The bar for premium airline service has been raised with Etihad Airways' announcement that the Abu Dhabi airline will offer a “Residence.”
The Residence, on the upper-deck forward cabin of its Airbus A380 aircraft, comes complete with butler, double bedroom, living room and en suite shower.
Staking claim to flying the first “boutique hotel” in the air, its A380s will also feature nine “First Apartments” to replace its current First Class Suites. The new private suites will feature a full-length bed, mini-bar, vanity and wardrobe.
A variation of the First Apartment will be on Etihad's Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
Other cabins have been renamed and enhanced as well. Business class has been dubbed the Business Studio; those in the back of the plane will fly Economy Smart Seat.
Both cabins will feature Panasonic eX3 entertainment systems with 750 hours of on-demand entertainment, gaming and high-definition screens. Noise canceling headsets will be provided to all passengers.
The A380 aircraft will have full mobile and WiFi service, while the 787 will be equipped with WiFi.
Etihad CEO James Hogan said the new configurations “will deliver the most advanced airline cabins in the industry, while meeting all weight, range and cost targets at our desired seat count.”
The Residence has been certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency for single or double occupancy, the company said.
Etihad's announcement is the culmination of a 6-year initiative that brought together three design firms (Acumen, Factorydesign and Honour Branding) as well as a “co-creation” agency (Promise Communispace), with a mandate to understand and develop the “perfect airline.”
Etihad said a new interior aesthetic embraces "Arabian Modernism," which combines the traditions of the region with contemporary design.
Each Etihad A380 will offer versions of the Residence with different color palettes, table marquetry and custom carpets.
Onboard butlers will have received “specialist training” at the Savoy Butler Academy in London.
Residence passengers will further have a “dedicated VIP Travel Concierge team who will ensure every detail of their travel experience — including ground transport, cuisine and amenities — are tailored to their requirements,” Etihad said.
On the 787, eight First Suites will be deployed in a 1-2-1 configuration along a curved aisle, which the airline says is a first in commercial aviation.
Business Studios on both aircraft types will provide 20% more personal space than the airline’s current business class seat in a 1-2-1 configuration in a forward and aft "dovetail" design. All will have aisle access, and the seat converts into a fully flat bed of up to 80.5 inches.
On the Airbus A380, all premium-class passengers will have access to the Lobby, a serviced lounge and bar area located between the first and business cabins. It includes a semicircular leather sofa, a marquetry table and a large TV screen.
The Economy Smart Seat will offer an ergonomic fixed-wing headrest and a lumbar support feature.
The boarding process will be “transformed, making it more akin to stepping into the lobby of a boutique hotel,” the airline said.
Galley equipment will be concealed behind custom Arabic fretwork screens and blinds, while the trolleys will be covered by wood-finish doors.
Premium class boarding areas will exhibit artwork and artifacts from United Arab Emirates cultural institutions. Also, items from the duty free catalog will be displayed.
The aircraft will feature prayer areas, which can be curtained off, and are equipped with a real-time electronic Qibla-finder showing the exact direction of Mecca based on the aircraft’s geographical position.
The airline said it will also update its dining equipment, amenities and soft furnishings across its entire fleet.
No date was provided for when the fleet enhancements will be available.
Follow Arnie Weissmann on Twitter @awtravelweekly.