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Etihad’s flagship Airbus A380 — and the exclusive Residence — is officially back in the US

Etihad Airways’ superjumbo — and the most exclusive cabin in commercial aviation — is once again flying to the U.S.

On Monday, the Abu Dhabi-based carrier resumed Airbus A380 service to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). Etihad Flight 1 landed at JFK a bit behind schedule at 9:59 a.m., marking a major milestone for the airline as it charts a new path ahead from the depths of the pandemic.


“Etihad made me feel very welcome, just like I was flying in the Residence 10 years ago,” said Gino Bertuccio, the passenger who splurged over $10,000 to sit in Etihad’s Residence on the (re)inaugural flight Monday.

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(Bertuccio is no stranger to flying in the Residence. He’s flown it six times, including on Etihad’s Airbus A380 inaugural back in 2014. In total, he says he’s flown on an A380 a whopping total of 116 times.)


Bertuccio and his entourage, which included the prolific Lays Laraya (known on social media as @freakwentflyer), were welcomed by a handful of members of the media at Etihad’s recently reopened JFK lounge (which debuted in partnership with Chase).

Included in the manifest of passengers who had just arrived from Abu Dhabi were airline CEO Antonoaldo Neves and Dr. Nadia Bastaki, the carrier’s chief human resources, organizational development and asset management officer.


“This is a major moment for Etihad,” said Bastaki, about the return of the A380.

When the pandemic hit, Etihad sent its fleet of 10 Airbus A380s into long-term storageSome aviation observers thought these planes would be permanently retired, but the airline brought them back last summer for service to London.

It was only a matter of time before they would come back to New York, Bastaki explained, given the city’s prominence as one of the key gateways in Etihad’s network of over 70 destinations.


Now, just over four years since the outset of the pandemic, Etihad has four A380s in the skies, with three more on their way back into service. They’re flying once daily to New York, as well as two times a day to London. (The carrier was mum about where the A380 would fly to next, but another destination is expected to be announced soon.)

In New York, Etihad is now flying the A380 with the following schedule:

  • Flight 2 from New York to Abu Dhabi: Departs at 2:30 p.m. and arrives at 11:30 a.m. the next day
  • Flight 1 from Abu Dhabi to New York: Departs at 2:55 a.m. and arrives at 9:15 a.m.

(The airline will continue flying a second daily frequency to New York on board the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.)

The double-decker A380 doesn’t just represent a massive capacity increase on one of Etihad’s key routes, but it also brings a jumbo upgrade to the passenger experience for flyers in all cabins, especially those with the deepest pockets.


That’s because Etihad A380s feature the so-called Residence product, which is essentially a three-room private cabin at the front of the first-class section.


The Residence is the most exclusive cabin in commercial aviation, and it offers up to two passengers an extra-spacious suite, a private bedroom and a private lavatory with a shower. No other product — not even Emirates’ game-changer first class — comes close to offering as much privacy and space as Etihad’s Residence.


Before the pandemic, Etihad curated an elevated experience for those who dropped tens of thousands of dollars to fly in the Residence. This included a private lounge in Abu Dhabi, a special onboard menu adapted to your dietary preferences and restrictions, and a personal butler dedicated to serving you.


But nowadays, the airline has largely scaled back much of the Residence’s “soft product.” While the physical suite remains, the ground and onboard service largely resemble what passengers should expect in first class.


That said, to celebrate the return of Etihad’s A380 to New York, Bertuccio received very special service, including a custom embroidered Armani pillow case, pajamas and even lifetime Platinum elite membership in the carrier’s Etihad Guest loyalty program.

(Before you think Etihad may roll out the same red carpet for you, Bertuccio’s lifetime value to Etihad is pretty astounding. He was flying the Residence right back to Abu Dhabi on the first eastbound A380 flight from New York since 2020.)

Instead of selling the Residence as a separate cabin like it did when the product was first unveiled, the carrier has instead moved to a model whereby any first-class passenger can upgrade to the Residence by paying a (pricey) seat assignment fee.


Standard one-way Residence upgrade prices on the New York route are $4,520 per person — on top of the cost of a first-class ticket. This is certainly cheaper than the $30,000 this flight would’ve cost in 2014, but it still maintains the exclusivity of the product for the rich and famous.

Personally, I’ve never flown in the Residence, but I got to tour it once again on the ground in New York. The amount of personal space is simply unrivaled — it’s bigger than some studio apartments in Manhattan.

The good news is that even for those who don’t splurge for the Residence, the return of the A380 brings a noteworthy upgrade to the passenger experience. The A380 features nine “Apartments,” Etihad’s best first-class product.


These Apartments also offer plenty of personal space, including a reclining chair and a separate bed. Two Apartments can even be combined into a double suite.

In business class, travelers can enjoy one of the 70 lie-flat “Studio” pods. Seats alternate between forward- and rear-facing, with a handful of different configuration options depending on your travel style and preference. (Personally, I’d choose a forward-facing window suite if I were flying solo on Etihad’s A380.)

The jumbo jet even features an onboard bar, dubbed “The Lobby,” where first- and business-class passengers can relax during the 14-hour flight.

The A380 also features 415 economy-class seats. Etihad doesn’t offer a premium economy cabin.

Given the arrival delay, I didn’t get a chance to tour the economy cabin, but after all, the real highlight is what’s sitting above, on the upper deck.


The world’s most exclusive cabin in commercial aviation is back in the U.S., and it indeed marks a major milestone for Etihad’s network.