The $20,000 ‘Residence’ suite on Etihad Airways PJSC’s first Airbus Group NV A380 superjumbo, featuring three rooms and a dedicated butler, is already sold out for the first 10 flights, the Gulf carrier said.
Bookings for the ultra-luxurious cabin boasting a double bed, living area and shower cublicle are running far ahead of the usual 50 percent reservation rate for first-class berths, Etihad Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said today in Dubai.
“We’ve been quite happy with the takeup,” Hogan said at a industry conference. “There’s a market there.”
Etihad’s initial A380 will fly between the No. 3 Gulf carrier’s Abu Dhabi base and London from Dec. 27. Hogan is betting the industry’s most luxurious inflight product will help lure top-paying travelers from local rivals Emirates of Dubai, the top superjumbo operator, and Qatar Airways, which introduced the model last month, as well as global operators such as Singapore Airlines Ltd., which pioneered the plane in 2007.
Etihad has 10 A380s on firm order and also plans to deploy aircraft two and three on the London route, which will become an all-superjumbo service with three daily flights. The model will also serve Sydney and New York later in 2015.
Emirates is working on a first-class upgrade, while Qatar Airways has limited the offering — which it says includes the industry’s widest seat — to its A380s and Boeing Co. 787s.
Hogan said that Gulf carriers are finding expansion plans under threat from regulators in Europe and the U.S., even where bilateral accords should permit great competition through additional services and cooperation with local partners.
“What we are seeing is huge pressure from the U.S. and Europe challenging the air service agreements of the Gulf airlines,” he said. “That protectionism, we argue, certainly constrains global development and restricts choice.”
A dispute with German authorities over a code-share agreement between flight Etihad and Air Berlin Plc, in which the Middle Eastern carrier owns a minority holding, is “all about protecting” Deutsche Lufthansa AG, he said.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr, who took over in May, has cited competition from Gulf airlines as his biggest challenge, saying that while the company “can handle” discount operators such as Ryanair Holdings Plc that are on a level playing field, “with the Gulf carriers it’s different.”
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