 40,000 feet—it’s possible in the Etihad Residence’s private bedroom, spacious enough for two on their double-sized bed. Each flight may feature different designs, but expect a charming atmosphere with unique ceiling accents, soothing cool-colored bedding and a cozy vibe designed for ultimate comfort. Plus, you’ll find two LED reading lamps that you can manually adjust behind the bed, a TV at the end of the bed to comfortably watch your favorite shows and dimmable lights to manage how bright you want your room to be. “The well-being of our passengers is paramount, and the bedroom in The Residence facilitates this beautifully,” Dr. Bastaki told Reader’s Digest. “The ability to sleep well in a full-sized bed at altitude significantly enhances passenger wellness, allowing them to arrive feeling truly refreshed.”

I specifically loved the geometric patterns that lined one side of the exterior’s walls, along with there being a mirror on the opposite side. 

 

Etihad Residence Bathroom:

I Toured The Etihad Residence In Flight Suite Gettyimages 488459115 HANDOUT/GETTY IMAGES

Adjacent to the living room and accessible from the bedroom corridor, you’ll find the ensuite bathroom—a true oasis at altitude. Unwind with a shower, a rare luxury in the sky—Etihad and Emirates are the only airlines in the world with a shower in first class. Though small, the bathroom is equipped with all the essentials, including luxurious amenities (so no worries if you forget your own body wash). To note, guests of the Etihad Residence enjoy five minutes of running water, extendable to 10 minutes upon request, and a hairdryer discreetly tucked behind the vanity mirror.

What else should I know about Etihad’s A380?

Toured The Etihad Residence In Flight Suite Economy SeatingMARIAH THOMAS/RD.COM

Now that we walked you through the Etihad Residence, here’s what to know about the other seating areas in Etihad’s A380:

  • Economy Class: There are 68 extra legroom seats and 337 economy smart seats that feature comfy fixed-wing headrests and plush pillows.
  • Business Class: There are 70 private spaces in the upper deck for those who book business class. The upper deck also features The Lobby, a chic lounge and bar area nestled between the first and business class cabins.
    I Toured The Etihad Residence In Flight Suite First Class EtihadMARIAH THOMAS/RD.COM
  • First Class: The First Apartments redefine opulence with nine private spaces, each equipped with designer tableware (Armani/Casa), luxurious leather lounge chairs and ottomans that transform into 80″ lie-flat beds. First-class guests even have access to personal vanity units and their own exclusive shower room (a for sure wow moment for travelers looking to work on their skincare and makeup routine before landing). To note: The first-class cabin crew takes shower bookings in 30-minute slots (20 minutes for guest use and 10 minutes for cleaning). 

And here’s another exciting detail: the apartments come in three unique design schemes. Picture this: one option features lighter hues, another is complemented by rich chocolate brown leather, while the third has captivating wall accents. It’s like stepping into a boutique hotel suite, where each room has its own distinct charm.

As of now, only four out of 10 Airbus A380s have resumed service, covering routes to London Heathrow and New York. But, expect more exciting features and new additions to come. “As we continue to develop our A380 operations, including exciting new destinations like Paris, our passengers can expect ongoing advancements in comfort, luxury and functionality,” says Dr. Basktaki. “These enhancements ensure that Etihad continues to lead in the aviation industry by delivering a sophisticated and personalized travel experience.” 

Why trust us

At Reader’s Digest, we’re committed to producing high-quality content by writers with expertise and experience in their field in consultation with relevant, qualified experts. We rely on reputable primary sources, including government and professional organizations and academic institutions as well as our writers’ personal experience where appropriate. For this piece on the Etihad Residence, Reader’s Digest spoke with DrNadia Bastaki, the chief of human resources, organizational development and asset management at Etihad Airways, and Aminah Taher, an Emirati airline marketing executive. We verify all facts and data, back them with credible sourcing, and revisit them over time to ensure they remain accurate and up to date. Read more about our team, our contributors and our editorial policies 

Sources:

  • Nadia Bastaki, MD, chief of human resources, organizational development and asset management at Etihad Airways; email interview, April 26, 2024 
  • Aminah Taher, Emirati airline marketing executive; in-person interview, April 22, 2024