The Sad Decline Of Etihad

Filed Under: Etihad

Airlines spend a lot of money on marketing to try and make us feel like they’re better than the rest. For a long time Etihad did that quite successfully — they were an airline that was innovative in terms of their onboard product, and for a while I thought they were actually one of the world’s best airlines.

However, I can’t think of an airline in recent history that has seen a decline in the same way Etihad has. The airline has gone from one I respect greatly, to one that I’ve largely forgotten about. There’s not one particular thing causing me to feel this way, but rather it’s a combination of things, and I’m curious how you guys feel.

The way we feel about brands isn’t necessarily rational

As consumers we’re never fully rational. Even when we’re trying to do side-by-side comparisons and make objective decisions about what company to do business with, it’s tough to actually rid ourselves of all biases.

That’s one reason many companies spend money on loyalty programs and also on aspirational advertising.

Companies don’t have generous loyalty programs out of the kindness of their hearts, but rather because they think in the long term loyalty programs will make us act irrationally, and will make us give more business to a company than we logically should. As American AAdvantage has made changes over the years, I’ve shared how I’ve gone from being a loyal customers of American, to one who just happens to fly the airline, and continues to hold top tier status.

That’s an important distinction. At one point I’d make excuses for American’s shortcomings and would actively recommend the airline to others, while now my feeling is more along the lines of “meh, I guess they work best for my travel plans right now, but I don’t think they’re great.”

Similarly, companies spend a lot of money on aspirational marketing to make us feel like a brand is great, even when we may not have any firsthand experience. While some ads are mainly intended for brand awareness (like Emirates sponsoring so many sporting events), some ads are truly intended to make us feel like a company is something special.

For example, Etihad’s marketing with Nicole Kidman is absolutely brilliant. Who wouldn’t want to fly an airline that presents themselves like this?

Etihad’s 2014 high

While Etihad probably had a good reputation before 2014, I’d say the airline was most well regarded in 2014, when they revealed the details of their stunning new A380s. In terms of hard product, Etihad’s A380 might be the most beautiful plane in the sky.

Not only did they introduce First Class “Apartments” and Business Class “Studios,” but they did something that had never been done before in commercial aviation. They introduced The Residence, a three room private suite with butler service. The amount of publicity they got for this was unreal, and I remember in the months following the introduction of that, even my non-aviation geek friends were talking about this.

How my impression of Etihad has changed

A lot of airline executives are number-crunchers who view everything in a transactional manner, rather than looking at the big picture. We can save $40,000 per year by taking a single olive off each salad? Great, let’s do it! After all, no one chooses an airline because of that olive.

That’s most definitely true, but the problem with this kind of short-sighted thinking is that cumulatively a number of these changes can change someone’s perception of a brand.

Personally I can’t think of another airline that has cost cut as aggressively in premium cabins as Etihad has done over the past couple of years. They’ve eliminated chauffeur service, they’ve eliminated pajamas in business class, they’ve made negative changes to the spas in their lounges, they’ve cut catering in their lounges, and much, much, much more.

While cutting all these benefits they’ve actively been selling these things to those traveling in economy. Nowadays you can be seated in your business class seat and see an ad on the TV during boarding indicating that economy passengers can buy first class pajamas. That doesn’t exactly yell “premium.”

That’s only one part of the equation. Then we’ve seen the airline greatly reduce unprofitable routes, which I think is probably the right thing to do. Looking at their US route network alone, they’ve cut flights to Dallas and San Francisco altogether, and they’ve significantly reduced frequencies to New York and Los Angeles.

But possibly what’s most disappointing and laughable about how the airline is being run is their horrendous failure of the “Etihad Airways Partner” concept. Etihad invested in all kinds of struggling airlines in hopes of building a comprehensive global alliance, including investing in airberlin, Alitalia, Air Seychelles, Air Serbia, Jet Airways, and more.

