Etihad Airways has finally launched its N4 million (£14,000) ‘penthouse in the sky’ , The Residence, by flying a Miami-based businessman and aviation enthusiast , Gino Bertuccio, as the first passenger to fly in the private three-room cabin that has been dubbed the world’s most exclusive, and expensive airline seat. It costs £14,000 for a one-way flight for one or two people.
After several months of expectation, Etihad Airways’ Airbus A380 superjumbo jet made its inaugural commercial flight from London Heathrow Airport to Abu Dhabi on Saturday, December 27th 2014. It was the first time the double-decker aircraft carried passengers on the seven-hour journey between the UK and United Arab Emirates. The A380 superjumbo jet Flight EY12 departed London Heathrow at 9:15am with a full complement of 498 passengers (two in The Residence, nine in first class, 70 in business and 417 in economy classes).
Located on the A380’s forward upper deck, The Residence, is an ultra-luxurious suite that consists of a living room, separate en-suite shower room and bedroom with a double bed. It is the first of its kind and it is the only private cabin to come with a dedicated Savoy-trained butler.
Etihad is using The Residence to entice wealthy travellers, especially those who would normally opt for a private jet. The airline says the 125-square-foot penthouse has many of the amenities associated with a private plane at ‘barely a tenth of the cost’ for the same journey. Etihad’s A380 also has private first-class compartments with a reclining lounge seat and full-length bed, chilled mini-bar, personal vanity and wardrobe. In June it will add the A380 to its Abu Dhabi-Sydney route.
Also for its inaugural flight, the Airbus had on board Georgina Henderson, from Merseyside, who is the world’s first in-flight butler. She has been working for Etihad for four years and was part of a group of 13 employees who were selected to train for three weeks at the Savoy Academy. The 28-year-old, who has a degree in broadcast journalism, was previously a food and beverage manager on Etihad’s long-haul fleet and once worked at BBC Radio Merseyside in Liverpool.
Furthermore, Etihad’s VIP concierge team took care of all of Bertuccio’s needs, including limousine transfers and custom menu planning. “There were many firsts on this inaugural flight, new amenities, services and other innovations to try,” says Etihad’s manager.
‘Flying in The Residence by Etihad was a truly unique adventure, the top of luxury. My only wish was that the flight was longer,’ says Bertuccio.
Bertuccio runs Ligi Import Corp, an Italian cosmetic retailer, and has been passionate about flying since he was a child. He is an avid collector of airline memorabilia with nearly 2,000 model aircraft and albums filled with boarding passes and photos from past flights, and he has travelled on 22 inaugural and final flights in premium class cabins in the last 25 years.