Etihad Airways has long promoted a luxury inflight product. They were an early adopter of first class suites with doors. Their Airbus A380 introduced what was than an unparalleled first class ‘apartment’ with separate bed, and a divider that comes down between some of the seats to allow passengers traveling together to have a ‘double bed’ above the waist. And there’s nothing in commercial aviation as unparalleled as the 3-room Residence on the A380.
The airline has scaled back its ambitions tremendously, first after suffering massive losses investing in foreign airlines like air berlin, Alitalia, and Jet Airways and then as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic. They’ve been thrown a lifeline of subsidies from the Abu Dhabi government (their sole shareholder) to absorb losses, and they’ve engaged in significant cost cutting.
To make us fit for our current business needs will, unfortunately, mean that they crew community will need to go through a further transitionary period, and regretfully, there will be some redundancies to certain crew roles
Our premium cabin services have always formed a key part of our commercial offering, but as with many aspects of the business, they have had to be reevaluated in light of the ongoing pandemic…
As part of this, we have had to make the difficult decision to discontinue. the Inflight Chef and Food & Beverage Manager positions in First and Business.
We are incredibly proud of our talented crew and the contribution they have made to our business in these roles and this development is not in any way a reflection of performance. It is simply another devastating consequence of COVID-19 and a change that cannot be avoided based on the current climate that we find ourselves in.
Etihad’s first class chefs are flight attendants with restaurant cooking experience. Food and beverage managers are specially trained. They wear white jackets.
- They are paid more
- They’re more expensive to train
- And the airline carries more than minimum required flight attendants, so this allows for lower crew complements
In first class the cabin crewmember with real world kitchen experience, who is primarily responsible for cooking in the cabin, would introduce themselves to you prior to takeoff. They’d usually offer to customize your meal, but since you’re handed a menu and used to how airlines work most passengers just pick something that’s listed (or maybe take advantage of the ‘chef’s special’ described to you but not printed in the menu).
The real opportunity has been to use the menu for a list of ingredients and then decide what to eat, rather than ordering specific menu items presented. Eggs in the morning scrambled with lox? Sure. Or steak and eggs, and the eggs scrambled with emmental cheese? Risotto, but with mushrooms? Why not.
Etihad’s first class meal service lets you really mix and match whatever you wish. Think ingredients, not menu choices. The menu is just there to give you some ideas, because for most people if they were just asked “what do you want?” they wouldn’t know what to say. When the menu is just ‘a set of suggestions’ rather than ‘the list of things you can have’ the number of items on an Etihad first class menu is actually the number of identifiable ingredients factorial.
Losing the chef then means a real cutback in the first class experience, which may make sense given the carrier’s more limited ambitions and current customer demand.