Arranging An Etihad Stopover Hotel Is Like Pulling Teeth (Even If Flying In The Residence)

One of the cool features that Etihad offers first and business class passengers is a stopover that includes up to two free nights of hotels in Abu Dhabi. The intent is that it gives you an opportunity to explore Abu Dhabi — after all, Etihad’s primary purpose is to promote the infrastructure of the UAE.

The complimentary hotel option isn’t available on award tickets or one-way tickets (I’ve confirmed that my ticket qualifies, even though it’s an open jaw), though otherwise you have quite some nice hotel options. As you can see below, you can stay at hotels like the Shangri-La, St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, etc. Business class guests get one free night, while first class guests get two free nights.

Etihad

Etihad even has a special offer for those in The Residence — those passengers receive two free nights in a Khaleej Suite at the Emirates Palace. The room retails for over $1,000 per night, so it’s a very nice add-on.

Khaleej-Suite

I’ve been trying to arrange this since booking The Residence, but my gosh, this is proving more complicated than it should. There’s an online form where you can submit your request, and they say you’ll hear back from them within 24-48 hours with confirmation of your hotel booking.

Well, I submitted my request last Monday morning. I hadn’t heard anything by Wednesday, so sent a follow-up email to ask about the status of my request. I still didn’t hear back.

There’s a phone number listed in the original email they send confirming that they received your request, that you can call “if your enquiry is of an urgent nature,” claiming that the number is available seven days a week between 8AM and 8PM UAE time. So I called that number three times during office hours, and every time it just kept ringing, with no one picking up and no voicemail option.

Then I remembered that I had access to a special concierge for The Residence, who “can be reached at any time to provide personal assistance for your travel, from coordinating the details of the luxury chauffeur transfers to handling any special requests.” Perfect, I figured they could help, so sent them an email on Thursday explaining the situation.

They responded less than an hour later, and said “We have sent a follow-up to our concerned team regarding your request. We will get back to you once we received the update.”

Cool, that’s a quick response! Well, unfortunately it’s now three days later, and I still haven’t heard from the concierge or the department that handles the hotel bookings.

While there are aspects of Etihad I like a lot, I’ve always gotten the impression that the airline all around is a hot, disorganized mess, a feeling I’ve never gotten from Emirates. Unfortunately it looks like flying The Residence doesn’t even bypass how sloppy they are.

Has anyone successfully arranged an Etihad stopover hotel? Am I doing something wrong?

Comments

  1. How are you going to get the stopover? They are going to reschedule your flight from CAI to include the 2 days stopover?

  2. The best bet is to tweet through their elite account if you are Etihad Elite member. They should be able to help.

  3. This is similar to my experience when I booked the stop-over recently. They did eventually come through, but it took 4-5 days. As an expat living in the UAE, this customer service experience is situation normal for the region.

    Admin frustrations aside, the 24hr rate was very handy and the free night (on a business ticket) at the St Regis was a great perk.

  4. @ Dave — Sadly have no status with Etihad. If the elite Twitter team is better than the Residence concierge, it also makes me wonder about their priorities…

  5. @ Carlos — I booked the fare with a stopover in Abu Dhabi (it’s the same price). I did it because I wanted to experience the full Abu Dhabi ground experience as a passenger in The Residence.

  6. Liked with a lot organizations they are all very siloed and department a has no clue about department b and many times they frankly don’t care as it’s not their kpi to help another department.

    Customers see the entity as a whole organization and not an array of departments but internally they don’t see from a customers point and only their department operations.

    This is the modus operandi of a lot of business and they call it efficiency. It really bad and disorganized and have no customer service goals as they only concern about their own department objectives and not the customer. I call it deficiency

  7. Lucky I have seen some differences between Sam Chi AUH-BOM Residence Expereince taken last year and the Zacs taken from this year on the same route you will be taking AUH-SYD-

    http://pointsfromthepacific.boardingarea.com/2017/01/31/review-etihad-residence/

    I don’t know if its cost cutting but Sam had the head chef presenting his meals to him in the lounge and also had a choice of Lobster Tail on the menu. Both missing from Zacs review (The AUH First Class lounge menu has been reduced/cost cutting but they may not affect your Residence Lounge Experience). Maybe you can request the Lobster Tail if it interests you in addition to your onboard meal.

    Also are you flying the First Class cabin on the Etihad A340-600 from CAI-AUH or is that not operating on your dates?

    Lastly I look forward to your review of Virgin Australia new Business Suites from SYD-LAX if you take it. It’s supposed to be better than the new Qantas Business Suites.

  8. Really makes you wonder since they must know who you are/have a social media team monitiring popular blogs for mention of their airline. If they are this bad helping out bloggers with huge followings, I have real questions about the way the airline is run.