Airberlin is now out of business. Alitalia is on the verge of liquidation. Air Seychelles has restructured. Air Serbia is rumored to be restructuring soon. Etihad is rumored to be considering selling their stake in Jet Airways.

Etihad also has over 100 planes on order, and rumor has it that they’re going to be canceling many of these orders soon.

I’m not suggesting Etihad is going to liquidate tomorrow, but the airline is basically falling apart in front of our eyes. I’ve gone from having great respect for the Etihad brand (the airline itself, the global alliance they were trying to build, and the future they were hoping for) to finding this company to just be a sad amateur operation, and that they’ve greatly let down their employees, and also the partner airlines that they promised to support.

Who is to blame?

This is purely speculation on my part, and I should say up front that I don’t think a single person is to blame here.

On the most basic level, it’s important to understand that historically the purpose of the Gulf carriers is to help build the infrastructure of their homes. So in the case of Etihad, I imagine their primary goal to begin with was to put Abu Dhabi on the map. A Gulf carrier could lose billions of dollars but still be a good investment for the stakeholders. Where would Doha be without Qatar Airways, and where would Dubai be without Emirates?

On the most basic level, Etihad is owned by the government in Abu Dhabi, so I think some blame has to fall on them. Ultimately the management team at the airline can only do as much as the ruling family is willing to pay for. It’s pretty clear what has happened here — they were totally fine with losing billions of dollars on investments because they thought it was in their best long term interest, and then as oil revenue declined, they went into panic mode and nearly wanted to cut Etihad off. On some level that’s short-sighted — I’m not sure if the short-sightedness was at the beginning, when they decided to throw unlimited funds at the airline, or more recently, when they are basically trying to cut them off.

But then there’s also some blame for the management team. Until last year James Hogan ran Etihad, though he was finally fired. Looking at his history in the airline industry will tell you just about everything you need to know (he previously worked at British Midland and Gulf Air). I have tons of respect for Emirates’ Tim Clark and for Qatar’s Akbar Al Baker (not for the person he is, but rather for his consistent vision for the airline), but the same can’t be said about Hogan.

Bad decision after bad decision after bad decision was made under his leadership, and the airline is now paying the price for it.

Bottom line

Etihad is basically falling apart in front of our eyes. They’ve done cost cutting to no end, they’re cutting off the airlines they’ve invested in, they’re cutting their own routes, they’re rumored to be canceling airplane orders, and more. That makes me sad. Etihad has some really fantastic employees, and it makes me sad that management has let them down in this way.

Beyond the bad situation they’re clearly in, what has also changed for me is my impression of the airline. At this point the entire operation just seems like amateur hour to me. I used to group Etihad in the same category as Emirates and Qatar when it comes to actually flying with them, but nowadays I just don’t have much desire to fly with them. I think that gets at the irrational feelings we have towards companies — there are some companies we really love, and some that we don’t. In the case of Etihad, unfortunately I’ve lost respect for what their management has done. And that’s sad.

For years there have been rumors of Emirates and Etihad eventually merging and moving to Dubai World Central Airport (between Dubai and Abu Dhabi). While that’s a possibility, I’m not really sure what Etihad even brings to the table. They’ve basically tried to duplicate small parts of what Emirates has done, just not as well. So I’m not sure what value they add at this point. I suspect whether or not a merger ends up happening comes down to politics between the ruling families of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

What do you make of Etihad’s current situation, and has your impression fo them changed over the years?

  1. @Lucky –
    We are traveling as a group of (4) from ORD-AUH in Sept. should I be worried about an abrupt dissolution?

  2. You might find the book – The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis interesting given you discussion of perceptions towards brands/companies. Great read about two men that revolutionized economic thought.

    I have flown Emerites first numerous times, and enjoy it though not to the extent you do from your posts. They have many cool features, but in general don’t click as much with me.

    Etihad I was going to fly in January on a cash ticket but ultimately found a fc seat on ANA. Seems as though I lucked out.

