Etihad has chosen Heathrow as the debut route for the Airbus A380 superjumbo, which will also include a suite costing $20,000 per flight.
The Abu Dhabi-based airline will launch its first superjumbos and Boeing 787 Dreamliners in December with both aircraft seeing the introduction of new seats across all three cabin classes.
While economy and business class seats will be the same on both aircraft, Etihad is aiming for a “private jet” experience with its first class service on the A380.
This upper-deck cabin will feature nine “apartments”, six of which will have connecting doors, plus The Residence – a three-room 125 square foot cabin with lounge, bedroom and shower-room, as well as exclusive service from a butler trained at London’s Savoy hotel.
The new cabins will feature on the first A380 service from Abu Dhabi to Heathrow on December 27. Fares for The Residence will cost $20,000 one-way for single or double occupancy on these flights.
Etihad chief executive James Hogan said: “With The Residence, we are taking the concept of the private jet or super yacht to create a private three-room suite. It will be exclusive and we want people to aspire to it – there will be no upgrades and that includes staff.
“We are confident that there’s a strong market for The Residence and our apartments onboard the A380. We have been working on this for five years and believe it’s a step change for the industry.”
Etihad’s second A380 will also fly on the Abu Dhabi-Heathrow route from early 2015, while further deliveries will see the aircraft begin flying to Sydney and New York later next year.
The carrier’s first Dreamliners, which will also include new first-class suites, will initially be used on routes from Abu Dhabi to Washington DC, Dusseldorf and Mumbai, before being extended to other destinations.
Hogan confirmed that Etihad would not be using an A380 on its route to Manchester although the city could eventually be served by a Dreamliner although plans were “not set in stone”.
Changes to Ryanair’s online check-in rules are forcing agents to make customers buy allocated seats for packages of more than seven days.
Ryanair last week told passengers that online check-in was only available between seven days and two hours before departure for those not taking its regular or premium seat reservation option, costing €5 or €10. Those opting to pay extra can check in from 30 days before.
Previously, Ryanair allowed non-reserved seat boarding passes to be printed 15 days before departure, which catches a normal fortnight family holiday.
However, the change means agents packaging a week’s holiday with Ryanair flights cannot now issue the return boarding card before clients leave the UK.
One agency, Thorne Travel, which is close to Prestwick airport, has told clients: “To ensure you get the best customer service for all flights booked with a six day or longer duration, we will require you to
pre-book your seats.”
Agency owner Shona Thorne said hotels had been happy to print boarding cards for existing bookings, but that this would create problems in the future.
“Hotels are not going to be happy,” she said. “We’ve done this before for customers going for three weeks and most hotels have been quite comfortable doing that, but we have a group of 30 going soon - do they want to do that? No.”
Thorne said the agency would be greatly affected, being 10 minutes from Prestwick. “To change the rules on existing bookings is wrong,” she said.
Ryanair charges £40 to print boarding cards at the airport, meaning a family of four caught unawares faces a £160 bill at the end of their holiday.
The airline’s changes come only weeks after it launched a charm offensive, promising to be less obstructive. A Ryanair spokeswoman said check-in times had been extended for those who purchased allocated seats.
“Customers who don’t wish to pay for a premium or regular allocated seat can check-in online between seven days to two hours prior to each flight, and will be allocated a seat free of charge,” she added.
Helder Lemos, who runs Gallivant Travel Agency near Stansted, said Ryanair had “reverted back to type”, adding: “What comes to mind immediately is the saying ‘the leopard never changes its spots’.
It found a subterfuge to force ancillary revenues and annoy the customers.”