Etihad Scolds First Class Passenger Reporting Employee Sleeping in A380 Business Lounge

Regular readers know that Etihad’s Airbus A380 First ‘Apartment’ is my favorite first class in the world. That’s because I value the spaciousness of the seat (big enough that you can walk around inside your suite even when you’re in bed mode) and their super-customizable dining.

Others find the bed hard and complain that the alcohol onboard isn’t super-premium. And it’s true there have been cutbacks to the beverage program for sure.

Etihad’s A380 has a business class lounge, not a bar comparable to Emirates or Qatar’s offerings on their A380s.

The cutbacks are concerning as Etihad fired their CEO who pioneered their premium strategy (indeed James Hogan brought the concept of an onboard chef over from his time at british midland). They’ve lost billions mostly because of failed investments in other airlines like Alitalia and air berlin.

In response they’ve cut their business and first class car service outside the U.S. and they’re monetizing access to their lounges. They’ve even closed their spa at London Heathrow and they’ve announced plans to devalue their frequent flyer program.

It’s hard to keep up employee morale and service in the face of cuts like that. So against that backdrop I was disturbed to see travel reporter Russ Ptacek’s tweet about his experience flying in Etihad’s Apartment.

An employee was sleeping on the couch intended as the business class lounge and he was told that he shouldn’t be disturbing the employee. Unless it was a medical emergency (in which case it’s surprising there wasn’t greater awareness and consideration of a diversion), that’s unacceptable.

Ptacek shared what happened with Etihad’s twitter team and they reprimanded him for photographing the incident. Of course without a photo it would’ve been as though it never happened.

I hope what Russ Ptacek isn’t the start of a downward service spiral at Etihad in the face of cuts at the airline. I have three upcoming A380 first class roundtrips on Etihad in the months ahead and this certainly gives me pause.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Completely unacceptable. The employee should have been doused with water and forcibly removed from the lounge. This is no way to run an airline.

  2. @James, it says right there that “cabin mgr told First passenger don’t disturb employee sleeping on sky pub”

  3. Gary, I come everyday to your blog thinking today will be the day you will make a gratuitious sex post.
    Always disappointed.

  4. The employee should have been doused with water and forcibly removed from the lounge. This is no way to run an airline
    as we say in English…what a wally …just because you are a First Class Passenger does not give you the right to advocating dousing people in water or the forcible removing of someone. The latter constitutes assault..i know some 1st Class passengers think they are demigods but handcuffs fit on them too you know.

  5. There are lots of valid reasons why the employee was resting in the lounge – perhaps s/he was feeling unwell/dizzy or there was an issue with the crew rest area. If the traveller’s service was somehow impacted from it as a reporter he could have made a note in his article’s description and left it at that.

    To me this is nothing but uninformed ignorant social media shaming to drum up publicity.

  6. @ADP (or are you Mario?) Takes a shamer to know a shamer.

    There may be a few innocuous explanations for this (certainly not lots), but the flight manager appears to have communicated none of them. Instead, he or she kept the passenger from using the lounge. If there was an innocuous explanation for this, the manager absolutely should have provided a better explanation in order to protect the airline’s reputation. It’s not as if this sort of cabin crew behavior never happens. (I’m talking about you, Saudia.)

  7. Just for the benefit of doubt, how do we even know if the person who reported and took the photo is not just making things up to get back at EY or get some compensation? None of us was there to verify this…it could be just his travel mate sleeping there for the photo shot.
    This sounds fishy as I don’t believe that EY even in their current state will further tard their image. This sounds fishy like a few months ago where some guys flying in First on EK reported that someone stole thousands of cash from their seat while they were at the bar – which turned out to be them just trying to rip the airline off.

  8. Weird – that does not look like an employee. Maybe there was a miscommunication? Maybe it was a drunk pax? and they didn’t want to wake him and disturb him…

    That being said, I completely agree employees should be out of sight on proper airlines. I have had so many flights where employees “requisition” a J or F seat and sleep there. They’re at work!! It doesn’t matter that they’re “tired”, it’s their rest hour, and the seat is empty. It does make a difference if I paid for the product and then the cabin is full of staff.

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