Etihad's mammoth Airbus A380 has returned to the US after nearly retiring. Take a look at its exclusive $24,000 'The Residence' first-class suite.

Etihad's mammoth Airbus A380 has returned to the US after nearly retiring. Take a look at its exclusive $24,000 'The Residence' first-class suite.

Eithad Airways' popular Airbus A380 has returned to the US after the pandemic nearly forced it into retirement.

On Monday, the mammoth plane took off from Abu Dhabi's Zayed International Airport at about 3:20 a.m. local time and landed at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport more than 14 hours later, just after 10 a.m. ET.

This is the first time Etihad's quad jet fleet has flown the route since 2020 and represents its official re-entry into the US market after four years. The superjumbo also flies between Abu Dhabi and London.

According to Etihad, the A380 will boost capacity between the two metropolitan cities as it takes over one of the two flights presently serving New York-JFK — the second operated by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

"Our North American portfolio has continued to exceed expectations with the second daily JFK flight introduced last year performing well," Etihad CRO Arik De told Business Insider in December when the route was first announced.

With its return, deep-pocket US travelers once again have access to the A380's crown jewel: The Residence.

Take a look at what up to $50,000 gets you on a roundtrip flight between New York and Abu Dhabi in Etihad's one-of-a-kind first-class suite.

Exclusively installed on its mammoth A380, The Residence is the world's only three-room suite on a passenger plane.

An Etihad Airways A380 flying over New York.
An Etihad Airways A380 over New York.Etihad Airways

The entire suite can accommodate up to two passengers and is located on the second level of the superjumbo.

Other carriers like Singapore Airlines offer first-class cabins with a separate bed, but Etihad takes luxury to a new level.

According to De, the Residence is only available by upgrading a first class ticket. Fares were priced at over $20,000 one-way pre-pandemic.

A screenshot showing the $24,000 price tag for The Residence in May 2024.
A screenshot showing the $24,000 price tag for The Residence in May 2024. Fares vary greatly depending on season and route.Etihad Airways

When booking on Etihad's website in December for a flight between New York and Abu Dhabi in mid-May, its first-class apartments were priced between roughly $9,000 and $10,000 each way, with another $3,000 per leg on top for the Residence, totaling about $24,000.

Looking again on Monday, it appears the Residence is already booked up on most days for May, as it cannot be added to first-class bookings.

Demand for The Residence is booming — helping make Etihad's A380 an 'overall commercially profitable venture in New York.'

Etihad Airways' the residence robe and bedroom.
The Residence' lavatory sits between the living room and the bedroom.Marwan Naamani/Getty Images

"We had our first bookings within minutes of the announcement that the A380 was coming to New York," De told BI. "It's a famous experience, and there are plenty of people out there who want to sample it, either as a dream one-off or as part of their overall travel mix."

The first space in The Residence is the livingroom with a giant flatscreen television and a multi-person couch.

The living room with brown couch and gold pillow.
The living room onboard one of Etihad's A380.Etihad Airways via Getty Images

The living room has a sliding door to ensure full privacy from the rest of the aircraft.

The space is designed to accommodate up to two people.

Here, travelers can eat, work, or watch movies.

Etihad Airbus A380 40
The living room on an Etihad A380 "The Residence" cabin.Hollis Johnson

A dedicated cabin crew team serves The Residence passengers. They will set up the dining table and serve meals, as well as prep the space for sleeping.

Passengers will be served luxury meals, including things like caviar, steak, champagne, and wine.

Etihad Airways
A butler used to serve The Residence passengers, though an interview with Etihad's CEO revealed they would not return.Etihad Airways

However, the butler service formerly offered in The Residence will not return, aviation journalist Andreas Spaeth said on X in mid-November after an interview with Etihad CEO Antonoaldo Neves.

Etihad confirmed to BI that a butler would not be onboard.

Down the hall from the living room is The Residence's private bathroom, complete with a shower.

The Residence shower.
The Residence bathroom with a shower.Etihad Airways via Getty Images

"[The Residence] is a great experience for everyone, whether they are flying for business or pleasure or both," De told BI. "Flights between Abu Dhabi and New York are over 13 hours long, and people flying for business want to arrive refreshed and relaxed."

Monday's flight took a northern route across Russia, putting the trek at more than 14 hours, according to FlightAware.

Showers are rare onboard airliners because the water adds extra weight, with Emirates as the only other carrier offering one.

Emirates First Class Shower Spa
Emirates' first class shower spa.Emirates

Like Etihad, Emirates has a first class suite complete with a shower spa. The rival UAE carrier is so loyal to its A380 that it recently announced a $1.5 billion investment to keep them flying.

The last room of The Residence is the bedroom.

Etihad Airways The Residence bedroom.
The Residence's bedroom.Etihad Airways via Getty Images

The double bed is another rarity onboard commercial jetliners.

Qatar Airways famously flies a double bed in its QSuite business class, voted the best in the world by Skytrax last year.

Considered one of the most luxurious airline offerings in the sky, travelers were worried when Etihad's A380 nearly retired.

Etihad Airways
The lounge and bar space on the A380's upper deck can be accessed by first and business class passengers.Etihad Airways

The A380's poor economics and fuel-hungry quad-engines make it an expensive jet to fly, and many carriers have ditched it for more efficient twinjets like the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350.

Fortunately, the surge in demand for air travel in 2022 prompted Etihad to add it back to the fleet.

Etihad Airbus A380 1
An Etihad Airbus A380.Hollis Johnson

"We are entering a new phase of sustainable growth to meet the demands of our customers, and the A380 is the right aircraft to meet capacity demands on very select routes," De told BI. "We brought it back on our London services earlier this year, and saw tremendous commercial success, with guests loving the experience."

Etihad's new A380 route will be the second in its network following the return to London in July 2023.

Etihad Airbus A380 4
Hollis Johnson

According to Cirium data, Etihad has been flying three of its A380s between Abu Dhabi and London as of October, but one was plucked to serve the New York-JFK route.

De told BI that Etihad has a total of four planes in service and, in the short term, "will deploy them where it makes the most sense."

De told BI that the decision to add the A380 to NYC came after the second frequency proved commercially successful.

Etihad Airbus A380 26
Etihad's Airbus A380 business class.Hollis Johnson

"Given the commercial performance, and the popularity of the aircraft with our guests, we feel now is the right time to bring the A380 on to our service to New York," he said.

Although some of its A380s are flying again, six of Etihad's 10 superjumbos are still parked but remain 'in reserve.'

Etihad Airways A380 JFK Flags
An Etihad A380 flies to the US.Etihad

The six jets are sitting in airports across France and Spain, according to Planespotters.

"We are focused on sustainable expansion going forward, and having the option of drawing on our A380 fleet is an element of that," De told BI, noting Etihad plans to double its fleet size to 150 planes and carry 33 million passengers by 2030. "We will make sure we choose the right aircraft to achieve that, and the A380s will be part of that mix for a while."

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