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Etihad Airways welcomes first Airbus A380 to London Heathrow

Etihad Airways’ Airbus A380 takes to the skies for the first time

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has successfully launched its first Airbus A380 service – bringing the largest ever passenger plane to the world’s leading airline.

The inaugural journey saw the first Airbus A380 in the Etihad fleet leave Abu Dhabi International Airport on route for London Heathrow Airport.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the departure gate as part of the festivities, attended on behalf of Etihad Airways by Richard Hill, chief operations officer, Chris Youlten, senior vice president network operations, Jeff Wilkinson, senior vice president technical, Calum Laming, vice president guest experience, and Aubrey Tiedt, vice president guest services.

The event, which took place before Flight EY11 took-off to London Heathrow at 02.35 on Saturday December 27th was also attended by Ahmad Al Haddabi, Abu Dhabi Airports chief operations officer.

Special gift packs were handed to guests on the inaugural flight, containing luggage tags, passport holders, commemorative A380 certificates and complimentary Wi-Fi vouchers.

In addition to being Etihad Airways’ first A380 service, the flight marked the debut of the airline’s new First Apartments, Business Studios and Economy Smart Seats, together with The Residence by Etihad – a three room suite with living room, bathroom and bedroom.

It was also the first flight to operate with Etihad Airways’ ‘Facets of Abu Dhabi’ livery.

A ribbon cutting ceremony for Etihad Airways’ inaugural A380 flight with Ahmad Al Haddabi, chief operations officer of Abu Dhabi Airports (centre), and from Etihad Airways (L-R), Chris Youlten, senior vice president network operations, Aubrey Tiedt, vice president guest services, Richard Hill, chief operations officer, Jeff Wilkinson, senior vice president technical, and Calum Laming, vice president guest experience

The first double decker aircraft will operate on route EY11, one of the three daily London Heathrow services, departing at 02.35 each day and arriving at the world’s busiest airport at 06.35.

By August 2015, every Etihad Airways flight between Abu Dhabi and London will be an A380 service.

James Hogan, president and chief executive officer of Etihad Airways, said: “The response from air travellers to our new A380, particularly The Residence by Etihad penthouse suite, has been incredible and we’re delighted to introduce the aircraft into commercial service.

“This last week has seen the successful final testing and preparations for the inaugural historic flight to London Heathrow and we look forward to welcoming guests onto the A380 aircraft at Abu Dhabi Airport.”

The Residence by Etihad is a three room suite – with living room, bathroom and bedroom – that offers a level of luxury and privacy normally associated with private jet travel.

Located in the forward upper section of the A380 The Residence by Etihad offers guests a personal Butler who, for the inaugural flight, will be British national, Georgina Henderson.

Georgina and other Etihad Airways Butlers have all received specialist training at the Savoy Butler Academy in London prior to the launch of the A380.

Aubrey Tiedt, vice president of guest services at Etihad Airways, said: “The butlers on board our new Airbus A380 services will play a vital role in the ongoing success of the Residence.

“We have introduced a product that doesn’t currently exist in the marketplace as we believe that the guests who will be attracted are looking for something special and for the level of customer service we are providing on board.

“Our butlers have received the best training in the world and are to be based on one of the best aircraft on the market, and from the positive sales performance we’ve seen already, we know it is a welcome addition to those guests who are looking to travel in style.”

The Residence is the ultimate in aviation luxury

The inaugural flight in The Residence by Etihad was booked by Miami-based businessman and aviation enthusiast, Gino Bertuccio.

Bertuccio, who booked the inaugural flight on, has been passionate about flying since a very young age.

A true connoisseur with deep expertise and knowledge of air travel, he flew on his first inaugural 25 years ago and has since travelled on 22 inaugural and final flights in premium class cabins.

He is an avid collector of airline memorabilia with nearly 2,000 model airplanes, as well as albums filled with boarding passes, certificates and photos from past flights.

Bertuccio, who runs Ligi Import Corp, said: “I have followed Etihad Airways and I have always admired the products the airline has launched.

“There are going to be many firsts on this inaugural flight – new amenities, services and other innovations to try.

“I am excited to experience them all, though I am particularly fascinated by the butler concept.

“For the first time in my flying experience, I really don’t know what to expect but I do know that flying in the Residence by Etihad will be a truly unique adventure, the top of luxury.

“I have huge expectations.”

Bertuccio added: “My only wish is that the flight was longer.”

The new Airbus A380 also welcomes the new First Apartments

The A380 also features First Apartments, which are fully private suites with a separate reclining lounge seat and full-length bed, as well as a chilled mini-bar, personal vanity unit and wardrobe.

A total of 70 Business Studios are located on the upper deck of the A380 all offering aisle access and a fully flat bed of up to 80.5 inches long.

The upper deck of the A380 is allocated to the premium cabins.

The Economy Smart Seat also debuts on the A380 and has enhanced comfort with the unique ‘fixed wing’ headrest on each seat.

Etihad Airways also unveiled a new cabin crew uniform at a spectacular catwalk fashion show.

Designed by Italian couturier Ettore Bilotta, it is the first major uniform re-launch since the airline’s formation in 2003 and incorporates the same colours used for the cabin interior and new aircraft livery.

It combines elegance, comfort and practicality and the colours are derived from the new brand identity.

Bilotta, in collaboration with the airline’s Guest Services and Guest Experience divisions, chose a warm chocolate brown as the base colour for the different uniform variations.

More Information

Considered the World’s Leading Airline by the World Travel Awards, Etihad Airways began operations in 2003 and in 2013 carried 11.5 million passengers.

From its Abu Dhabi base, Etihad Airways flies to 111 existing or announced passenger and cargo destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

The airline has a fleet of 109 Airbus and Boeing aircraft, and more than 200 aircraft on firm order, including 71 Boeing 787s, 25 Boeing 777-X, 62 Airbus A350s and nine Airbus A380s.

Etihad Airways holds equity investments in airberlin, Air Seychelles, Virgin Australia, Aer Lingus, Air Serbia and Jet Airways, and is in the process of formalising equity investments in Alitalia and Swiss-based Etihad Regional, operated by Darwin Airline.

Etihad Airways, airberlin, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Jet Airways and Etihad Regional also participate in Etihad Airways Partners, a new brand that brings together like-minded airlines to offer customers more choice through improved networks and schedules and enhanced frequent flyer benefits. 

For more information, please visit the official website.