  9. Not a stopover comment but related as I am unsure Etihad has given much thought to some aspects of their connecting experience.
    I purchased F ticket BKK-AUH-JFK (J on BKK-AUH segment) with 18 hour connect in AUH for a meeting.
    I was not permitted to use Etihad Arrivals Lounge (airline policy – as I was a connecting passenger) to shower upon arrival in AUH and then not permitted to check in luggage more than 3 hours before flight to JFK. Sit in terminal please.
    For what rationale?
    Seperately 6 months later AA have not posted miles to my account which seems like ongoing problem based on various posts.

  10. I recently booked an Etihad stopover at Jumeirah and they were extremely responsive, the whole thing was done in less than 12 hours and we had a bit of back and forth as my first choice wasn’t available.

    Sucks that you didn’t have a better experience.

  11. Hi Ben,

    I’m booked in The Residence from DEL – LHR with a stopover in AUH in June. Unfortunately my experience with them has been similarly poor. With the amount and level of marketing they do around this product, the service feels a LOT more to be desired. First class or in fact even business class customer service is way better than what Etihad has on offer. The hefty price tag seems to be an overcharged figure just for their one of a kind onboard product with service that does not match the hard product at all.

    Travelling Is A Way Of Life

  12. Hala are a Joke. They bring shame to Etihad. I fly Etihad a lot. I am platinum with them. I once booked four tickets for me and my family, in business class. Instead of giving me two nights in two rooms (2×2) they said I could have four rooms for one night or four separate rooms for four separate nights as ‘single occupancy’. What they fail to realise is 5* hotels don’t often sell ‘single occupancy’ because they’re not the YMCA.
    I booked four separate rooms over two nights and obviously the hotels did not object to us using the same two rooms for four nights.
    Hala is a bit crackers if you ask me.

  13. Hi Ben. I’ve successfully arranged this many times. Note some have 24 hour rooms rather than conventional hotel check in times. Usually they respond within a few hours and advise what’s available before i finalise the stopover

  14. Horrendous and Kafakesque customer service in my experience.

    My last two flights in apartments were average and poor as well. Customer facing staff seem to be completely unempowered and undertrained. The cost cutting at Etihad is very evident at the moment, across the board.

  15. I have travelled Etihad from Toronto to Mumbai and their customer service is slow and totally discourteous. Never again Etihad.

    Ram Venkat

  16. Qatar did not offer us a hotel or bed on a 9 hour connect. But they have extremely comfortable bed/loungers inside the business class lounge that you can sleep in (believe me – really comfortable and sleep was such an issue that several passengers slept through their connecting flight when we were there). They are arranged in little pods and there are not a lot of them but we were very lucky and had a good rest from midnight to 7 AM.

    That is the only good thing I have to say about our Qatar flight(s).

  17. I had a one night stopover arranged this way about a month ago and had no issues. Received a confirmation for the Yas Viceroy within 24 hours.

  18. I recently joined up with Etihad Guest and booked my first Etihad flight. Their web site looks nice on the face of it, but operationally is rather clunky, less than ideally usable and even buggy in places. Emirates by comparison has a very competent online offering. I’m looking forward to trying out the actual product in a couple of weeks.

  19. I’m not surprised. You’ve experienced Level 1 of what it’s like being an expat in the UAE. You’re just lucky you don’t have to deal with Dewa (power company) and Etisalat same fantastic levels of service. Good luck!

  20. I just stayed in Jumeirah with Etihad and the arrangement was pretty easy. I filled the form, listed my 3 choices and I got a reply the next day.

  21. Etihad is ok if it is a typical request/event, but yes anything atypical will be a huge PITA. As pointed out by another comment here, you’ll find only one area can approve something, but you’ll never be able to have contact with them directly, and that area will rarely give a flying fig about you. You just have to hope something happens, but be prepared for stuff-ups (which will happen) – service recovery will be a hot mess in most cases.

    As a Etihad Guest Platinum I can tell you that it won’t mean much in any drama – you’ll get the same regardless of status in regards to these service issues.

    The airline expanded rapidly, and still lacks an efficient and effective organisational cohesiveness (not to mention its fair share of dud employees who are untouchable).

    As long as it’s routine, you are fine with Etihad, but it’s a test of your luck otherwise.

  22. @Shiela E and @n –

    Why comment like this? Does it make you happy? He is clearly reviewing the experience as purchased and/or promised. It is not an entitlement issue. If he were saying that “oh, they don’t have someone packing my bag and carrying it” and it were not advertised, that falls along the lines of entitlement.

    Do you get bothered if a restaurant (fast food or sit-down) brings your food slowly or incorrectly? From the vantage point of somebody who cannot afford a restaurant or food in general, this comes off as entitled. So you need to check your perspective too.

    The purpose of this post was to review the product, not to demonstrate equity.

  23. It is definitely not impossible to book the one night free deal in Abu Dhabi when using miles and flying open jaw in business.
    Maybe its just luck on the day or you need to use more gentle persuasion

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