All of the three-class A380s will seat 498, with two seats in “residence,” nine “apartments” (first class), 70 in business and 417 economy seats.
is equipping its fleet with a highly unusual first-class cabin and product offering beyond first class, but for now at least is not looking at ordering more of the largest commercial aircraft.
“We have an order for ten aircraft and options for five more,” Etihad CEO James Hogan said at the introduction of its new onboard product in Abu Dhabi. Beyond that the airline has made the “strategic decision” to focus on large twin-engined long haul aircraft such as theand the .
Etihad plans to take delivery of its first A380 in December, which is also when the first of its 41-9s arrives. The Abu Dhabi-based airline plans to introduce five more A380s in 2015, three in 2016 and two in 2017. Its first A380 route will be between Abu Dhabi and London-Heathrow, but New York, Paris, Melbourne and Sydney are also being added to the initial network in the months to follow.
All of the A380s will be in a three class configuration seating 498, which is at the lower end of the seating configurations typical for the aircraft. There will be two seats in “residence," nine “apartments” (first class), 70 in business and 417 seats in economy.
Part of the 787-9 fleet will be in a two-class configuration. Of the 40 -9s, 20 will have a first class cabin. The airline has 41 -9s and 30 -10s on firm order.
According to Hogan, the 787s will initially fly to Dusseldorf, Washington and Mumbai, but ultimately the network will incorporate 40 destinations, most of which are in Europe and Asia.
“The profitability ratio (for the 787) will be far greater than the,” Hogan pointed out.
Etihad will be the second airline to offer showers on board the A380, a concept that has been introduced by its rival Emirates. There will be one shower available for the nine first class passengers, but the real innovation is the “residence." It is located to the left and aft of the front staircase and consists of three rooms: A living room certified for two passengers during take-off and landing, a bathroom with a shower, and the bedroom in the very front of the upper deck. The bedroom does not have windows. Other A380 operators have used the room next to the staircase for showers (Emirates) or for small lounge areas (, ). By creating the “residence” (125 square feet), Etihad is not giving up revenue space.
According to Chief Commercial Officer Peter Baumgartner, “residence” is going to be about three times as expensive as regular first class. A flight from Abu Dhabi to London would be around $20,000 one-way, but it can be used for two passengers. Etihad is targeting high net worth individuals who would otherwise use a private jet for long haul travel.
The “apartment” concept for the regular first class differs greatly from industry standards. Passengers will have a seat and a separate foldable bed, which is facing inboard at a 90 degree angle. Therefore the airline is turning the front part of the A380 upper deck into a single aisle cabin with sliding doors to the left and right giving access to the compartments. A divider between the compartments can be opened for couples travelling together.
Like other carriers, Etihad is offering a lounge area on the upper deck. It is situated between the first and business class cabins. Hogan expects it to be mainly used by business class passengers. The business class cabin is to feature wider seats, partly front and some rearward facing.
Etihad will have its entire fleet wifi-equipped by February 2015.
Hogan insists that “we do make money in first class.” The Etihad CEO said the cabin is essentially sold out during the peak travel season, justifying the investment in an upgraded product. The airline’s 787 will be the first aircraft with a curved aisle to be certified. The curvature lets the airline allocate 10% more space to the first class compartments.