By Neil Halligan
Flights on the new superjumbo will cost $20,000 each when the Airbus aircraft starts services from Abu Dhabi in December
The first ten flights of the Residence by Etihad, the Abu Dhabi carrier's new first class service on it's A380 aircraft, have been completely sold out, according to the airline’s CEO, James Hogan.
“The first ten Residence flights are already sold out, and that’s $20,000 each from Abu Dhabi to London,” Hogan told delegates at the Arabian Business Forum in Dubai.
In September, Hogan said he remained “bullish” over the airline’s latest when it launches in December.
The Abu Dhabi-based carried launched ‘The Residence by Etihad’ in May this year. Located on the upper deck of the Airbus superjumbo, The Residence accommodates up to two people and are described as “the world’s most luxurious living space in the air”.
The Residence will include a living room, separate double bedroom and ensuite shower room and use of a personal butler trained by the Savoy Butler Academy in London.
The upper deck will also include the First Apartments, which are private suites with a separate reclining lounge seat and full-length bed, as well as a chilled mini-bar, personal vanity unit and wardrobe.
Speaking at launch of Etihad’s new livery at Airbus’ Finkenwerder facility in Hamburg, Hogan said that he believes there is a demand for the airline’s new luxury offering.
“Yes, there is a market for The Residence otherwise we wouldn’t have invested,” said Hogan.
“When people are flying from Abu Dhabi to New York – 15-17 hours – we’ve created The Residence as a private jet. That was the concept.
“So you can in fact charter out the whole top cabin of The Residence and The Apartments. We can close it off, for a government minister or a government delegation – you know the region, there’s a lot of high net worth individuals, so when we calculated the cost of a private jet to London at $60,000 to $80,000, and you can get it [from us] for $20,000, we think we’ve got a better product. There’s no fuel stop, [there’s] a butler, great service and convenience in regard to the crews,” he added.
Hogan said the amount of high net worth individuals in the region gave the airline confidence in the long-term future of the luxury offering.
“We’re very bullish and we are already seeing it in the sales. We’re not expecting every flight to go full.
“We felt innovation, and [we felt] creating a product that people who travel in the private jet market will aspire to, and in fact get a better deal and better service, was a great opportunity.”
“People use private jets because they have a certain need, but from the Gulf there is are strong traffic flows to the UK and New York. They are there today, so we believe there is a segment.
“I can’t tell you who, but you would be surprised the amount of VIP Australians that now fly through Abu Dhabi, clear US Customs clearance and fly to New York and Washington, and they are high net worth individuals. So when you’ve got a specific routing it works,” he said.
New air bridges are being installed at Abu Dhabi airport in preparation for the arrival of the A380s, starting in December.
Fabrice Bregier, the president and chief executive officer of Airbus, said his company will deliver on time.
“It’s not just a level of confidence, this is a commitment. Clearly when you innovate you take risks and with The Residence there are some risks that are progressively behind us. We are extremely confident we will deliver. It’s not an option for us, we have to make it and we will make it,” said Bregier.
Etihad Airways’ first Airbus A380 will operate on flights between Abu Dhabi and London Heathrow from 27 December 2014. The two subsequent deliveries of the A380 in early 2015 will also service the route, making it a triple daily A380 operation.
Later in 2015, A380s will operate to Sydney and New York as Etihad Airways receives its fourth and fifth aircraft.