Etihad Eliminates Chauffeur Service On Award Tickets

Etihad continues to make cut after cut after cut after cut to their passenger experience. Individually all of these changes are minor, but when you put them all together, they add up. What’s especially concerning is that we seem to see a new cut every week, so it’s clear that the airline is still actively focused on devaluing the passenger experience rather than trying to differentiate the experience they offer their passengers.

Etihad has just announced their latest devaluation to their complimentary chauffeur service for first & business class passengers, but before we look at that, let’s recap the changes they’ve made to this service already:

  • As of August 2016, Etihad cut chauffeur service for first & business class passengers booked on partner airline award tickets
  • Much more significantly, as of July 2017, Etihad eliminated chauffeur service everywhere except in the UAE; previously first & business class passengers received door-to-door transport, while now you only receive the service when flying into and out of Abu Dhabi

Now it’s time for the next cut to Etihad’s chauffeur service. As of April 1, 2018, Etihad will no longer offer any award passengers a complimentary chauffeur service. Per the Etihad chauffeur booking page:

All First and Business Class tickets (with the exception of Business Saver and from 1 April 2018 guest redemption tickets in First and Business Class) are eligible for the Etihad Chauffeur service.

Up until now one advantage of booking an award ticket through Etihad Guest rather than a partner program (like American AAdvantage) has been that you get chauffeur service in the UAE, but even that isn’t the case anymore.

Etihad & Mercedez-Benz recently announced a partnership for their chauffeur service in the UAE, with a fleet of E-Class cars providing the service for Etihad. Too bad an ever-decreasing number of people have access to this service.

It genuinely makes me sad to see what Etihad is turning into. I used to have such a strong emotional connection to the brand, and while I can appreciate their desire to reduce losses after their horrible, failed investment strategy, there has to be a better way to go about this…

Comments

  1. At this rate, Etihad will just slow the plane enough for passengers to parachute directly on to their destination, instead of landing 😛

    Etihad has become the American Airlines of the Middle East. AA should renew their code-share with Etihad – it will offer a ‘seamless experience’ 😛

  2. I used it last week and the new cars are nice. Happy l made before this announcement. With Uber not in AD anymore, you’ll have to use standard taxis . . .

  3. At least I was able to use the service last month on an award ticket thanks to you. Let me know when they remove the seat from the Apartment.

  4. Ahhh, sorry – guilty of taking this benefit to extreme. On award ticket, I used their limo to AUH.. ..1.5hrs away from Dubai! They offered, so I took it!

  5. @ Mo — “Business Saver” refers to a type of paid ticket and not to an award ticket. Yes, all paid first class fares still qualify.

  6. @ FlightorFight — That’s not extreme at all, that’s what the service is intended for, so that you can fly into Abu Dhabi and visit Dubai.

  7. My partner recently flew AUH SIN in F. As from 1 January 2018, Etihad announced “Mercedes-Benz S-Class vehicles will be used to chauffeur first class passengers airside at Abu Dhabi Airport when remote stands are used”. Well, guess what? Her flight left from a remote stand and a bus was used to transport the F and J pax to the aircraft! False advertising? Mind boggling incompetence? Either way, it’s a joke. We are both Platinum members with Etihad and the decline is spectacular, especially in the AUH F lounge. I’m travelling AUH SIN in F next month, so it will be interesting to see what happens if a remote stand is used.

  8. The reaction seems a bit dramatic…paying for a first class fare still gets it right?

    I understand this blog is dedicated to points and whatnot but to demand the arbitrage remain as wide as it is – “I paid peanuts for this 20,000 USD seat!” is essentially the refrain of the points and miles crew – isn’t realistic. It’s still an incredible value, just a little worse than before.

    In other posts, Lucky and many other travel bloggers point out the stratification of Y sub fare classes. Well, it’s happening in F too…the bare bones cheapest fares, the award tickets, are losing some of the bundled benefits. I expect the people who book mostly with points will be pissed but what do you expect? They’re basically saying the business model of giving away the kitchen sink to awards points tickets may not be as beneficial to the airlines as all the points consumers dogmatically believe it is.

