We Were in an Apartment in the Air!

To start with, I wanted to tell you about the terrific manner in which one may travel nowadays. Think beyond Business. As a frequent flyer informs me, ‘Forget it, everyone flies business nowadays’. The thing is that one can actually have an ‘apartment’ or even lord over a ‘residence’ in the air. Here I see you rolling your eyes and thinking, ‘what on earth’, before proceeding to inform me that it has been around for some time. But in 2014 Etihad amplified the definition of luxury in the sky. This made the first-class cabins of European and American carriers look like old fogeys. The first-class suites of Singapore (the old ones) and Emirates were suitably snubbed too.

On each of its double-decker Airbus A380s, Etihad introduced nine first-class suites that are known as Apartments if you will and a hoity-toity affair called The Residence.

I would be a pretentious twat if I said that I was not overwhelmed. That my senses did not go into a tizzy at the sight of a whole suite to myself on a flight. That I did not want to run the whole length of the plane, to and fro, like a crazed creature. That the dapper butler with his fine accent did not make a difference.

‘A butler! Did you just say there was a butler on board?’ I hear you ask. Damn right, sistah. Downton Abbey-style. A younger, handsome version of Carson. To this, bung in a chef too.

Three days before Christmas, we were leaving behind the city of immeasurable charm, Paris. Along with that a delightfully relaxed celebration of our wedding anniversary (to think that we have been married for seven whole years already). When we boarded the upper deck of the A380 at Charles de Gaulle that would whisk us into Abu Dhabi in a matter of 7 hours, it took off the edge of the sting (a part of it anyway) of leaving Paris.

The suite was splendid. Its latticed doors came together with the consistency of butter to slide shut. The beige armchair by the window could accommodate three of me in its cushy Italian leather seat. Opposite it was a swivel 24-inch flat screen telly and an ottoman that would be transformed into a twin-size bed, long enough to fit Adi. The making of this bed would naturally be taken care of by the flight attendant because remember you are a helpless ninny, to be cosseted and cared for. Why should you have to lift a finger for your cake?

What got me going was the discovery of Bose headsets (so nickable, but cannot be) and a full-size vanity mirror. Then the fact that I could slip in my book, travel journal and kindle into a drawer (this proved to be my undoing) and stow my bags into a space beneath the ottoman (I hate putting my bag into the overhead bin because I always want to fish out something from it).

Adi was adjacent my suite. A partition halfway between the two suites could be lowered when we were in bed.

Now as soon as we were on board, we were offered the customary welcome drink of Champagne and dates — and a change of clothes accompanied by an amenity kit in a beautiful yellow leather bag from Acqua di Parma. ‘I am going to change into mine straight away,’ I announced to Adi and hopped off to the loo which turned out to be oh so lovely. It had a shower. The entire affair was so swanky with beautifully lit interiors that I kept thinking it was all a dream.

Before the flight took off, a chef appeared in my suite and offered anything at all. He could customise dishes outside of the menu. Maybe I should have come up with something ridiculous but I just went with whatever was on the menu, simply because there was enough to choose from. Next he enquired if I would like a hot shower — they need notice so that they can prepare a shower for you. Of course, you have to take a five-minute bath. I was too lazy, but for those who travel longer distances it is a blessing.

Later, Adi and I dined together in his suite. A retractable table was unfolded for us and the food was exactly as I would find in a fine-dining restaurant. With the best of Champagne and service. This was followed by the flight attendant making up our beds in some time so that we could slide our doors on the world outside — and let me say this that I would have never believed the decadence of it all till I stepped into the Apartment.

P.S.: I came back with four lessons from our stay in the Apartment.

  • The importance of using miles. A single ticket would have cost us anywhere near $8,000 for a long-haul flight between Paris and Abu Dhabi. This is where Adi’s banking miles with American Airlines rewarded us. Etihad has airline partners and American Airlines is one of them. Each of our ticket could be booked for 65,000 miles.
  • Take a super-long flight to avail of the luxury of such experiences. For us, 7 hours seemed way too short.
  • Never slide the contents of your bag into the drawers. If you are as scatty as me, you are bound to leave them behind even when your husband asks you twice if you have collected everything. I have just received my Kindle back, but lost my book of Love Poems from Shakespeare & Co. and my beloved journal. Whoever nicked them has taste.
  • The Residence which is the pinnacle of grandeur on board, can cost upto $32,000 (above 2 million miles) for a single ticket for long-distance flights. I found it meh given the astronomical figure it demands. Our butler took us in when Adi asked if we could peep in. The only differences I found significant were that you could queen over your private loo and a double bedroom (but the bed was mighty tiny, like the ones those old-time kings and queens slept in).

Helpfully I have reminders in hand if my head gets detached and starts to float. Midway through our dinner, Adi looked at me over a glass of bubbly and said with a gentle smile, ‘I hope you are not getting used to it. If the Apartment is for our 7-year anniversary, for our 10th, it will be the Shatabdi Express.’

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Etihad’s First-Class Suites
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The delighted miles hoarder
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Preen away at this vanity mirror
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Your personal mini bar
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My precious, now lost, commodities in the drawer of my suite
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The Apartment’s coat rack
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Some caviar
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Chickpea soup
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Lime sorbet as palate cleanser
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Mezze platter
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An extra, just because I like this shot
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Prawn biryani
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Grilled black cod
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Cheese and crackers
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The beds
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When you peek out and let your jaws drop at the beauty of nature after you have had a measure of the beauty that man can create.

Published by

Arundhati Basu

The great affair in my life is to travel. I count myself immensely fortunate that my partner shares this passion. We are a team that likes to spend time planning and plotting out places to go. Destination check, flights check, accommodation check, cheesy grins check. Off we go.

46 thoughts on “We Were in an Apartment in the Air!

