Etihad Finally Confirmed My Abu Dhabi Stopover Hotel… With A Catch

Yesterday I wrote about the issues I was having with confirming a complimentary hotel for my upcoming trip in the Etihad Residence. Etihad offers first and business class passengers a complimentary hotel room if they have a 1-2 day stopover in Abu Dhabi.

Etihad

Etihad even advertises how they offer two complimentary nights in a Khaleej Suite at the Emirates Palace for passengers in The Residence. I was looking forward to taking advantage of that for my stopover in Abu Dhabi.

Etihad-Stopover

However, unfortunately I couldn’t get a response from Etihad. They said that the reservation would be confirmed within 24-48 hours of when the request was made. I didn’t hear back from them within that timeframe, so sent a follow-up email, and also called the number they have listed, which just kept ringing.

Then I followed up with the Etihad Residence concierge, which I figured would do the trick. However, three days later it still hadn’t been confirmed.

Yesterday about three hours after I published my post I got a response from both the service that handles hotel bookings, and also the concierge. I’m not sure if that response would have come either way, or just came because of my blog post. Here’s their response:

In line to your e-mail, please be inform that Emirates Palace is not available and it was on stop sale on the requested dates as per system.

Alternatively, please advise us on the list below of the hotels for your convenience.

  • Jumeirah at Etihad Towers Abu Dhabi 
  • InterContinental Abu Dhabi
  • Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa
  • The St. Regis Abu Dhabi

We are looking forward for your soonest response.

So I’m not sure how they’re defining the Khaleej Suite at the Emirates Palace as not being available. The greatest number of Khaleej Suites you can book per night through Emirates Palace’ website is four, and at least that many were available for my dates. So it seems like a bit of a gimmick to suggest that this is a benefit for The Residence. Then again, an airline not managing expectations well is hardly a novel concept. 😉

Khaleej-Suite

I’ve stayed at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi and InterContinental Abu Dhabi, so decided to book Jumeirah at Etihad Towers to try something new. In looking at the confirmation, there are two cool things:

  • Breakfast is included
  • Each voucher for a room night is valid for 24 hours from when you arrive, so it doesn’t follow the traditional check-in/check-out times, which is nice given the time many Etihad flights arrive and depart

Jumeirah-Etihad-Towers

Ultimately it’s nice that Etihad offers this to begin with. However, since I’m traveling in May (which is the start of slow season), the paid rate would be quite reasonable as well. For example, through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, the rate would be ~$190 per night, and come with free breakfast, a room upgrade, a $100 food & beverage credit, etc.

Amex

For the second night I’m actually considering switching hotels and trying something new, even if it’s out of pocket. I’m always trying to squeeze as many hotel reviews out of “interesting” trips as possible. The Ritz-Carlton is only ~$200 per night, and the Four Seasons is marginally more, and if each stay is just one night, I can get quite some benefits out of it (anyone have a preference between the two hotels?).

AUH-1 AUH-2

Bottom line

I’m happy that my stopover hotel for Abu Dhabi was finally confirmed. It’s a bit ridiculous how long it took, and how unresponsive they were. It’s also a bit disappointing that they didn’t deliver on the promised hotel. But hey, something is better than nothing, and this is no doubt a nice feature for first and business class passengers.

Comments

  1. Ritz in Abu Dhabi is horrible (especially pool service). Consider the Shangri La instead.

  2. Four Seasons is brand new and attached to the same mall that the Rosewood is. I’d stay there, as I appreciate the location for proximity to shops/ restaurants in the mall and proximity to downtown.
    Ritz Carlton is tried and tested and has a nice location on the canal. I’d only stay there if I was staying for Friday night, As I’d go to the brunch there at the Ritz (amazing), go to drinks at P&C at the Shangri – La for mosque-view cocktails, then stumble home afterwards. Otherwise, there’s not much in that area.

  3. Given that the Khaleej Suite at the Emirates Palace is completely bookable, I would still gun for that.

  4. Possibly to ask for a comparable suite at another property if they don’t book the Khaleej Suite at Emirates Palace? Disappointing that they advertise that hotel for Residence guests but don’t honor it.

  5. I made a free stopover also at the Jumeirah. It took 12 hours until Etihad confirmed my reservation 🙂

  6. If I were you Lucky, I would hold my ground and ask for the Emirates Palace suite they promised.
    If they are not willing to offer what they advertise, I’d just cancel the ticket.
    For something like the Residence, this kind of nonsense is totally unacceptable.

  7. @ Lucky – why not push for the suite as promised? Tell them it’s bookable using cash so it should be bookable through the airline. It’s hard to fathom being given such a runaround after paying a ton of money for The Residence.

