Conclusion To My Etihad Stopover Drama: I Got A $1,500 Per Night Suite After All!

Filed Under: Etihad, Hotels

Boy, my upcoming trip in Etihad’s Residence is proving to be quite interesting, and I haven’t even left for Abu Dhabi yet!

Over the past couple of days I’ve shared the issues I was having with confirming a complimentary hotel in Abu Dhabi, which is a standard feature for first and business class passengers on revenue tickets. 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.


Unfortunately that proved tougher than I was expecting. After six days Etihad still hadn’t confirmed my reservation, and that’s despite a promise that hotels would be confirmed within 24-48 hours of the request being made. I had sent a follow-up email to both the department that handles this, and also Etihad’s concierge for Residence passengers.

The Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi lobby

Even more disappointing, once they responded they informed me that the Emirates Palace is “not available,” and offered me a standard room at a selection of other hotels. Keep in mind that a suite at the Emirates Palace is about 10x as expensive as any of the other options, and the hotel was still selling many Khaleej Suites. It sure seems like a bait and switch to me.

I sort of thought to myself “meh, whatever,” and figured I’d take a standard room at Jumeirah at Etihad Tower. However, almost unanimously the comments from readers yesterday encouraged me to “fight” for the suite at the Emirates Palace, or at least a suite at a comparable hotel. It’s not often reader comments are that unanimous, so I figured I had to listen to you guys. I sent over the following email:

Thanks for sending over the confirmation, but I was hoping you could clarify something. You said that the Emirates Palace is not available and on “stop sale” for the dates requested. The hotel is still selling at least four Khaleej Suites, which is the highest number of suites they’ll show as available, so clearly it’s not anywhere close to sold out.

This was a feature that was advertised by Etihad for passengers in The Residence, so it seems a bit disingenuous to suggest that this is not available, when clearly it is, and it’s wide open. At a minimum a comparable suite in another hotel seems like a reasonable accommodation

Please advise if there’s anything that can be done.

Well, about 20 hours later I got a response from the Residence concierge, saying the following:

Please be noted that your hotel booking in Emirates Palace is now confirmed and wish you a pleasant stay in Abu Dhabi . if you have any inquiry please do not hesitate to contact us at any time.

It worked! Sure enough, I’m confirmed in a Khaleej Suite at the Emirates Palace, including breakfast. Awesome! That room would retail for a total of ~3,000USD including tax for two nights.


Now, was I getting special treatment here? From the moment I booked this some suggested I’d be getting special treatment. I suspect I wasn’t getting special treatment when no one responded to my hotel inquiry for almost a week. I suspect I wasn’t getting special treatment when they didn’t confirm me in the type of hotel that was promised.

So I’m not sure if they did this as special treatment, or because a Residence passenger strongly pushed back. Regardless, so far I don’t really feel like my experience has been out of the ordinary in a positive way. 😉

Thanks to those who urged me to push back. Getting a suite that would retail for ~$3,000 for my two night stay is awesome, and will add another fun element to this review!

  1. “Now, was I getting special treatment here?”

    Uhhhhh, do you have to ask? 😀

    Looking forward to the report!

  2. This is great!

    I sort of wonder what TPG thinks of your upcoming trip. He paid over $30k whereas you paid significantly less and is getting more benefits out of it.

  3. Glad to hear you got what was promised, if only because it will make a more interesting review!

  4. “You gotta FIGHT!… for your RIGHT!… to PARTAYYYY! (in a really expensive suite)

    Well done, Lucky. Looking forward to that review.

  5. this is really good! Actually $7k for the residence and business class and this hotel is good price IMHO!!

  6. Yes, you ARE getting special treatment because you’re a blogger, and the airlines KNOW they can’t afford to allow any bloggers to shine them in a negative light.

  7. I’ve been to that hotel for dinner. It’s gorgeous and massive in size and so one night there does not do justice. It also seems so disconnected from Abu Dhabi in general. I would much rather stay at Etihad towers or even my preference would be Al Rotana next to the Abu Dhabi mall. Wonderful hotel, with nightlife, Way more lively area and a lot to see and do there.

