Since being established by Royal decree in July 2003 and taking flight that November, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has extended its route network to over 100 destinations generating $5 billion in annual revenue.
While the airline has always pushed the upper edges of premium commercial airline offerings with real inflight chefs, sky nannies to look after the little ones, a la carte menus in First Class and top line seating or ‘suites’ in First and Business Class, today the airline took the industry back 64 years to the era of Pan Am’s Flying Boats featuring private staterooms.
In a battle for premium passengers, airlines have been upgrading their offerings, particularly for first class in the past decade.
Neighboring Emirates Airlines created a buzz several years ago with showers for First Class passengers on its A380s and before that started the trend to first class thrones that are fully enclosed by a door. In airline lingo, these became ‘suites’ and today it is a fairly standard offering for long-haul first class. Lufthansa pioneered its separate First Class Terminal at Frankfurt with private car transfers to the plane for First Class and HON VIP passengers. Air France created a similar VIP experience at its Paris CDG hub bringing in Alain Ducasse and the Plaza Athenee to create a special gourmet flair. Singapore Airlines built on the Emirates suites concept with an expanded version of the first class ‘suite’ concept and launched a separate lounge The Private Room only for first class passengers, keeping the frequent flier titanium card riff raff out. Korean Air on its 380s added several bar areas featuring lounge seats and even a Duty Free store.
The Boeing 314s, which Pan Am used to fly to Asia, Europe and South America in the !930s and ’40s, had several private cabins, not just seats or sleeping beds curtained off. Today’s versions of airline ‘suites’ are more accurately a lounge chair that converts to a bed and has half height privacy dividers of some kind.
Below is what Etihad announced today:
· A380 will debut The Residence by Etihad™ – the only three-room cabin in the sky
· New contemporary living spaces on A380 and B787 to transform air travel
· First Apartment, First Suites, Business Studio, and Economy Smart Seat to debut
The new product and service offering on its Airbus A380 and Boeing B787 Dreamliner aircraft, including The Residence by Etihad™, the world’s most luxurious living space in the air, available only on the airline’s A380 aircraft.
The Residence will be the new forward upper-deck cabin on the A380. Accommodating single or double occupancy, it features a living room, separate double bedroom and ensuite shower room. Guests in The Residence will also have a personal Butler.
With the launch of these new fleets, the Abu Dhabi-based airline will also rename its cabin classes.
The A380 will feature the back-to-the-future First Apartments, which are fully private suites with a separate reclining lounge seat and full-length bed, as well as a chilled mini-bar, personal vanity unit and wardrobe.
Etihad Airways has allocated the upper deck of the A380 to its premium cabins.
On the B787, Etihad Airways has designed an enhanced First Suite, adding many new features including a chilled mini-bar.
The Business Studio and Economy Smart Seat will feature on both the A380 and the B787.
Etihad Airways is introducing the latest Panasonic eX3 entertainment system across both fleets, providing more than 750 hours of on-demand entertainment, improved gaming and high definition screens across all cabins.
The system has video touchscreen handsets, offering an additional screen for guests to maximize their entertainment, so they can play games or view the moving map while watching a movie.
Noise cancelling headsets are provided across all cabins, with built-in magnetic audio jacks to ensure the best sound quality.
The A380 aircraft will have full mobile and Wi-Fi service while the B787 will be equipped with Wi-Fi.
Unveiled today, the new cabins and service offering follow the airline’s pledge to transform air travel and make every guest journey a remarkable one.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “These new living spaces will raise inflight product and service standards to their highest level yet in commercial aviation and alter air travellers’ expectations of inflight comfort and luxury forever.
In 2008, recognizing that no single design agency could deliver its vision for the new cabins, Etihad Airways established the Etihad Design Consortium (EDC) which brought together three leading design companies, Acumen, Factorydesign and Honour Branding to develop innovative cabin and seat designs for the new fleets.
The EDC collaborated with Promise Communispace, a leading co-creation agency, to launch comprehensive consumer research and workshops in Abu Dhabi, Sydney, London and New York, with the goal of understanding what makes a ‘perfect flight’ and asking consumers to help design the perfect airline.
Eighty per cent of the new product offering is a direct result of the feedback and information garnered from these workshops.
The Residence by Etihad™
The Residence, which is certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for single or double occupancy, offers levels of luxury and total privacy normally found only on private jets.
Each Etihad Airways A380 will offer a boutique version of The Residence with different color palettes, table marquetry and custom carpets.
Guests in The Residence will have the services of a personal Butler throughout their flight. These fully trained service professionals will receive specialist training at the Savoy Butler Academy in London.
Guests in The Residence will also 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.
Nine First Apartments will be installed on the upper deck of the A380 in a 1-1 configuration creating the only single aisle First Class cabin in the industry.
Each First Apartment, which has a 64 inch high sliding door, includes a reclining armchair and a full-length ottoman, both upholstered by Poltrona Frau. The ottoman transforms into a separate 80 inch long fully flatbed.
The First Apartment, which also includes unique features such as a chilled mini-bar, a personal vanity unit and a swiveling TV monitor for viewing from either the seat or the bed, has a 74 per cent larger footprint than the airline’s current award-winning First Class Suites.
A fully equipped shower room is available on the A380 for exclusive use by First Class guests.
On the B787, Etihad Airways has designed an enhanced First Suite with many new features. The eight First Suites in a 1-2-1 configuration along a unique curved aisle, another first in commercial aviation.
Each completely private First Suite has a large seat and ottoman, both upholstered by Poltrona Frau, which converts into an 80.5 inch long full-flat bed.
On the centre seats, the armrests retract and the suites can be joined to create a ‘double’ bed. Other features include a chilled mini-bar and a 24 inch TV monitor.
On both the A380 and the B787, Etihad Airways will launch its new Business Studios which provide 20 per cent more personal space than the airline’s current business class seat.
Configured 1-2-1 in a forward and aft ‘dovetail’, the Business Studios all have aisle access and the seat converts into a fully flat bed of up to 80.5 inches long.
With its privacy, ample storage and surface space, the Business Studio has been designed with the diverse needs of the premium business or leisure traveller firmly in mind.
On the Airbus A380, First and Business Class guests will be able to relax in The Lobby which is a serviced lounge and bar area located between the First and Business cabins.
Providing a semi-circular leather sofa, a marquetry table and a large TV screen, The Lobby is designed for relaxing and socialising.
The TV has a USB connection so it can be used for sharing content or it can also be set to the airline’s Live TV channels for sporting and other events.