  8. Push them for the Emirates Palace suite and do a trip report on that. It’s a pretty over the top hotel, I was just there two nights ago.

  9. This is totally unacceptable, echo what Tom said to the fullest. They have already messed you around up till now, cancel the ticket. What else will they do from here on out? It’ s not funny anymore. Tell them that you will not be partaking in this freak show any longer.

  10. Maybe one reason the suite is not “available” is because of the relatively cheap price you paid for the flight ticket.

  11. Having stayed at the Emirates Palace numerous times including in that suite its lovely. I would push back and say you can wait until day of to get a final answer on the suite. All those other hotels will have availability the day prior to your arrival. Also be sure to stop at the ATM at the EP that has gold bars!

  12. @Lucky – I live in Abu Dhabi and have been to most of these hotels. Jumeirah is an excellent choice, however, the Ritz not so much. I’d highly recommend the Shangri-La. Or, if possible ask them if they could get you into Anantara suites. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to stay at the Ritz over these two. Even the Yas Viceroy is really good, but it’s fun only during the F1 season.

    And as for Shangri-La ask for either a presidential suite or a villa with a private pool.

  13. It seems like Etihad is pretty aloof to not be going out of their way to make this a great experience for you. Do they not realize that you are an influential blogger? If they were good, they would be fulfilling your every request, even if they would say no to the average Residence guest. Who cares if they have to shell out $2000 for some great PR.

  14. Agreed – push for the Khaleej Suite at Emirates Palace. Nothing else in Abu Dhabi is really comparable

  15. That is BS. I would definitely push back, this is an insane bait and switch! At the very least they should be booking a suite at whatever property you choose. If you do venture on your own I’d be interested in your take on the FS, given it’s new and not as reviewed.

  16. Hmmm, I guess I am being a total pushover here. I’m going to follow-up and see what they say. I want to see how this plays out, if nothing else. Appreciate the feedback, guys!

  17. Ben,
    I’d call their bluff and ask them dates when the Khaleej Suite is available for a “Residence” guest, then adjust your ticket accordingly.

  18. Bait & switch.

    Book the suite for the nights you want, then send them the confirmation to the airline and tell them they have your permission to call the hotel and switch it into their rate.

  19. Honestly, just email them that tou found an available booking and that you would gladly take that 🙂 Not like your paying 7 grand for a flight and wouldnt deserve it + they advertised it.

  20. At the very least a guaranteed room type in a comparable hotel is surely on the cards and it’s bizarre that they didn’t proactively confirm this – and it does look like there’s a dramatic gap between a standard room at a jumeriah or IC and that suite. I like Todd’s idea – If it’s a voucher unless there’s some sort of blackout dates or capacity constraints then that’s a good way to leverage them, And also Greg’s idea of calling their bluff and saying ‘ok what date is it available in 2017.

  21. @lucky: I think you publishing this series ahead of your flight is a mistake and will affect (one way or another) how they treat you. For a unbiased review you should’ve booked, tried the concierge service,flown and reported back after all that. In the end, if anybody books something similar that would be the only way to see if they are receiving the same level of service. Love the blog, just my $0.02.

  22. Steve – I find it incredibly hard to believe Etihad downgrade hotels for gay passengers…

    I also don’t know why so many of you think Etihad staff living in Abu Dhabi would all know who Ben Schlapigg is? Even if they know the blog, why would they necessarily recognise the name? The “give me better treatment because I’m a blogger” attitude you want him to take is also bizarre given that removes the credibility of a review – you might as well just get Etihad to write it for him in that case!

  23. Yes. Definitely push back. Hard. You are paying for this trip out of pocket. You’re not getting anything with points or comp’ed. $7,000 should count for something! Do they pull this scam every time someone books that flight? I would call the hotel directly and book the suite, then inform Etihad that the reservation is there and they can take care of it, or convert it–or do what they’ve got to do so you aren’t paying. 100% unacceptable. This isn’t chicken or beef…this is like being promised a gold Rolex and instead being given a Timex. Both will get the job done but are a world apart.

  24. I’d also like to add this, just because there’s rooms available to pay in cash doesn’t mean they should have rooms available for residence guests via this perk. Etihad likely has a few rooms set aside for their Residence guests, but they’re likely all reserved as well for those dates.

  25. Lucky I have stayed at the emirates palace at the khaleej suite and it is amazing, I love it. You should push for it. It is worth it. Look at the price difference between one and the other!

  26. No they called out “We have another Cairo ticket and adjusted the options down from there. I also Angel has an excellent point in that when you telegraph your itenerary that “survey bias” takes over and it becomes totally skewed. I would say going thru a cabin taking photos also creates “survey bias”. You are a smart guy…..you should take a graduate course in statistics and I’ll bet you a Khaleej suite night it would forever change the way you blog. And make a great blog immaculate!