  3. Just last week i emptied my Etihad guest account and the remaining 8000 miles i bought those lottery tickets,flying First but no chauffeur service even inside UAE where taxi costs nothing,guess it will be my last trip with this company.

  4. I’ve said this before and will say this again, James Hogan is an over-privileged charlatan who should have been allowed control of an airline. Glad you agree!

    It is horrible indictment of our world that people like him get these opportunities over genuinely talented people.

  5. They’re OK. They haven’t pulled out the J seats and replaced them with sharp spikes. The pyjamas were just cluttering up my closet. Few other airlines offer chauffeur service in J and now EY doesn’t either. Yes, the food is worse and the service is worse, but as long as award availability remains higher than QR, it’s hard to complain. Would choose EY over QR if I were paying…of course not.

  6. Very few will get very rich and the others lose their job. Life goes on and the whole thing starts again with another name, another livery.

  7. The biggest perk for Indians travelling on EY is the Pre-immigration facility at AUH. While the 3 hr layour is well spent on completing your immigration formalities, its always good to steup out of the airport as a domestic passenger.

  8. You know I flew them in F from AUF to JFK somewhat recently and although I didn’t get the same service as my Emirates flight in the hard product was outstanding. Also I love that they have a gym in their lounge. I had to take an Uber to the airport but you know what, so be it. I’d fly them again in a heartbeat. Emirates seats are just kinda small in comparison. For a 14hr fight I prefer Etihad.

  9. This will be a much stronger article with actual #s. Like, how did their P&L changed over the years and profit margin if there ever were. Did it actually make money flying the routes, `carrying passengers, cargo, etc, and the disastrous partnerships are the sole reason behind its demise?

  10. The marketing I think plays a role too. Speaking as someone who is not in the industry I just travel for business – I’m constantly bombarded with Emirates and Qatar deals and ads. I can’t even remember the last time I saw something advertised anywhere from Etihad that would make me think “oh, I should try them”

    Kind of ironic how Qatar, after being cut off from the other nations for whatever politics is teaching them a nice lesson in airline success. I usually only fly QR now.

  11. Be grateful you took advantage of their product before they realized how poorly they’d managed their business. This is classic corporate growth with waste. It’s easy to play with other people’s money. Maybe this will cause you to be a little more critical moving forward of airlines and hotels that are offering unsustainable products?

  12. James Hogan is where he is and the long leash he got because he is a white guy. Gives you more reasons to hate republicans and the blond scum they have at the top.

  13. Pretty much spot on.

    It’s really sad to see how fast this airline is going downhill. They’re cancelling routes one after the other. Today Dar es salaam was on the chopping block.
    It remains astonishing how bad this airline has been led. Investing in Alitalia is a bad idea even from a non-airline boss. Alone looking at how Air France wrote off their investment should have been a lesson.

    And what was going on when Etihad started cuddling up with Lufthansa early last year and even moving to their terminal? Indeed the airline is all over the place.

    What would happen to the Abu Dhabi airport if the airline were to fold? Would it be converted to a LCC hub? As congested as Dubai might be getting, DXB / DWC have enough capacity. Ok maybe EK/EY could then have a 2 huc concept the way LH has FRA & MUC or something similiar.


  14. Flew Etihad for the first time last month in F on both their A380 and A330. I had really high hopes, but was pretty let down. The service and the food was very subpar. Had I actually paid for these flights, I would have been upset. Flying Emirates F, I feel like a VIP. Whereas Etihad service/food was more on par with domestic first on AA or UA. Still worth the AA miles to experience the apartment, but I won’t go out of my way to fly them again.

  15. I know that 99% of the posts/comments on this site take basic business/economic principles into consideration, but this “decline” should not shock a single person.

    This is a state-owned airline propped up by the United Arab Emirates. The UAE makes the majority of it’s revenue from Brent Crude Oil, and similar. In 2014, during Etihad’s “High”, Brent Crude was $108 per barrel. Oil prices then promptly bottomed out. While they have climbed back up, it is still only at ~$70 a barrel. For those keeping track at home, the UAE is still only bringing in ~30% of the GDP they were making 4 short years ago.

