Huge Etihad Changes: Cuts Car Service Outside UAE, Sells First Class Lounge Access and Bidding for Empty Coach Seats

Etihad has long had one of the most generous car service options for premium cabin passengers, and until recently even for most premium cabin passengers booked on award tickets.

We’ve seen cutbacks to Etihad’s car service before.

  • A few years ago Etihad eliminated their chauffeur service on connections. So if you had a long layover or overnight in Abu Dhabi you wouldn’t get the car service. For over 24 hour connections using AAdvantage miles it became wise to book separate tickets so you’d get an extra two car service rides (since American charged extra miles anyway for the stopover).

  • Then last summer Etihad eliminated the car service entirely on award tickets issued by partner airlines.

Chauffeur at Washington Dulles

However Etihad seems to be going to significant lengths now to trim costs across the board, with $45 oil and heavy losses in airline investments around the world (especially Alitalia, airberlin).

Eliminating Free Car Service Outside the UAE

The latest casualty is their car service for premium cabin passengers outside the UAE. Etihad is eliminating complimentary car service for business and first class passengers for tickets issued July 3 and after.

Chauffeur New York JFK

  • Car service will still be available on departure and arrival in the UAE

  • Car service will still be complimentary in other cities for A380 Residence passengers

  • They laughably claim this will “offer increased value and flexibility based on customer feedback.”

    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.

Appropriately, here’s the car service at LAX ‘going away’

Presumably the car service remains in the UAE to compete against Emirates, and because they need to be able to make it as attractive and seamless as possible to attract passengers from outside Abu Dhabi itself given that world connecting hub Dubai is a mere hour away.

While they’re at it, though, they’re also looking to raise more revenue.

Selling First Class Lounge Access

I noted back in March that it’s possible for economy passengers to buy-in to most Etihad lounges for the local equivalent of US$50.

  • Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Terminal 1
  • Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Terminal 3
  • Etihad First & Business Class Lounge London Heathrow
  • Etihad First & Business Class Lounge Manchester
  • Etihad Business Class Lounge Dublin
  • Etihad First & Business Class Lounge Paris
  • Etihad First & Business Class Lounge Washington Dulles
  • Etihad First & Business Class Lounge New York JFK
  • Etihad First & Business Class Lounge Melbourne
  • Etihad First & Business Class Lounge Sydney

While Etihad doesn’t offer paid access to their Residence lounges or the US Preclearance Lounge in Abu Dhabi they are now expanding the program to including buy ups to the first class lounge in Abu Dhabi for business class passengers.

Bidding for a ‘SkyCouch’

Air New Zealand garnered significant attention by selling 3 coach seats together and calling it the SkyCouch.

Etihad is introducing their own version called the ‘Neighbour-Free Seat’ in coach, allowing customers to bid “for up to three empty seats next to their original seat – subject to availability and cabin configuration.”

  • Bidding is offered “at the time of booking online” on Etihad’s website

  • Extra seats “will be confirmed 30 hours prior to departure.”

Etihad was an early adopter of bidding for upgrades which along with cash upsells at check-in have been a reason that the airline often fills their premium cabin seats. Now they’re going to use bidding to sell their empty coach seats.

(HT: Live from a Lounge)

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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