Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has redefined luxury air travel even further following the unveiling of its new first class cabin suite at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai.
The new first class cabin contains 12 individual suites, which have been designed to provide first class customers with more privacy, greater comfort and increased storage.
The highlight of the US $70 million (Dh 257 million) first class revamp is an extra-large seat that extends to a fully-flat bed, 80.5 inches in length, which is equipped with built-in massager, lumbar support and adjustable headrest, as well as power sockets for a laptop, iPod and other electronic devices.
Each private suite is accessed by its own sliding door and includes a personal wardrobe and mini bar, as well as 23" wide-screen LCD screen which features more than 600 hours of ‘on demand’ entertainment. Spacious stowage compartments are built into and around the seat.
Meals are served on an extra large wood finished table. Furthermore, a middle seat divider can be lowered to allow a dining space for up to four people.
The first class cabin also features a large and luxurious changing room with a full length mirror, new style wash basin and leather fold-down seat to allow passengers to freshen up and change after take-off and prior to landing.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ chief executive, said: "Competition for premium customers remains intense and during the last 12 months a number of airlines have unveiled significant enhancements to their first class cabins, with others deciding to remove the cabin completely from their aircraft.
“A downturn is exactly the time when an airline needs to demonstrate its commitment to the very highest standards of service excellence. The economic turbulence that the aviation industry is currently experiencing will give way to calmer times, and when it does our investment and product innovation will ensure that we have not simply remained competitive, but that we are the market leader.
“With this in mind, we feel the time is right for us to raise the bar and we believe that our new first class cabin, together with the enhancements we have already made to our first class service, re-establishes our position as market leader in terms of luxury air travel.”
Etihad Airways’ chairman His Highness Dr Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif Al Nahyan, added: “Etihad Airways has always built its success on the back of a strong confidence in Abu Dhabi and its future. Our investment demonstrates our continued commitment to the customer and to provide the very highest standards of service excellence.”
The new first class cabin has been developed following extensive global customer research, including input from many of Etihad’s most frequent flyers. The cabin interior was created by craftsmen from some of the world’s top designers, including luxury leather upholstered by world-renowned Poltrona Frau, which also provides interiors for Ferrari cars. The new-look first class also includes new luxurious soft furnishings and designer amenity kits.
Mr Hogan added: “Our first class customers will experience a luxury never found before on any commercial aircraft. Recent global awards, such as Skytrax, show that Etihad’s business class cabin is considered by air travellers to be the best in the world and our target now is to ensure our first class cabin is also acknowledged to be the new benchmark in luxury air travel.”
The first aircraft with the new first class cabin – a brand new Airbus A340-600 – is due to enter service at the end of August 2009. The full roll-out of the new first class suites in the airline’s fleet is expected to be completed by the end of 2010. The new suite marks the culmination in a series of enhancements which Etihad Airways has made during the last 18 months to its first class service.
During this time, the airline has progressively introduced a new in-flight service style on the ground and in the air, which seeks to provide both its first and business class customers with service individually tailored to their needs.
In the air, Etihad Airways has introduced a new cabin crew position called the food and beverage manager. These new managers, most of whom have joined the airline from five-star hospitality backgrounds, are responsible for championing the quality, presentation and delivery of food and beverages on board to ensure consistent high standards. First and business class customers can dine on demand anytime from an a la carte fine dining menu or opt for kitchen style snacks.
On the ground, first and business class customers flying from Etihad Airways’ home base at Abu Dhabi airport can take advantage of a dedicated concierge service, which ensures that their complimentary limousine service is met kerb-side and they are then escorted quickly inside to the airline’s dedicated premium check-in zone.
The airline has also opened dedicated first and business class lounges at both Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 at Abu Dhabi airport, where customers can enjoy a range of services including all-day fine dining, boardroom–style meeting facilities, Six Senses Spa treatments, a champagne bar and even a cigar room.
Etihad is also upgrading its business and economy class cabins, including improvements to the seats and the on-demand in-flight entertainment system.