Etihad First Class: What Does The Future Hold?

Etihad First Class: What Does The Future Hold?

11

A lot has changed at Etihad in the past several years — the airline has new management, a new hub terminal, and new aspirations. Etihad management has changed its tune quite a bit over time when it comes to the future of offering first class, so I wanted to look at the latest updates on that.

Etihad’s current first class footprint

We’ve seen airlines take different approaches when it comes to offering international first class (on planes that also have business class). Some airline executives continue to think that there’s a market for first class, while others seem to think that business class is the future, and maybe even a business class plus product.

When it comes to Etihad’s current fleet, the airline has a first class cabin on a grand total of nine aircraft:

Etihad first class Airbus A380

It’s worth noting that over the years, the percentage of the carrier’s fleet with first class has decreased drastically. Back in the day, the airline had first class on some of its A330s, A340s, and 777s, but those planes are no longer flying (Etihad still flies some 777s, but without first class).

Etihad first class Boeing 787

Etihad management evolves on first class

In the past decade, Etihad has had three different management teams, with three very different strategies. Looking at the two previous CEOs:

  • In the James Hogan era (when Etihad was lighting money on fire), Etihad continued to see value in offering first class on some, but not all, of its aircraft
  • In the Tony Douglas era (when Etihad tried to shrink into profitability), Etihad maintained its small first class footprint, but Douglas made it clear that first class had no future at the airline, and the airline instead wanted to offer a great business class product (this is a philosophy Douglas has maintained at Riyadh Air)

Since late 2022, Antonoaldo Neves has been the CEO of Etihad, so how does he feel about the future of first class? Well, per an interview with aeroTELEGRAPH, Neves has simply stated that “first class is an important product for Etihad,” and the airline hasn’t yet decided whether to offer first class on future aircraft deliveries.

Now, the important context here is that “future aircraft deliveries” refers to planes delivered in 2030 and beyond, which are orders that haven’t yet been finalized. Etihad has a bunch of Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s on order, which will be delivered in the coming years, and those won’t feature first class.

However, Etihad plans to eventually order either more Airbus A350-1000s or Boeing 777-9s, as the new long haul flagship aircraft. These are expected in 2030 and beyond, and these are the planes where Etihad may offer first class. These planes would replace A380s, plus the older 787s.

Etihad may offer first class on some future aircraft

My take on Etihad’s first class plans

It sounds like the current plan is for Etihad’s first class footprint to basically stay the same until 2030 or so. Maybe we’ll see Etihad bring back a couple more A380s, but aside from that, there’s no plan to install first class on any other jets currently on order.

Now, it’s worth acknowledging that this approach could easily change. We see airlines take new directions all the time, whether under the same management team, or a different one. For example, Qatar Airways’ previous CEO insisted that first class was stupid and that it would be discontinued at the airline, while the company’s new CEO is now working on developing a new first class.

Qatar Airways has backtracked on first class

Is there a business case to be made for Etihad introducing first class on a more widespread basis? I mean, I’d probably speculate that there isn’t for the most part, at least in a traditional sense:

  • Etihad doesn’t actually seem to sell that many first class seats, so I can’t imagine the product is that profitable for the airline
  • Part of the issue is probably that those simply connecting in the UAE and flying first class would almost always choose Emirates over Etihad, given that the former offers first class on a vast majority of its aircraft, while the latter doesn’t
  • Now, I think there could be merit to a super efficient and boutique first class cabin on some jets, where it’s essentially a decent upsell opportunity from business class with limited opportunity cost; but that doesn’t seem to be the direction Etihad is headed
Etihad’s new planes have a great business class

Bottom line

Etihad’s CEO says that first class is an important product for the airline, but there are no firm plans to expand the cabin’s footprint beyond the nine current jets that have such a cabin (all A380s, plus select 787s). So while the long term future of first class at Etihad is up in the air, that’s already a positive change compared to the previous management team, which insisted that first class was a thing of the past.

I’m curious to see how Etihad’s first class plans evolve…

What do you think the future holds for Etihad first class?

Conversations (11)
The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. FoxtrotMikeLima Guest

    Where is the award availability using AA miles? It's completely doomed.

  2. Sergio Díaz Guest

    I am interested to know what will happen to the Residence, now that they charge it as a supplement to first class. Will Qatar passengers be buying it enough to justify keeping the product on the a380s or will they remove it in the medium term and put something else in that space? A larger shower would be nice, like Emirates.

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      What do "Qatar passengers" have to do with Etihad's Residence?

      Etihad doesn't fly the product to that country, and is there any evidence that Qataris purchase it more than anyone else, on the routes that it does fly?

  3. Lee Guest

    Ben, I'm interested in baseball. Why don't you write about baseball? Oh, sure, other people want to hear about the travel hobby. BUT, I DON'T. So, just stop it. (Ben, keep writing what seems timely and relevant to you. The jerks can walk.)