  9. Lucky, it would be nice to see you a little more critical about airline PR efforts in this department.

    Etihad is not the first airline to provide over-the-top offerings for its premium passengers, to great blogger and travel-writer fanfare, only to begin rolling back the goodies before the ink on the initial glowing reviews is even dry. This is an obvious and, apparently, quite effective tactic: Reviewers write gushing praises about some new service or cabin upgrade, posts which attract lots of web traffic and positively shape consumer sentiment. Then the cutbacks begin…by the time consumers catch on, a long time has gone by during which the airline still benefits from the initial wave of positive reviews. Just one example: Try Googling “Etihad Apartment Review” and see what comes up. What I see is the entire first page filled with glowing reviews. In fact, the top two hits are your own reviews from 2015 and 2016. This pure PR gold for Etihad is the gift that keeps on giving. Your subsequent posts about the deterioration of Etihad’s service will never score as high as those initial reviews. Which of course Etihad knows. Which is why so much effort goes into initial awesomeness as opposed to maintaining it over time.

    I get that you want to be first out of the gate to review new products, routes, etc., and yes, I know you have posted less than glowing reviews from time to time. All I’m saying is that perhaps you might take into account the possibility that the reason new products are so awesome initially is that airlines want you — among many others of course — to write the great reviews that will continue to drive business to their products long after the quality is downgraded.

  10. +1 Bob Trial

    Give me a break…Boohoo…You don’t get a ride in a Benz for your Etihad award ticket. I didn’t get it either for my Emirates award ticket because they cut that back, and it “devalued” my first experience in Emirates A380 business class absolutely nothing at all. Get over it people.

  11. confused. I booked an award ticket last month for a trip this November. is their April 1st a ticket date or departure date?

  12. Lucky,
    I have an award ticket from AUH to JFK in Etihad Apartment booked for Nov 27. Since the flights have been ticketed prior to April 2018 will I still receive the chauffeur service?

  13. I’m with Bob Trial on this one. In this world, one gets what one pays for. Miles ARE a form of payment . . . into a very discounted fare class. Why be upset at carriers for segmenting fringe ground benefits among levels of payment. Kudos to Air Canada for making a civilized lounge for paying customers in YYZ where mileage bloggers aren’t snapping photos all over the place and lowering the quality of the food offered by lowering the average fare paid per pax. I hold no grudge against EY for conforming to an industry standard to which LY and VS already adhere. If EK wants to be more generous, that’s very nice of them. We’ll see how long they keep playing the sucker; they already read AS the riot act apparently. KE offers personal escorts in the airport . . . on paid first tickets, but not awards or upgrades. Should Chase point millionaires get that benefit when KE is already generous enough to open their A space to such individuals? Hardly.

    I just flew ORD-HND (NH) HND-SIN (SQ) and back SIN-ICN-ORD (KE) in all in, first all on awards. I got what I expected; a great experience in the air all the way. I didn’t expect extra services on the ground that I might have expected had I paid F like personal escorts that those carriers do give you (unpublished) if you ask them if you are flying paid F. I got exactly what I paid for with my mileage for and I was grateful for the value. Sulking about the extras you don’t get is tasteless. Sometimes the entitlement around here is irksome, especially with mistake fares (blogs like these ruined them by the way by whining to the DOT over obvious ones instead of trying to enforce only the reasonable ones), but this is beyond the pale.

  14. How is this different than what your beloved EK have done? Considering you use partner airline miles to fly EK, your missing out on the same thing.

    Im still at a loss as to how EK is portrayed as the golden child but EY needs to be scolded for doing the exact same cut?

  15. @ Bob @ Matty Tailwinds – Ticketing date won’t make any difference if Etihad reissues your ticket at any time after the change in chauffeur benefit. They can and (from my experience) will reissue tickets at any time they please.

  16. @Ari – Some US legacy carriers expect gratitude if the flight attendant does not spit on you.

    On a more serious side, yes one should complain and more importantly take ones business elsewhere. My initial statement was a joke, but as Americans we should be upset at how lousy our airlines have been for some time. Customer Service seems to be a four lettered word. I have no desire to ever live in the ME, but I did enjoy flying their airlines. The service is still vastly superior to what we offer stateside, but reviews like this one show that not all the glitters will remain gold.

  17. @Number1: Or putting money into airlines that are about to go bust. Back when EY increased their share in AB/AZ it was relatively clear that both had financial issues. While a case could’ve been made that sensible good management and proper corporate governance could’ve turned around AB, it was clear to most people that AZ would eventually end up where they are right now (yet again).

