Etihad Cuts Chauffeur Service For American Award Passengers

For years the best way to book Etihad Airways award tickets has been through American AAdvantage. The award prices have been very reasonable, including for travel in Etihad’s incredible A380 First Class Apartment.

Etihad-A380-Apartment - 2

As of March 22, 2016, American devalued their award chart, meaning the cost of premium cabin awards increased quite significantly in many cases.

For example, the cost of one-way first class awards:

  • Between the US and Middle East increased from 90,000 miles to 115,000 miles
  • Between Europe and the Middle East increased from 40,000 miles to 62,500 miles
  • Between Australia and the Middle East increased from 60,000 miles to 100,000 miles

Both Emirates and Etihad offer their premium cabin passengers chauffeur service, which is a great add-on. I think the primary reason this was introduced is because the two airlines are based in cities just an hour drive apart, so by offering chauffeur service anywhere in the UAE, neither carrier is at much of a geographical disadvantage for serving either city. In other words, a business traveler going to Dubai could still fly Etihad, and someone going to Abu Dhabi could still fly Emirates. On top of that, the chauffeur service also applies in other cities.

In early 2015, Emirates added restrictions to their chauffeur service. Specifically, chauffeur service was only available to Emirates first & business class passengers booked on Emirates or Qantas ticket stock (essentially excluding partner airline award tickets).

Emirates-Chauffeur

Well, it looks like Etihad has now followed Emirates’ lead.

As of August 10, 2016, Etihad is no longer offering chauffeur service to those booked on partner award tickets, including through American AAdvantage.

Etihad-Arrivals-Lounge-Abu-Dhabi - 28

Roger M mentioned this in the Ask Lucky forum, and I assumed he was being given wrong information. However, I phoned up Etihad, and said “I’ve heard that there might be a change to Etihad chauffeur service…”

Before I could finish my sentence, the guy said “yes, as of August 10 you can’t book chauffeur service on an American award ticket anymore.” I called back, and got exactly the same information. So I assume this is in fact a policy.

Interestingly I can still book chauffeur service online for my upcoming trips ticketed prior to August 10, so I suspect this rule applies for tickets issued as of August 10.

Etihad-Chauffeur

As much as the Gulf carriers are known for their lavish offerings, all three of the big Gulf carriers are in cost cutting mode, and are getting pressure from their respective governments, so this change isn’t really surprising.

Etihad-Arrivals-Lounge-Abu-Dhabi - 1

Bottom line

American AAdvantage award tickets issued as of August 10, 2016, are no longer eligible for Etihad’s chauffeur service. Ultimately I don’t think anyone chooses airlines based on chauffeur service alone, though it was an aspect of the product that contributed towards a seamless experience. Between award chart devaluations and cuts in benefits, redeeming miles on the Gulf carriers sure isn’t what it used to be!

What do you make of Etihad cutting chauffeur service on American award tickets?

Comments

  1. Well this sucks but its not the end of the world. Hopefully my current tickets wont run into any issues that require the tickets to be reissued

  2. Glad I booked the service 4 days ago for my travel from JFK in November. I didn’t want to take a chance to wait and see if they ll honor after Aug 10th

  3. Well, that was expected. And you can probably expect other restrictions like using their lounges if you are flying on AA award ticket.

  4. Dumb move. Reduces the value of the product and makes it more confusing. Giving away a $300 chauffeur ride is nothing compared to the onboard food and drink and the cost of operating the apartment cabin on the flight itself. This is MBA thinking: managing the wrong side of the decimal point.

    Although if they’re really bent on cutting things, they could cut the AUH layover and get passengers to their actual destinations faster.

  5. Got to use the service last month and it was awesome. They even let me change my pickup time on the day of the flight. Great perk for those who were able to use it often.

  6. While this isn’t a deal breaker for me it seems that this is not the same product so the award is really a lesser value than what it really is being redeemed for. Just saying.

  7. Oh crap. I placed an award on hold on 8/10, but I called and ticketed on 8/11 (it’s still actually pending). I assume the clock starts running when you ticket?

  8. Lets see if one can pick up a ride on arrival at Abu Dhabi..like on EK in Dubai…. The service has been very useful going to Dubai when landing in A.Dhabi….

  9. @MilesFromBlighty I’d say there’s a case to be made that if you booked before the rule took effect you reasonably relied on the service being part of your ticket and would probably be allowed to book it. I’m curious to find out what happens to tickets on hold on 8/10/16 but ticketed on 8/12/16 which is my case.

  10. So as long as I ticketed before August 10th, I can use the service? Flight isn’t until January 2017

  11. @ Bryan Long — That seems to be the case online, at least. I’d recommend pulling up the reservation on Etihad’s website and trying for yourself.

  12. Ugh, I honestly thought this service was already cut for aadvantage award flights on EY. My wife and I flew business class from IAD July 15 and returned 29th. When I tried entering our booking reference and last name for the service weeks in advance of the trip, it said sorry this service is not available.

  13. @pointster
    Your comments don’t make sense. Etihad’s some role is to promote the growth and development of industry of Abu Dhabi. As an aside it sells seats to AA in exchange for miles. Cutting out Abu Dhabi would mean the carrier would cease to exist. So really not sure what you’re getting at.