  4. Jason Guest

    I hope it stays but wont be surprised if it goes.

    I recently flew EY F from Washington to Abu Dhabi. Use to fly this route a lot back in the day and always enjoyed it. This time it was still good, with great service, and I liked the food, etc, but some things they seemed to be skimping on. For instance, the menu listed all these wonderful champagnes, but when I ordered champagne I...

    I hope it stays but wont be surprised if it goes.

    I recently flew EY F from Washington to Abu Dhabi. Use to fly this route a lot back in the day and always enjoyed it. This time it was still good, with great service, and I liked the food, etc, but some things they seemed to be skimping on. For instance, the menu listed all these wonderful champagnes, but when I ordered champagne I was served some cheap knock off brand. The flight attendant told me that they never have what's on the menu as the taxes are too high. That seemed like a very weird explanation, but alas. The wines were there, bu the champagne was some cheap bottle I'd never heard of. Besides that, though, I appreciated the seat and the bedding, which absolutely distinguishes itself from Business. All in all a nice flight, but I was surprised at the champagne skimp.

  5. DT Guest

    Article 4. Do you have a quota with them bro? Impacting overall cred bro! SMH

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ DT -- No quota, just lots of interesting updates based on a recent Etihad CEO interview. Would you like me to just not cover things that I find interesting, or to space the stories out by weeks for no good reason? I totally respect if you don't find stories about Etihad interesting, but I'd recommend skipping this posts, then. It's odd how you're commenting on virtually every Etihad post talking about how you're not...

      @ DT -- No quota, just lots of interesting updates based on a recent Etihad CEO interview. Would you like me to just not cover things that I find interesting, or to space the stories out by weeks for no good reason? I totally respect if you don't find stories about Etihad interesting, but I'd recommend skipping this posts, then. It's odd how you're commenting on virtually every Etihad post talking about how you're not interested in the stories, and how Etihad sucks.

      As far as having a "quota with them" goes, is that really what you think? You realize I recently wrote about an Etihad executive who is reportedly faking a LinkedIn to pat himself on the back? Does that sound like a story by someone who has a quota with an organization?

    2. TravelinWilly Diamond

      Ignore the morons, Ben. Your blog, your decision on what you post.

      Do I give a crap about Spirit? No. My solution? I don't read posts about Spirit. Commenting on them would be utterly idiotic.

      Tl;dr - Keep up the great work!

    3. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      I wish I could have Ben's gentle diplomacy when dealing with the antics of stupid people... but I don't.

      Why would this doof care, even if there *was* some quota with an airline or partner? If you don't like it, don't read it. How hard is that?

    4. DT Guest

      @ Ben Oh come on , stop with this fake outrage. You run a public blog, can’t expect just your fanboys to post and respond. People will call you out for glaring inconsistencies. Look, you did a huge fanfare announcement on new kits and PJ’s on EY. I flew them on 2 flights in April - on ORD- AUH and AUH - LHR - paid business separately. No enhanced amenities that you publicized. That’s not...

      @ Ben Oh come on , stop with this fake outrage. You run a public blog, can’t expect just your fanboys to post and respond. People will call you out for glaring inconsistencies. Look, you did a huge fanfare announcement on new kits and PJ’s on EY. I flew them on 2 flights in April - on ORD- AUH and AUH - LHR - paid business separately. No enhanced amenities that you publicized. That’s not news - it’s promo and you should label it as such. Don’t bristle when called out - I get you gotta make the money and get awards and seats opened up for you, but marking posts as ads helps set expectations. Just like your Four Seasons almost- free posts. If you do t really have a commercial or “special” tie up with EY - man you are a saint for the free publicity you give them. If you do, mark your posts as ads. That’s all.

    5. AD Diamond

      I think it’s fair to just ignore anyone who uses bro twice in a comment that short.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Lee Guest

Ben, I'm interested in baseball. Why don't you write about baseball? Oh, sure, other people want to hear about the travel hobby. BUT, I DON'T. So, just stop it. (Ben, keep writing what seems timely and relevant to you. The jerks can walk.)

2
ConcordeBoy Diamond

I wish I could have Ben's gentle diplomacy when dealing with the antics of stupid people... but I don't. Why would this doof care, even if there *was* some quota with an airline or partner? If you don't like it, don't read it. How hard is that?

2
TravelinWilly Diamond

Ignore the morons, Ben. Your blog, your decision on what you post. Do I give a crap about Spirit? No. My solution? I don't read posts about Spirit. Commenting on them would be utterly idiotic. Tl;dr - Keep up the great work!

1
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
5,163,247 Miles Traveled

32,614,600 Words Written

35,045 Posts Published

Keep Exploring OMAAT