    FWIW Etihad has been cutting cost left and right across the board. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Etihad eventually reverts to being a much smaller carrier than it hope to become.

  18. @BobTrial Another +1.

    While I enjoy reading Lucky’s comments, I do feel there’s an undue sense of entitlement that frequently captures my attention.

    Those of us who receive the bulk of our miles from flying, and occasionally use the ideas and tricks promoted here for our added benefit, generally realize that loyalty programs were intended to rewards “loyal” customers, not conniving and scheming freeloaders. The “Race to the Top” by the providers (airlines), with additional luxurious attractions designed to capture the imagination of the vanguard, may not have been business savvy or financially compelling to them, and they have every right to pull back on their potential excesses.

    None of us needs a chauffeured limo to get to and from our flights – many of us are already reimbursed for similar services by our employers, so its just a stroke to an ego more than anything. If your ego needs these strokes, and you are compelled to complain about the lost icing on the cake, I suggest spending some time with a shrink because you’re paying too much attention to the glitz and not enough to the substance.

    Enjoy the apartment on your trip and sit back and luxuriate with the champagne, but please, even though the limo ride is going away from the free plane ride, don’t sweat it. Its not that important.

  19. Lucky is this for new award bookings only? I booked a guest 1st class award ticket months ago in the Apartment from AUH-JFK. The flight departs on 4/1/18 and I had already requested the Chauffeur service? Am I SOL now?????

  20. @ ChiHockeyGuy – If by “conniving and scheming freeloaders” you mean travelers who rely on manufactured spend, you’re taking aim at the wrong blog. Ditto the sign up bonuses—if the airlines and cc companies didn’t want people to have multiple cards, they wouldn’t approve their applications. And buying miles? If that’s freeloading, then the airlines are all for it considering the way so many hawk their miles.

    “Loyal”? “Vanguard”? Seriously, are you for real? For someone who supposedly dislikes an undue sense of entitlement, your comment reeks of it.

  21. Just use Blacklane or better yet, rent a Ferrari from the hotel and arrive in style. Hardly an issue.

  22. @ ChiHockeyGuy

    Chauffeur services provided by airlines are part of the parcel the manufactured spending/churning crowd appreciates. Why pay for a cab to and from the airport when you can get it provided by the airline?

  23. @Ron

    Why are you reading this blog if you think we all should be paying full price for overpriced airfares?

    Makes no sense to me!

  24. @ Alan

    They are not overpriced; rather, they are priced at prices that the market will bear. That’s why certain airlines’ fares are generally more expensive than others’ and certain routes are cheaper than other more expensive routes. International F is not designed to be 100% full 100% of the time– certainly not of mileage redemption tickets. I appreciate the opportunity to redeem mileage for such tickets and take advantage of the value when it suits my schedule, but I don’t feel entitled to do so all the time nor do I feel like I am doing the carrier a favor by filling an empty seat and consuming $250 to $500 of F&B when doing so. Those seats aren’t there because of mileage bloggers; they’re there because some people actually pay for them at least some of the time. People around here would do well to remember that.

    This isn’t about who is a better person than someone else; money doesn’t make someone a better person, much less spending it on airfare. This is about who is a better customer for an airline’s bottom line and it isn’t the mileage blogger who skims the cream off the top. Card churning, manufactured spend and mileage purchase is best described as a very discounted way to get into international F; that’s why such tickets book into the lowest, most restricted booking codes. Allowed? Yes. Good for the carriers? Questionable. Airlines are coming to terms with the fact that these tickets are not as helpful to their bottom line as paid tickets and are cutting back on the benefits where they can while still offering them. There is nothing wrong with that.

    I come here to get information on which carriers on which to travel on either award tickets or paid tickets and for other relevant information. The trip reports also help me choose carriers for paid tickets, believe it or not. I take the best value I can get based on my scheduling needs; sometimes I get lucky and sometimes I pay through the nose. Does that make sense?

  25. I second DeltaCharlie. The Shangri-La offered a one-way rental of a Lambo Gallardo for 250USD. I left the hotel 6 hours ahead of my flight to ensure I arrived on time 😉

  26. FYI, Etihad eliminated chauffeur services @AUH for cash$ paying “Business Saver” tix (not award) a while back.

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