  8. @Lucky You make a good point about not being entirely sure about getting special treatment. Getting ignored for six days doesn’t sound that special.

    Could they have finally found out who you are? Sure, but I don’t really mind that. The reality is I’ll never afford either the Residence or that hotel, but I do get to live vicariously through your experiences. As you write my favourite blog, and I like you, I don’t really care what the reason is that you finally got given the expensive hotel room. Your persistence pushed them into it, and I kind of feel I won as well by proxy. Enjoy! I will, reading about it.

  9. Whether you are getting ‘special treatment’ or not really doesn’t matter. You are getting what you paid for and what was promised. If ‘special treatment’ is getting what was promised, then what does that say about Etihad? Glad it worked out and shame on them for trying to walk back on their promises.

  10. I really don’t like companies that try to hoodwink you even if they finally give you what you are due. This happens to me all the time. It is very irritating why do I have to keep fighting for what i’m entitled to?

  11. TPG mentioned getting caviar both in the lounge before the flight as well as onboard. Will you get the same as a Residence passenger automatically, or can you request and receive it? Or has the caviar been “enhanced”?

  12. I don’t see how one could argue that after being ignored for six days and initially getting offered something less than advertised and only getting what your ticket entitles you to after pushing back is getting “special treatment.” Perhaps they were trying to give you the runaround based on your fare, which is obviously lower than the typical Residence fare and then someone finally realized who you were, but I would argue that you got what you got more because you pushed back and refused to accept something less than what was advertised and what you were entitled to based on your ticket. Which is something any of us can do (and, indeed, many of us have learned to do so based on reading your blog over the years).

    This isn’t the same as the China Southern situation where they clearly figured out who you were and provided you a level of service that typical passengers wouldn’t get on the same ticket (which, to your credit, you immediately recognized and acknowledged).

  13. @David W TPG is a millionaire, do you think he cares about a measly 30k? Plus he writes it off as business expense so it doesn’t come out of his pockets

  14. funny times these days, you have to fight to score what is advertised as yours and offered to you, I can’t imagine taking Armani shirt from the shelf just to be replaced for a no name vietnamese shirt at a cash register, but regulary had to pay as for Armani, imagine that!

  15. You got what you paid for, and had to pay for the privilege of being jerked around for a week. I hope I don’t get that kind of “special” treatment anytime soon!

    Congrats. Looking forward to all the reviews.

  16. Good job Lucky!

    Looking forward to the reviews! 10 pictures of the Suites as preview!

    (Btw, u will get limo transfer for the Suites too right?)

  17. @RIC, I’m pretty sure that many people that make more than TPG care about 30k for a trip. I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure I make more than him, but I wouldn’t ever pay 30k just to try a flight even though I can write it off as well. The deal Lucky got is amazing, and there’s a reason I like this blog way more than the TPG’s look at me attitude

  18. As someone who works for a major hotel company in Sales and I would be the type of hotel person that would have contracted Ethiad for hotel rooms I can explain this. A company like Ethiad would contract for a special rate and rooms over a year time frame at a heavily discounted rate. This is called either a Wholesale or Free Independent Traveler(FIT). All hotels will have blackout dates and stop sells attached to the contract. And just because a hotel has rooms to sell doesn’t mean that they will sell that room to Ethiad at the contracted rate. It’s usually done because the hotel is forecasting a sell-out.
    That all being said, it was not unreasonable for you to be placed in a similar accommodation and not just a standard room.

  19. Well done for fighting back and getting what was promised to you.
    Stayed almost two years ago in a Khaleej Suite for our daughters 9th birthday. They made an absolute fuss of her, showering her with gifts, flowers, cake etc. We’re going back again this year for her 11th. They had an offer on when we booked of an upgrade to the next category, so this time we’ll be in a Deluxe Khaleej Suite. Can’t wait! It’s a huge hotel and you can wander for what seems like an eternity without bumping into anyone. You’ll have access to the Palace lounge (their club/exec lounge), where there’s a decent breakfast and selection of canapes in the evening. The alcohol was served to you rather than self-serve and there was a limited choice. The two huge pools are amazing – one for adults and one for the kids in separate wings of the hotel. You must try out the lazy river in the kids wing. Also, ride one of their camels along their quiet beach front, enjoy Arabic coffee and sweet treats in the Bedouin tent and borrow the pedal bikes to make your way around the grounds. Wonderful hotel – counting down the days til our return!

