Then And Now — How Much Cost Cutting Has Etihad Done At Their JFK Lounge?

A bit over a week ago I wrote about my experience with the cost cutting at Etihad’s Washington Dulles Lounge (which I published a full review of yesterday). Specifically, the lounge didn’t have any sort of a dine on demand menu, and also didn’t have a cocktail list, in stark contrast to my experience at Etihad’s other lounges.

There’s no denying that the Gulf carriers are under financial pressure from their governments, and we’re starting to see quite some signs of that when it comes to the passenger experience. Don’t get me wrong, they still offer an all around excellent experience, though it’s just not quite to the level that it once was, at least in some areas.

Anyway, my visit to the Etihad Lounge at Dulles Airport was the first time I had visited that particular lounge, so I couldn’t really do an apples-to-apples comparison of the cost cutting, but rather could only compare it to my experience at other Etihad lounges.

However, yesterday I also visited the Etihad Lounge New York JFK, which I’ve reviewed before. I won’t be writing a full review of the lounge, though instead will just share the significant ways it has changed in the year or so since I last visited.

The lounge is still an absolutely stunning space, so I have nothing to fault them for there.

Like last time, the lounge still has a high quality buffet, which remains mostly unchanged. There’s salad, fruit, some basic desserts, as well as three hot dishes.

Last time the lounge had an extensive menu, consisting of two appetizers, four main courses, and five desserts.

Etihad-Lounge-New-York - 33

Now they’re down to just five small plates to choose from.

In the past I’d say the food was restaurant quality and beautifully presented…

While now the whole thing looks more like an afterthought. They were out of samosas when we were there, so we ordered the beef sliders and chicken satay. The sliders were perfectly fine, while the chicken satay was sort of sad.

I’m not really sure why they even bother with a menu anymore — these are things they could just as easily add to the buffet.

Oh, and Etihad’s creative and impressive list of city themed cocktails? Those are gone as well. While you can still order drinks from the bar, there’s no more cocktail list.

Don’t get me wrong, the Etihad Lounge JFK is still nice, and is still better than the one at Dulles Airport. However, it’s not nearly as impressive as it used to be, as this lounge had some of the best a la carte dining and drinks of any business class lounge in the world.

Etihad is certainly cutting costs when it comes to their soft product, though I guess they can afford to do so.

I know this is very much a first world problem and something minor, but I found the direct comparison to be interesting.

Comments

  1. Great quasi-side-by-side comparison. EY is the one airline I care to fly that I’ve not yet. So I like reading about it as it scratches my itch, albeit temporarily.

    Only suggestion for this article, and maybe for the blog in general, is to stop saying, “I know this is a first-world problem, but…” Literally ALL the problems you and those of us in this game encounter are “first-world problems”. It’s a blog about luxury travel. Luxury international travel. Where we critique champagnes served and how many appetizers are on offer while we jet around the world. We all know this.

    Maybe dispense with that trite little statement? Saying so doesn’t offset the type of complaint, legitimate or otherwise, you’re making.

  2. They had the best and most creative cocktails ever! I hope they still have them at AUH.

  3. I actually prefer a variety of small plates to having separate appetizers and main course sized dishes. So in a way, it’s a good thing. Unfortunately, some of those tapas seem shitty.

  4. This will influence my decision as to how to use my one-way AA award ticket. Assuming the lounge at AUH is better, I think I’ll book the apartment from AUH to JFK rather than the opposite direction.

  5. Still seems HUGELY BETTER than any US airline’s lounge. I mean, I have not been to a lot of lounges in the world (Venice, London Heathrow, Buenos Aires, Athens), but ALL OF THEM were better than ANY of the lounges I’ve been in the US (AA and UAL in ORD, MIA, DFW), especially regarding FOOD.

  6. @Jerry

    So you’ll get the new lounge in AUH, and another benefit is that flying AUH-JFK is longer than the reverse, so you’ll get more time in your apartment.

  7. This side by side review is very useful. Actual reduced quality and offerings are shown.

    I still don’t get why this lounge’s current buffet offerings are considered “high quality” while at the Dulles lounge their nearly identical (actual better) looking buffet rated as “not that great.”

    There’s a different standard being applied to the same product.

  8. I agree with @AdamR: the term ‘first world problem’ needs to be stricken from the OMAAT lexicon.

  9. @Donald

    I’m guessing it is because the buffet at JFK just looks fancier and seems to be presented much more nicely. Granted, that is all according to the eye…

    Of course, the hot dishes all look of the same quality.

  10. Thanks for that, Ben. It’s disappointing to see and a sign of the times unfortunately. The food on board has gone downhill too. I recently flew Kuwait to Abu Dhabi in business where they have a limited menu. I chose the fish dish and I can honestly say it was the worst fish I have ever had, both on the ground and in the air. It was dire and even looked dodgy! I have four long haul business class flights coming up with them in the next month or two, so it will be interesting to see if my fish dish on the Kuwait to Abu Dhabi flight was a one off, or a sign of things to come.

  11. Maybe it is a step in the right direction.

    Consider this, most of the travelers using business class are in fact, business travelers. They would not have the time to spend at these lounges, unless they connect (which is why EK , QR and EK invest so much in their hub lounges and not outstations)

    These business travelers care more about time ,so as a safe bet I’d assume 50% of them don’t even visit the lounges, let alone dine a la carte.

  12. EDIT:

    (which is why EK , QR and TK ** invest so much in their hub lounges and not outstations)

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