  1. My goodness! This must be when they say to “travel in style”. Congratulations on your 7 years of marriage! What a way to celebrate in this luxurious air apartment. I’m not sure which I am more impressed by, the butler, food or showering in an airplane. Showering in a plane might give new meaning to the mile high club (nothing provocative please). Loved the article and photos! – Neek


    1. The butler, food and shower were neat contenders though even I do not know which would catch the top spot. You clearly chose the third. 🙂
      All in all, it was such a heady mix of wonderful and ludicrous, Neek. xx


    1. Hi Sophie! It was special and crazy and wonderful, possibly never to be repeated again. I am tardy on instagram, but thanks anyway. 🙂 xx


  2. Wow! My mind is quite blown. On my kind of flight I’m usually sitting with my knees up to my chin compressed by the reclining seat of the person in front of me. What a treat!


    1. I am quite there with you. We could easily say that our kind of flights till recently included Ryan Air (god save us) and Easy Jet. But we have just about started booking business because India is just too far. The journey is a real pain.

      This on the other hand was a Treat indeed. Possibly never to be repeated. 😉


  3. That was really cool Dippy, thoroughly enjoyed this post! A perfect anniversary treat and so nice to read about your experience of the apartment. The food looks awesome as well.We got a chance to fly business class once and just being able to stretch our legs on the flight and being pampered with food was a wonderful experience .So I can imagine how wonderful this must be!


    1. Cheers Nisha! The good thing about travelling in such a way, once awhile, is that makes the whole experience even more grand and you tend to appreciate it more. For our travel to India, we have just started flying business because the long hours are too oppressive otherwise. I do wish the distance was not this vast. xx


      1. That’s a great thing to experience once in a lifetime at least ☺️. That’s good you can travel business class on long flights it’s really worth it !


  4. Wow. Don’t really have anything else to say lol. And here I’m am just hoping to fly business class one time 😉 good hoarding to your husband!


  5. What a luxury experience! 😉 And 65000 miles for a first-class ticket is quite reasonable. For the same amount of miles, I can only have a business ticket with Skyteam >.<


    1. Ah so you are an av geek too. Yes it was not too bad a deal at all. Adi, my husband, therefore could not resist the thought. He wants to try Singapore’s new A380 now. 🙂


    1. Hey Arielle, I feel ya. It is a pity that there should be such a chasm between the various classes of air travel. The food sucks, yes, but what irks me more than anything is the lack of comfortable seating. For long-haul flights, it is so important. For all you know, next there will be ‘standing seats’!


  6. Oh. My. God. I don’t think this is in the cards for me… (I’ll be grateful for the humble first class seat in Singapore airlines so many years ago) but nice to see this through your eyes. And btw your airplane food photos put mine to shame!


    1. So many years ago, as you put it, the Singapore Airlines first class must have been great. You know how the new keeps usurping the place of the old and then these Middle East Airlines have mastered the art of kicking it up a notch. This was my first experience of First Class and I think it might remain the only one.

      As for your generous comment about the photos, not at all! I am a fan of your shots. They ooze warmth and pleasure. Hope you have a good weekend. xx


  7. I was pleased with getting £135 off flights to Rome with air miles until I read this! Looks amazing. I’m keeping it away from S, in case she gets ideas. Belated happy anniversary !


    1. Thank you! And that is a great high, friend. Air miles are our ticket to the world! I think S is already not complaining with those flights to Rome. 🙂


  8. Call it a character flaw, but I am HUGELY green with envy! I knew that flying in first class could be nice but I never expected flying to look anything like this. What a wonderful experience for you!


    1. Hehe Caroline, thank you. It was something I had not even thought of, so it was all about unexpected thrills. Here Adi gets all the credit. 🙂 xx


  9. Well, well, what an anniversary. Many happy returns of the day. 🙂
    Quite a trip. You actually may make me review my standards. We do travel quite enough to chose coach almost often.
    But then… Life is short, and air travel has become so uncomfortable…
    I do remember as a cild the bunks on the Super Constellations!
    So that kinda answers my question about whether you’d gone home at Xmas.
    (And I hope Paris was all right despite the Yellow jackets…)


    1. Thank you, Brian ji. The boys of Paris were well-behaved. For one they were restricted to Saturdays which worked for us. You could hardly tell that there were protests every weekend.

      I have never been on a Super Constellation. I wonder if they are in use at all now. Were they quite the experience? I hate the fact that air travel is expensive even on coach and you get none of the benefits apart from arriving at your destination of course.

      Hope your Christmas was of cheer, good food and family too. 🙂


      1. Right? The precision with which they stage their protests on just one day is cute. 🙂

        The tail is indeed unlike any I have seen. I like its name too. The Constellation…sounds appealing.

        We got back mid-Jan and since then the cold has been intense in phases. Now we are in the warm stages where the temperatures have risen to 9C. Basking in the glory of it. But I would not mind a few more snowy days. I think we have been cheated of snow this year.


      2. It’s not over until it’s over! You may be snowed in still. 🙂
        And the Constellation was a pretty plane.
        As for the yellow jackets… there is a lot behind it. Not sure they understand it all themselves. And politicians? Less. 🙂


    1. Thank you, love. I will say amen. Life is an amazing journey — you never really know what it throws up. xx


    1. I could manage an hour only…you got me there. I think my senses were in enough of a tizzy! 🙂 Thank you Amanda. Trust you are well and keeping cool in the ghastly heat. I have been reading about the insane heat at your end. xx


      1. The planet is definitely heating up and we are the driest continent, so it is a big problem for agriculture, and for me, who doesn’t like the heat.


      2. I keep reading alarming pieces on it almost every other day in The Times. I hope there is some respite for you sooner than later. All the best, Amanda.


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