  20. I’m one of your readers who left a comment on yesterday’s post saying you should push back and fight for the hotel.
    Glad you took our suggestion!!
    Very nice to hear it worked out at the end.
    I’m still a bit disappointed in Etihad though…the initial communication you received from them was just ridiculous.
    Having said that, I’m looking forward to your Resident trip report!

  21. @Hao LOL your comment is full of irony. You too boast a “Look at Me” attitude with your comments (“I’m pretty sure I make more than [TPG]” and “I can write [the Residence expense] off as well”)

    Go back to TPG and you two can be best buddies with your narcissistic attitudes.

  22. Wonderful!!!! Good for you for pushing back! Did they give any explanation of why they said it was unavailable before?? They definitely have their tail between their legs now. Pitiful that they initially tried to cheap out. Even if as some say it was because of the fare he paid, that doesn’t make it right–these are benefits they offer for which he filled the criteria!

    Can’t wait for the review!

  23. Millions of children are starving around the world…the least you could do is donate the hotel room to them.

  24. I’ll definitely enjoy the trip report but I think you should’ve waited until the end to report on it. It will be definitely affected by who you are and what you do. Anyhow, glad you got the hotel they advertise and I wish you an awesome flight!!!

  25. Well done, Ben! I kept the Emirates Palace in very good memory and can highly recommend it. It’s the second most expensive Hotel building around the globe (after Marina Bay Sands in Singapore US 5.5 Billion) with costs of US 3 Billion – and it’s obvious, that they didn’t run on a tight budget with all that gold around.
    One little remark: my first room was in the eastern wing, which is close to the family pool. So you might consider requesting a room in the western wing (providing the much nicer pool area for adults) or in the main center of the building. And the funny thing about changing from one room to another? You see how big this Hotel really is – it was a walk of over a Kilometer, what equals in 0.65 Miles… 😉 So, I’m looking forward to your stay report!

  26. I still believe that Ben would have been better off at the splendid Jumeirah @ Etihad Towers. Emirates Palace has the look and feel of a Disney creation; I wouldn’t have been surprised to see actors costumed as Princess Jasmine and the Genie parading through the lobby.

    At least a review of this Khaleej Suite has the potential of being an interesting addition to the trip report.

  27. Did you mention that you’re a blogger by any chance? Just wondering if you finally got the deserved treatment because of it, or if a normal person would too.

    Great deal. 7k-3k means only 4k for the round trip ticket.

  28. @Ric It’s not about whether TPG is a millionaire nor being able to write it off as a business expense. He (and others) blog about maximizing benefits and perks and in this case, it seems he missed out on something that could have been arranged.

    I’m just assuming but I’d bet Lucky has a decent amount of wealth and can also write off the expense as well. But is whether he can and will write it off really that important for a review? I rolled my eyes when I read TPG’s rationale for the ticket.

  29. Yay! You stay in the suite and you’re flying residence. I can’t fly the way you do since I’ll never accumulate so much points to spend but at least from the hotels and airlines you take, I can understand how their customer service culture is and undersyand they even if I go for the cheaper options, the customer service culture should extend to economy.

  30. I don’t suspect for a minute that Etihad knew who you were – unless they are totally stupid (which is not necessarily ruled out).

    The best they achieved with this fiasco is negative publicity – even when flying Residence you have to assert your rights and almost threaten to take them to court. If (maybe when) I try to book the Res with Etihad I will definitely think twice about your experience. There might just be a better place to spend my money where the recipient is happy to serve me and live up to or exceed their promised experience.

    Have fun. Don’t forget to wear sun glasses when you enter the palace because the glare of the gold in the lobby is almost blinding. Talk about bling!

