Etihad has just revealed its latest cost cutting initiative, which many premium passengers won’t be happy to hear about…
Etihad cutting inflight chefs, F&B managers
There was a brief period a while back where Etihad tried to become an uber-premium airline. One of the cool features we saw from the airline was the introduction of inflight chefs, as well as food & beverage managers:
- Inflight chefs were be able to customize meals for first class passengers, using the ingredients available to them
- Food & beverage managers were able to help business class passengers with deciding on menu items, pairing meals with drinks, etc.
Well, unfortunately Etihad Airways is eliminating the positions of inflight chef and food & beverage manager. Eligible crew members who are currently in those roles will be offered contracts as business class flight attendants.
Here’s how the airline explained the decision to employees in a memo, per Paddle Your Own Kanoo:
“To make us fit for our current business needs will, unfortunately, mean that they crew community will need to go through a further transitionary period, and regretfully, there will be some redundancies to certain crew roles.
Our premium cabin services have always formed a key part of our commercial offering, but as with many aspects of the business, they have had to be reevaluated in light of the ongoing pandemic.
As part of this, we have had to make the difficult decision to discontinue. the Inflight Chef and Food & Beverage Manager positions in First and Business.
We are incredibly proud of our talented crew and the contribution they have made to our business in these roles and this development is not in any way a reflection of performance. It is simply another devastating consequence of COVID-19 and a change that cannot be avoided based on the current climate that we find ourselves in.”
Why would Etihad eliminate these positions?
Both Etihad inflight chefs and food & beverage managers also acted as flight attendants, so it’s not like they necessarily need to be staffed in addition to flight attendants. However, they were still more costly for a variety of reasons:
- They were paid more for working these positions
- They required special training
- There’s inefficiency to having a bunch of different crew “ranks,” since it makes it harder to schedule crews efficiently; this is especially significant at a time like this, where demand is constantly fluctuating
- Since Etihad is eliminating inflight chefs, presumably the airline can also cut back on catering
I’m not surprised to see this change, and I’m sure Etihad viewed this as an easy way to cut costs.
Does this make a big difference for passengers?
As passengers, are there huge implications here in terms of the passenger experience?
For the business class food & beverage manager, personally I don’t view it as a huge loss. It’s not like a fancy restaurant where a sommelier can help you choose between hundreds of wines. Like, I know I’m supposed to have a red wine with steak and a white wine with chicken, and I can usually decide between a few options.
The first class inflight chef is a much bigger loss, in my opinion. Now, at first I should acknowledge that there’s a huge variance in terms of the quality of Etihad chefs, and I had some that were phenomenal and made the experience, while I had others that might as well not have been there.
But I do have to give Etihad credit for just how customizable first class menus have historically been. You could choose your protein, sides, sauces, etc., and often the chefs would even be creative beyond that, not to mention offer much better presentation than you’d usually find on a plane.
For example, I once had a severely delayed flight from Seoul to Abu Dhabi in Etihad first class, to the point that the flight went from an overnight flight to a daytime flight. However, they didn’t change the menu, so there were mostly breakfast options available. The chef managed to use his creativity to whip up something better, and prepared me a surf & turf.
Personally I view this as a pretty meaningful devaluation of the Etihad first class experience. It was one area where Etihad’s first class soft product excelled, and that advantage won’t exist anymore.
Is this the end of the Etihad Residence?
There’s one other interesting potential implication here. Etihad has The Residence, which is its three room suite with butler service on the A380, and it’s unlike anything else in commercial aviation.
Are there any implications for The Residence with this change?
- All of Etihad’s A380s are grounded at the moment, with no plans for them to be reactivated anytime soon
- A subset of food & beverage managers are trained as inflight butlers
- With the food & beverage manager position being eliminated, will there be any butlers left should the A380 return? Or will Etihad train people from scratch if/when that happens? Or will the airline simply not have butlers even if the A380 makes a return?
Etihad Airways is eliminating inflight chefs and food & beverage managers as its latest cost cutting measure. I view the cut of the inflight chef as a big devaluation of the first class soft product.
Then again, with the state the industry is in, who knows when most premium cabin soft products will return to their previous levels.
I feel bad for all the people who will be taking a pay cut at best, or losing their jobs at worst.
Are you sad to see Etihad eliminate inflight chefs as well as food & beverage managers? What was your experience with them?