Etihad says its "residence" is sold out for first 10 flights

If you wanted to be among the first customers to fly in the Etihad Airways residence class, I'm afraid I have some bad news. 

Bloomberg reports that the first 10 flights between London and Abu Dhabi are sold out. That means someone else will experience the full dog-and-pony show before you. Perhaps an early-adopter will be kind enough to write up a report on the three-room cabin, with its living area, double bed and shower. We might even learn whether the airline's butlers are up to the task. They were trained by the Savoy Hotel's chief butler in London.

The first flight on the Airbus A380 is scheduled for Dec. 27. The price for the one-way journey, which takes about eight hours, is $20,000. On the bright side, two people ride for the price of one. (Eventually, Etihad plans to fly A380s with the residences to New York)

"We’ve been quite happy with the takeup,” CEO James Hogan said, according to Bloomberg. “There’s a market there.”

Like a lot of people who follow the industry, I can't quite pinpoint Etihad's strategy here. Is the goal to sell the cabin and make money off of it? Or is the intent simply to draw some attention to a Middle East carrier that has long operated in the shadows of Emirates?

Even if the cabin flies empty much of the time -- as is possible -- it's hard to put a number on just how much value there is for Etihad in this product. Think about how many articles and blogs have featured Etihad and its residence in the past six months. 

What do you think? Why is Etihad offering the residence?