  31. Here in NYC if you book a table at a fancy restaurant like at Blue Hill at Stone Barns the first thing they do is google you to find out who you are. It’s become standard practice. What amazes me about this story is that an airline that prides it self on its high end first class suites and one of a Kind Residence is so lazy and poorly run. Someone books the most expensive “seat” on your plane sold as a “unique one of a kind ” experience and you do no research into who they are? Then yoibfirthrr embarrass yourself by dicking him around for a week because you don’t want to give what you advertise is part of the “experience”. Sorry Ethiad that just makes you look sloppy and poorly run. Not to mention lazy. If you don’t want to offer all benefits on certain fares fine but then say so. Good for you Lucky for pointing out their hypocrisy.

  32. Of course you are getting special treatment lol but there is nothing wrong with that.
    EY knows you have a lot of readers and they wouldn’t want to look bad in the eyes of your readers.
    The reason I said that is because I remember last year Etihad posted your review of their apartments on their facebook page and promoted the hell out of it.
    So I can guarantee you that every single Etihad staff will be briefed the morning you travel in Residence to go above and beyond to ensure you have a pleasant experience because if you post a glowing review, Etihad will promote the hell out of it on their facebook again.

  33. I found the post Ben,
    December 29 2014 at 1PM, Etihad posted on Facebook
    “Ben Schlappig was one of the first guests on the Etihad A380.
    “Read what he had to say about his flight…”

    February 10 2016 at 9PM, Etihad posted on Facebook
    “Ben Schlappig from One Mile at a Time loved the complimentary barber service in our Abu Dhabi arrivals Lounge”

    Believe me, they know who you are. lol

  34. I would have definitely preferred the Ritz Carlton since the service is way beyond expectations and the Lounge is just amazing. Emirates Palace was very average and definitely overrated. Waiting at the front desk for 30 minutes, no working toilets (which are not even separated in the biggest room category) and poor welcome amenities are not what I expect from the best hotel in Abu Dhabi. I won’t stay there again.

  35. I’m so glad you got this! I would have never known about this perk of the Residence if I didn’t read your blog!
    I understand how some airlines would provide lodging for premium customers if there is no other connecting flight until the next day but 2 night stopover is great!!!

  36. Seems silly to make a mountain out of a mole hill about “special treatment”

    Sure Lucky had a “profile” greater than Joe Blow but did anyone honestly expect the area handling this hotel booking would immediately recognise Ben as “Lucky”, or even really care for that matter. Etihad’s departments run as seperate silos – while their PR area might recognise Lucky, trust me the guys handling the booking would not.

    So no, Lucky did not get “special treatment” initially because he doesn’t have the global recognition that say an A-lister Hollywood person or major Royality would. He was just a name.

    Of course once Lucky started blogging about it, Etihad’s PR area (who constantly scan for Etihad mentions that are mid-tier or better blogs) would have noticed, and then somebody “smoothed the way”. I doubt the decision would have been reversed otherwise.

    So no, unless you are top tier, very unlikely anyone will give you special treatment, but if you put it out there in social media and have at least a little profile, it’s not uncommon someone sees that, and you might get a little “special treatment” because you have essentially asked for it by giving the issue oxygen.

    Lucky got lucky lol – with a little blogging about it. Would have been better though if Etihad just delivered as it held out in the first place though, regardless of whether Ben blogged about it or not.

  37. As someone who is looking at Emirates Palace from my lounge room as I type this (I live in Etihad Towers), I’m sure you’ll hate every second of that very understated little place…! Looking forward to reading your thoughts!

    Also, if you feel like getting out a bit from your luxurious surroundings (and I won’t blame you if you don’t), Asia de Cuba, a bar down the road from Emirates Palace, is a great place to have a few drinks 🙂

  38. YAAAAASSS!!!!!! Ive been to the Emirates Palace Hotel, its stunning.

    Cant wait for your reviews !

  39. Lucky,
    As far as I can see you booked the trip / accommodation you eventually got. How can that be special treatment? That’s just business.

    Look forward to your report.

  40. So glad you pushed and got the suite! Can’t wait for the report. (It does make me wonder why they were so stingy about offering it; certainly puts me off ever wanting to try The Residence. Hope the rest of the trip is better!)

  41. Did someone above really comment they took their 9 year old for their bday here, and will do it again for their 11th bday?

    You’re teaching you’re child extremely good lessons such as how to make very responsible decisions with their trust fund money in the future. Good job Mom!

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