Some of the Middle East carriers have been on the move to cut costs and increase revenue in the past year and Etihad is no different. Last summer, Etihad restricted complimentary chauffeur service so that passengers who booked their Etihad seats with partners, such as American Airlines AAdvantage miles, would no longer be granted the benefit. Now, they’re going a step further.
Etihad just announced that it’s cutting its complimentary chauffeur service for first class and business class passengers (I believe the Residence passengers will all still receive the service).
The exception is that all inbound and outbound passengers at Etihad’s hub in Abu Dhabi will still have access to the service. The new policy will go into effect July 3, 2017. This means that if you were issued your ticket before that date, you should still receive the chauffeur service.
With the new policy, Etihad is now allowing all passengers, regardless of class, to pay to book the chauffeur service (and earn miles for doing so). They stated:
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.
I don’t think anything has been announced regarding the earning rate of miles but I doubt it’s not going to be anything to rave about.
This is a blow to the premium Etihad experience. Complimentary chauffeur service is a great perk that enhances the overall flying experience by making getting to and from the airport a cheaper and less stressful task.
I honestly never found the chauffeur drivers to be particularly personable but getting scooped up in a Mercedes or Audi (for free) was still a perk I valued, especially when it could save you $60+.
This move is in line with Etihad’s recent move to allow passengers from all cabins (including economy) to access some of their lounges by paying a fee of around $50. For their flagship first class lounge in Abu Dhabi, business class passengers can pay to access it, but I believe that passengers flying in cabins below business cannot.
In addition to these moves, Etihad is also rolling out a new system called the “Neighbour-Free Seat “where economy passengers can “bid” to have up to three empty seats so that they can essentially have a row to themselves. You place a bid at the time of booking and 30 hours before departure, you’re notified about the success of your bid.
I’m actually a fan of this kind of bidding process since having a row to yourself can make a huge difference while flying in economy.
This is more evidence of a downward trend where premium products are being diluted. Etihad still has in my view the #1 first class product available but it’s sad to see these benefits go. Hopefully other carriers that offer this service like Emirates will retain the benefits and this trend won’t catch on.
H/T: Live from a Lounge
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.