    As far as the limo- well, you’re still getting a great product getting you from point a to point b for free. Let me know what other airline provides a limo for the sand type if redemption and get back to me. Maybe use your miles there next time? Oh wait…

  14. May not be as lucrative to book via AA/AS anymore, but it’s pretty easy to earn EK/EY miles via transferable partners…

  15. I used the chauffeur service on arrival at AUH after flying in with an AA award in Etihad’s First Class A380 Apartment. Excellent experience all around, but I really appreciated the chauffeur inclusion of anywhere in the UAE since I needed to get from AUH to a resort nearly a two-hour drive away through empty desert (the extraordinary Anantara Qasr Al Sarab). Sad to see this perk gone.

  16. I have already booked a car. How does one know that they will be picked up. In my case i have reserved for pick up in Paris, will they email you? I left them a number but I think I left them my US number which will not be working while im abroad.

  17. @Jason, I wouldn’t go as far as @pointster at calling it a dumb move, but I tend to agree with him and not because I couldn’t get the service on time. A first class seat is a first class seat and it shouldn’t matter how you purchased it, IMO. Just because it was free doesn’t mean it was “free”. Etihad still gets paid by AA for your “free” ticket, and you’re booking it with miles because at some point they decided to make an award seat available. It isn’t “free” to AA members. On a first class seat where you can have a service that retails for $9,000 and you have access to the same seat, food, in flight shower and lounge, it seems petty to take away a car ride IMO.

  18. Air Carriers around the world are reducing costs and I imagine it will get worse. We are at the edge of the precipice economically. When the shoe drops it will get ugly again. Enjoy it while it lasts. Thx Ben for update

  19. Ultimately this isn’t a huge deal, but still a sad devaluation. We just used this on our flight from Dulles to Abu Dhabi and it was bizarre to say the least. Our pickup in Washington was in a very nice SUV, which saved us $130. When we got to Abu Dhabi we had to go to a check-in counter for the service and then walk down several maze-like halls to get to the chauffer area outside, and then when we got there we had to stand around for several minutes before we were even connected with anyone who was running the service, before being put in a dirty mini-van to be sent to our hotel. I couldn’t believe the service in Washington was better than at Etihad’s amazing home base, it was all around strange. So, next time I’ll just get my own luxury car in Abu Dhabi, I stayed at the Ritz-Carlton and pulling up in a filthy mini-van doesn’t say “please respect me”.

  20. @Lucky ,@MilesFromBlighty

    I had an Etihad booking in business from SFO-AUH for travel in September. Ticketed before August 10th. I literally just off the phone with the agent and they have confirmed my chauffeur service. It looks like they are in fact honoring this rule as long as you ticketed before August 10th.

  21. I just booked the car service for my travel in February. Keep in mind my tickets were issued in July so I think the August 10th rule is in full effect.

  22. AA should definitely retaliate by denying limo service to those who book AA in J/F with EY miles. We’ll see how they like it.

    Oh wait…

  23. I booked an Etihad First trip through AA back in January for travel in November 2016. Due to Etihad changing the aircraft from an A380 to a 777 I decided to rebook on a later flight which was still operating on an A380. I did this on 9th August. I called Etihad on 10th August and they said I was no longer eligible for the chauffeur service, even though I had been eligible with the original ticket! My new ticket was still in the queue to be re-ishued, and the agent at Etihad told me to ring AA, get them to re-issue the ticket immediately and then call Etihad back. I did all this, and thankfully Etihad managed to get me the chauffeur service locked in for my new itinerary too. Had I have left it until 11th August though there’s no way I would have gotten it. Phew!

  24. @Andrew, I’ve just recently had the unfortunate experience in Paris with Etihad Chauffeur. The only confirmation you’ll get is if you look at your itinerary on the EY site and it says under your Paris flight “Chauffeur confirmed”.

    Their suppose to phone you 24 hours ahead of time but they won’t bother because it’s an international number and the contractor in Paris is cheap. On the morning of my flight, they just turned up exactly three hours before departure and got my hotel reception to call me to let me know.

    If all else fails, Uber is a bargain in Paris if they don’t show up and UberX generally will find you in a Mercedes or at the very least a nice Audi so not the end of the world. Just make sure to complain to Etihad and claim your money back since their contractor didn’t do their job properly.

  25. Qantas took away the chauffeur service for 1st passengers on partner award tickets to LHR about 2 years ago, so it’s an industry-wide trend. Qantas are world leaders in taking perceived perks away, although it will be hardly noticed as international F seats on QF are as scarce as the proverbial hen’s teeth.

  26. Ditto on booking service for November flight ticketed earlier this year. Did it on website without issue.

  27. Qatar business class tickets booked with AA miles aren’t eligible for the complimentary hotel room when transiting through Doha, just unfortunately found out as I was trying to make my room reservation.

  28. @David. I too booked ages ago and got AA to reissue my ticket following a schedule change on 10 August. Etihad then told me the ticket had to have been reissued BEFORE 10 August and to go whistle.

  29. I booked it online and a few minutes later I got an email that my ticket is not eligible for chauffeur service.

    Ticket was booked in January for an Oct flight, but a few weeks ago AA reissued the ticket because of a time-change (initial departure was 3:20 AM now is 3:35 AM), therefore I’m no longer eligible for chauffeur service. Etihad sends me to AA and AA Exec Plat desk can’t do anything about it: “the system reissued the ticket following a schedule change”.

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