December 27 saw UAE carrier Etihad Airways launch its first Airbus A380 service from London Heathrow to its Abu Dhabi hub. Exciting new in itself, but that flight carried one of the world’s most envied flyers. Miami-based businessman and aviation enthusiast, Gino Bertuccio, paid US$20,000 for the one-way ticket, becoming the first person to experience the 125 sq.ft. private multi-room cabin located on the forward upper deck.
The Residence by Etihad features a living room, separate ensuite shower room, and bedroom, and can accommodate two people travelling together (for full details SEE HERE). A dedicated VIP Concierge team ensured all aspects of Bertuccio’s experience went smoothly, including luxury limousine transfers, check-in, and custom menu planning. And there to support him on the inaugural flight was British national, Georgina Henderson, one of Etihad Airways’ 13 butlers who received specialist training at the Savoy Butler Academy in London prior to the launch of the A380.
Bertuccio, who runs Ligi Import Corp, has been passionate about flying since a young age. 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 said of his experience, “There were many firsts on this inaugural flight – new amenities, services and other innovations to try. Flying in the Residence by Etihad was a truly unique adventure, the top of luxury. My only wish was that the flight was longer, I didn’t want to get off. It was an amazing experience, a lifetime experience. It looks like a cruise line cabin.”
Georgina Henderson (pictured above with Bertuccio) was previously a food and beverage manager on Etihad Airways’ long-haul fleet and after her selection, attended an intensive three-week training course held in London, led by the Savoy Hotel’s Head Butler, Sean Deveron. She also learned new skills at the London School of Hospitality and Tourism.
Henderson, who has a degree in broadcast journalism, got the taste for hospitality when she worked in restaurants in Yorkshire while studying at Leeds University. She has also previously worked at BBC Radio Merseyside in Liverpool, but decided that her passion for travel and to see the world would be best served by working for an airline.
Aubrey Tiedt, VP 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.”