Etihad jet saved from scrapyard and turned into quirky hotel

Transformed Airbus is now a holiday rental in the UK – and even still has its original livery

An Etihad aircraft has been transformed into an Airbnb in North Wales. Courtesy Apple Camping
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It once ferried passengers from Abu Dhabi to destinations across the globe.

But now, a former Etihad jet offers holidaymakers a getaway without ever leaving the ground.

Campground operator Toby Rhys-Davies forked out £45,000 (Dh205,000) for the Airbus from a scrapyard in Cardiff, Wales, and has turned the fuselage into a £179-a-night holiday home for four people.

The rear section of the plane still has the original kitchen, overhead luggage compartments, windows and emergency exits. The livery has also been retained, with "Etihad" emblazoned across the sides. The seats have been stripped out for beds, chairs and a hot shower.

Part of the Etihad aircraft has been converted into a barbecue area. Courtesy Apple Camping

It now forms part of a bizarre collection of alternative accommodation at his nine-unit Apple Campsite in Pembrokeshire, Wales, that also includes another plane – a Lockheed JetStar – along with a Pac-Man dome and fake UFO.

Mr Rhys-Davies has branded the experience “Arabian Nights” and has even planted palm trees around the fuselage to pay tribute to its UAE heritage.

"It has been in UAE and has an identity," Mr Rhys-Davies told The National. "It is in very good nick and the livery is absolutely worth keeping. So I thought let's run with that."

The Airbus A319 first entered service in 2003 for a now defunct Swiss airline under the registration D-APAB. Etihad bought the plane in 2008 and re-registered it as A6-EIE. It installed 16 business seats and 90 in economy on the single-aisle jet, while two turbofan engines propelled it skyward. These types of aircraft are designed for short to medium trips and have a range of about 7,000 kilometres, so it flew mainly to destinations across the GCC. Etihad decommissioned the plane in 2017 and it ended up in a scrapyard in Wales where Mr Rhys-Davies, 47, bought it in May.

“The front was three times the price even though the cockpit had nothing in it,” he said. “It did not have seats, it did not have glass and it didn’t have dials. But the back of the plane had two toilets and a full kitchen. I said, right, let’s do something with this.”

The aircraft was salvaged from a scrapyard. Courtesy Apple Camping

The 14.2-metre fuselage was so big it had to be split into two parts to make the 160-kilometre journey from Cardiff through narrow winding roads to the campground.

“Because I live down a wobbly, 90 degree hairpin track, we had the chainsaws out and were chopping down trees to get it through.”

A 10.6-metre section provides accommodation while the smaller 3.6-metre section has been reconditioned as a quirky barbecue area.

After it was craned into the site, workers installed double-glazed windows and a door, while a steel frame steadied the jet. Wooden decking was also added outside.

“Every tradesman wanted to be involved because it was so oddball," Mr Rhys-Davies said. "They wanted to say they worked on converting an Airbus.”

Mr Rhys-Davies established the campground five years ago after a long career in retail and has since pumped close to £600,000 of his own money into the business. His purchase of the 1970s-era JetStar in 2016 made headlines around the world. “It wasn’t a plan, or a sensible plan. But it turned out to be a sensible plan,” he said about the decision to build the site. “But I’ll be making money by the end of next year. This Etihad jet will pay for itself in three years.”

The interior of the former Etihad jet. Courtesy Apple Camping 

He is also being inundated by aircrews and aviation enthusiasts who want to stay a night in the plane.

“We have a huge amount of them staying. And I’ve even had an inquiry from someone who flew on the plane because he likes to keep track of all the planes he has flown on.

“Don’t they have enough of it?” he said with a chuckle.