Etihad Airways Cuts First Class To New York

Filed Under: Etihad

First Etihad Airways grounded its entire A380 fleet, and now the airline won’t even offer first class to New York.

Etihad removes first class on JFK flights

Between March 27 and July 1, 2021, Etihad Airways has scheduled a two-cabin Boeing 787-9 between Abu Dhabi and New York, featuring just business class and economy. That’s fascinating to me, because up until March 27 and after July 1 the airline shows a three-cabin Boeing 787-9 scheduled, which does feature first class.

Etihad’s 787 first class

Just to compare capacity of the two configurations:

  • The three-cabin plane has eight first class seats, the two-cabin plane has no first class seats
  • The three-cabin and two-cabin planes both have 28 business class seats
  • The three-cabin plane has 195 economy seats, the two-cabin plane has 271 economy seats

Etihad’s Boeing 787-9

As you can see, the two-cabin plane has a net 68 additional seats — it has 76 extra economy seats, at the expense of eight first class seats.

What’s perhaps most interesting here is that during the same period Etihad plans to continue to fly a three-cabin 787-9 to Washington Dulles. It makes you wonder whether there’s more first class demand to Washington, or more economy demand to New York.

Etihad’s 787 business class

Etihad’s JFK route sure has fallen…

Obviously the pandemic has had a terrible impact on the airline industry, but it’s still pretty incredible to reflect on just how capacity has decreased between Abu Dhabi and New York, even pre-coronavirus:

  • Etihad used to fly two daily A380s between Abu Dhabi and New York
  • As of October 2018, Etihad reduced the New York route from two daily A380s to one daily A380
  • Shortly after the pandemic started, Etihad grounded its entire A380 fleet, so the airline started flying a three cabin 787-9 to New York
  • Now the airline is increasing capacity by flying a two cabin 787-9, but is also eliminating first class in the process

It’s anyone’s guess if/when Etihad will fly A380s again. It’s possible the airline may end up retiring these planes, as no firm decision has been made one way or another. Etihad’s CEO is on record as saying that the “jury is still out” on the future of the A380.

I sure do miss the Etihad A380!

Bottom line

For a period of over three months this coming spring, Etihad plans to fly a two-cabin 787 to New York, meaning the airline won’t offer first class. It’s anyone’s guess if that plane swap is extended, or if this is truly just for a period of a few months.

Are you surprised to see Etihad remove first class on the New York route?

  1. ‘As you can see, the two-cabin plane has a net 68 additional seats ā€” it has 76 extra economy seats, at the expense of eight first class seats.’

    Assuming everything else remains the same (economy seat pitch etc), this is a fascinating illustration that those crazy first class prices may actually be justified considering they are costing 9 seats for one. also, how absurd the entire first class cabin really is from every perspective unless you have boatloads of money and/or miles and points! šŸ™‚

  2. Weird because EY changed my flight on 4/13/20 to the 2-cabin 789, last week. But their website (just checked again) still sells the 3-cabin 789 on that same date (JFK – AUH – MLE itinerary).

    No way the A380 is coming back, IMO.

  3. Likelihood is most if not all F seats were going to award bookings so minimal revenue while J seats were going empty or still taking revenue business travellers. And increasing Y seating may offer the idea that middle seats can be kept empty to give more comfort about overcrowding and thus keeping customers away. Most will be leisure travelers flying beyond to third countries so increases competitiveness.

    As for DC, keeps the uber premium cabin for capital-to-capital prestige customers.

  4. it’s so sad to see etihad deteriorate like this. i grew up flying the airline and it used to be in a league of its own…

  5. None of this is surprising. Etihad is a financial failure and has been almost from inception. There’s virtually no traffic, the company’s coffers were bled dry by AZ, AB, and other insane investments. My prediction for Etihad? It will end up being picked apart between QR and EK. There’s no need for 3 ME3.

  6. Without the A380s, there is nothing special about Etihad. The Apartment and Residence are their claim to fame. Without it, they have nothing in particular that stand out from the pack.

  7. Exactly who are the “capital to capital prestige customers” that need/deserve first class? Trying to educate myself on who my betters are. Because if they are senior gov officials or heads of state, they have government, military, or private business jets at their disposal. Why do I also have this suspicion that they are also climate change “true believers”. (a comment on their hypocrisy, not my personal thoughts on warming)

  8. Hey Lucky, Where’s my HT for posting this on FT 3 days ago šŸ˜‰

    My flights got whacked unfortunately. Was also surprised at the allocation for IAD, but they may be lacking a schedule update. What I’m not surprised by? EY didn’t bother reaching out after downgrading me to J.

  9. well if you are an Ambassador or attachƩ from country X, having a F seat is a nice perk considering that Tier 2/3 countries (based upon GDP/etc) might not have access to Private Jets, except perhaps for the President/Prime Minister

  10. I agree it is a nice perk. But if a grunt can fly 15 hours in a jump seat just to get a chance to have his ass shot off, standard economy is plenty good enough for a pencil pushing, second rate bureaucrat. Maybe they should try Zoom instead.

  11. I used to work for the UAE embassy in DC, and I can tell you every time they had a delegation from UAE they always flew first. We have had multiple planes filled to the brim with first class pax from UAE to IAD. I am not at all surprised

  12. @jcil
    Donā€™t you think thereā€™s a difference between a hyper-fit ā€œgruntā€ in their early-ish 20s (who maybe signed-up because they love the physical challenge of endurance sports and obstacle courses), and a senior bureaucrat whoā€™s closer to the end of their life than the beginning and whose brain needs to be in working order from the moment they arrive?

    Donā€™t get me wrong: Iā€™m not arguing public servants should be living in luxury from the public purse. But they have a job to do, and deliberately making them uncomfortable is not a sensible strategy.

    OTOH, my view is First is dying. The writing has been on the wall for a while now, but the Covid crisis has simply accelerated it.

    But a Qsuite or similar is absolutely fine as a replacement for First for those who have tickets paid for by their employers. Rich people can go private. Itā€™s only points burners looking for luxury who will really miss First.

  13. Having flown to NY 2 days ago, I chose to fly KLM business. The cost saving was about 4500 DHM per ticket. Etihad is apparently aggressively trying to make up for losses over the past year. It is my opinion that this will further drive away customers. Additionally, the etihad flights I have taken this year, have had a relatively empty economy section

  14. If anything, it doesn’t so much show the decline of Etihad but much more the decline of New York…

    A LOT of high income / high net value people have left New York and they do not plan to return. The moving industry has been working above 100% capacity, my co-op which used to be almost full, has now 120+ vacant apartments and prices are taking a dive. This can be squarely attributed to the disastrous duo of (sad) comics, Andrew-The-Ripper as Governor and Mair Bill de Blasio (the “Mare” might be a better description,)a modern male version of Marie Antoinette but in far more stupid (Marie Antoinette never said “Let them eat cake”).

    Those who come replace the leavers are not nearly as affluent and the crisis we are in will dwarf the 1929 depression, vaccine or no vaccine.

    It is not easy to TIME future events of which you are certain they are coming, but New York resembling its depictions in movies such as “Soylent Green” and “Escape from New York” is a matter of a few years at most.

  15. The loss of First Class to New York speaks, in my opinion, less about Etihad than about New York.

    2+ Million people have left New York State t, his year, ovewr 700,00 in New York City, and they were not the poorest. My co-op which so far used to be always almost full now has about 150 vacancies and the prices have plummeted. The moving industry has had an absolute record year.

    This has obviousl had an impact on demand for First Class air travel as for all spending over quality lifestyle.

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