Oh how the mighty have fallen. Etihad Airways is one of my favourite First Class products out there. The airline has consistently been devaluing benefits for their premium cabins given their financial situation not being the best right now. First, the exclusivity of the lounges went away with them allowing access in exchange for dollars. Now this.
As per Etihad Airways, on the back of customer feedback, they are going to be taking away the complimentary chauffeur service offered to premium cabin guests across the world as of July 3, 2017, and will replace it with specially negotiated rates in these cities. The change does not affect the Abu Dhabi hub, presumably, since Etihad owns a fleet of cars here and in other cities it works with different vendors for the services.
First & Business Class tickets issued prior to July 3, 2017 would be honored for the free chauffeur service. It is important to note that about 11 months ago, Etihad also discontinued the free chauffeur eligibility for all their redemption tickets in premium cabins.
Etihad believes that customers don’t look at the full package while buying tickets. So it is you and me to blame for this change really. In their words
Many customers prefer to make their own ground transportation arrangements. The decision by Etihad Airways to change its offering has been taken to provide increased choice and to ensure fares remain as low and as competitive as possible, while retaining best-in-class service for all guests, in all cabins.
Residence Guests not affected
Guests travelling in The Residence onboard the flagship Airbus A380 fleet will continue to receive complimentary chauffeur services at all A380 destinations – Abu Dhabi, London, Paris, Sydney and New York.
Everybody can book a paid airport transfer and earn Etihad Miles
As per Etihad,
As part of the initiative to improve the value proposition for travellers, the airline will also extend the paid airport transfer option to all guests across all cabins and allow Etihad Guest members to accrue miles on their chauffeur bookings.
Economy passengers can buy their way in to all Etihad lounges
Etihad recently started to offer their premium lounges in a few cities to passengers in Economy for a price. Earlier, only First, Business & Elite frequent flyer passengers could get in to use these services.
Now, all lounges across the world, including the ones at Abu Dhabi, London, Manchester, Dublin, Paris, Washington D.C., New York JFK, Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles can be enjoyed by Economy guests as well, for a fee of course.
This is bad news at many levels. For a premium cabin traveller, it is not the snob value of travelling in a premium cabin, but they pay for a package of services. When Etihad and their peers in Dubai offered a limo service, it was one more reason to pick Etihad over the other carriers. With the discontinuation of this service, and the slightly higher rush in the lounges, some of the perks of flying with them would sure be diminished.
What do you think about the new changes by Etihad? Are you okay with them or hate them?