  27. I feel that you are not sufficiently frustrated with Etihad over this. You were more critical of them in your post about why you believe they do not offer the best first class service of any airline… whereas this is a great example of false advertising.

  28. Love your blog even though I don’t travel much. Would be interested to hear about the Four Seasons. But I agree with the others who say you should push for the better/best hotel.

  29. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers is a really lovely hotel. It’s not a downgrade; it’s actually truly superior to the tacky Emirates Palace.

  30. I’d stay at the Four Seasons over the Ritz Carlton for the second night, if you don’t push Etihad to honour their advertising. I suspect you are influenced by the Ritz Carlton because of the loyalty program credit, whereas the Four Seasons stay is outside a formal loyalty credit program, but I think you should just focus on the quality of the hotel itself and not worry about earning and burning for this stay.

    I’d certainly like to see a few more Four Seasons reviews.

  31. Agree with the others. Push for the Emirates suite. If they’re showing 4 available, it’s not like they’re overselling. Get what you paid for 🙂

  32. Hopefully you are aren’t in AD during Ramadan!
    It closes down during the day
    Go to Emirates Palace and get the coffee sprinkled with Gold

  33. @ZacharyB how many Residence seats do they have daily huh? It is 1 seat for every 380 planes, and the number of routes u can count with 1 hand. So if they cannot even fulfill this tiny demand, they shld not even try to market this.

    @lucky yeah, ask again. The way EY is handling it makes EY look like an airline to avoid. Even a Residence passenger gets such bad service, and u r a famous blogger as well. Whats the recourse for ordinary folks? Bad.

  34. Have you tried the Park Hyatt on Saadiyat? It’s quite nice and very chill. If not, Etihad Towers should be worth checking out (aim for a club room, they used to do free champagne from 5-7PM). And if you really need to get through to Emirates Palace I have friends on their marketing team and would be happy to put you in touch with them…

  35. @flyingfish If you actually read the Terms and Conditions on Etihad’s website it states
    “”Stopover programs” are subject to daily hotel allocation and as a result, all accommodations are subject to availability.”

  36. I had the same problem with this airline.All my contacts were blocked.faintheared I booked a points stay at the St Regis.
    Poor show Ethiad

  37. I can definitely recommend the Rosewood (!) it’s a great hotel with truly excellent staff, a great eye for details and amazing facilities! Make sure to book Club Manor access. 😀

  38. Reward availability of zero when the same product is still available for sale is a concept I thought only applied to the great unwashed masses, not the elite traveler that can buy a ticket in The Residence. Looks like as much of a scam as an hhnors upgrade at a standard property. My guess is that the Etihad PR department will miraculously find the promised suite is actually available for you, shortly after they read your post.

  39. The Etihad Towers Jumeriah is a lovely place to stay. You can see the Emirates Palace across the street. 🙂 Agreed that it has great service, delicious food, huge rooms and so forth.

    And to the northwest, you can see the enormous, hundred acre compound that the Emir lives in. He was planning on the Emirates Palace site, but eventually opted for the larger parcel adjacent to it.

  40. Agree with almost everyone here. If they want to pretend it’s just an amazing experience worthy of insane ticket prices then honor what you promise. Absolutely pathetic.

  41. @lucky – just adding my voice to say how much I’m enjoying reading your blow-by-blow account of this whole experience. (I do feel bad for you that some parts of this experience are proving difficult, but I guess the life of a travel reviewer means you have to take the good with the bad. And report on it 🙂 ).

    I’d love to see a summary post at the end of this, where you give your overall thoughts on good/bad parts of the Etihad Residence experience. Could you do a rundown at the high level, along with links to each individual post so we can read more context?

  42. I think we now know enough about the Residence experience from your posts even before you set foot on the plane. Where are you going to draw the line and cut this off? You might as well cancel the ticket already and save the money.

  43. Etihad is always irresponsible when it comes for Residence passengers it took for ever to reply , made offers they never keep and do not expect any post flight follow up

  44. @ZacharyB
    I hope whenever u encounter similar ridiculous situations, u will happily accept such lousy outcomes. EY will always tell u they are out of availability for all their hotels, and u will agree with the clauses as the way u interpret, k?

    Lucky got his Suites because he knew it was EY trying to fool him, and he showed them availability, and it became hard to pull such a trick off on him.

    And we all know by now the availability is always there…

  45. It also seems they do not provide transfers to the hotel from the airport–like they do if you have a standard long transit window and they provide the hotel. In Business or First with an 8-hour layover (up to 24 hours) they provide a free hotel room– and limo transfers to the hotel and back. But not with this particular promotion: you need to find an ATM, get some cash and pay for taxis both ways.

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