    None of us are privy to the numbers of mileage-based tickets vs paid tickets. However, I suspect it is a much higher number than they can withstand when coupled with this downturn in oil money.

    I know it’s a hobby to most of you, but airlines are businesses and have to act accordingly…

  16. (Debit) – I do not appreciate being called a blonde scum. Just racist rant that has no place anywhere.

  17. I may be the only regular reader of this blog who’s never been to (or transited through) the UAE. My first trip there is scheduled for early next year. I was initially planning to fly into DXB on Emirates, and then home from AUH on Etihad. I ended up choosing to fly Emirates to and from Dubai, mostly because I don’t get a lot of opportunities to fly the A380 and Etihad only flies 787s to IAD (thus, no Residence). Plus the blinged-out Emirates first class really speaks to my inner Mariah. This drumbeat of cutbacks and poor financials certainly reinforces that decision. Which makes me wonder what effect it will have on advance bookings. To the extent that someone pays attention to this stuff, it hardly instills confidence in spending thousands of dollars for a flight many months in advance. True, Etihad is unlikely to fold completely in the near future, but it seems reasonable to assume more retrenchment is in the cards. I assume there is economic modeling that can predict the effect on decision-making of this type of uncertainty on the part of the consumer? Ie, business that never materializes for Company A because the purchase decision shifts to Company B?

  18. That is quite sad to hear. If the airline is to fold, there will be several people out of a job and that’s unfortunate. One thing EY did excel in is marketing.
    My impression of EY has always been the younger sibling of EK who wants to impress as much as it could. I think one of the reasons its A380 was groundbreaking back in 2014 is because it had over 7 years to observe other airline operators’ A380s (SQ debuted its A380 in 2007; EK in 2008; etc.)
    Even in its heyday back in 2014, I remember reading your reviews on how EY F always ran out of food options. However, the onboard chef somehow makes the most of the remaining ingredients/food he has available.
    Regardless I still hope EY will survive this obstacle and get better.

  19. Etihad currently has a daily flight to LAX however it’s cut back to 3 weekly from 28 October.

    It makes little sense for Dubai and Abu Dhabi to support 2 airlines. Better merge emirates and etihad and operate a focus city at AUH. They are only 140 Kms apart and closer than Birmingham is to London

    They invested in a lounge at LAX which, if they only operate 3 weekly services during winter , is only open about 9 hrs weekly seems a total waste of money unless they gain extra revenue by opening it to other carriers. As far as I’m aware they don’t

    Eventually the bubble will burst

    Emirates is already reducing staff

  20. They just announced a loss of over $1.5 billion for 2017, which I think explains their desperation. That’s real money even for Abu Dhabi.

  21. It’s not sad because their management did it to themselves—stupid airline tricks like reissuing award tickets (for no apparent scheduling reason) just days after eliminating the chauffeur benefit, and reticketing F awards from the A380 to the less desirable, non-apartment 777, also for no apparent reason (other than to save costs). Why would anyone consider Etihad for a revenue ticket in F after games like these?

  22. EY just announced that they are pulling out of DAC, which is a shock since they get a lot of workers from Bangladesh—admittedly, that may not be as good for yield as it is for load factors.

    But if the route closures are a well-thought-out plan to shrink to a sustainable state, maybe it is OK. As long as they don’t cut MY routes (they haven’t yet).

  23. This is the evidence that they had been price dumping due to subsidies all of these years as the U.S. carriers (and I) have been beating the drum about. Defenders of the ME3 would point to ME carrier’s prices and say they weren’t dumping because their prices were similar to other carriers or even slightly higher. But if Burger King charged fifty cents more for a hamburger than McDonalds, but also threw in a one hour massage at a spa and a bottle of dom for your $4 paid, they would be losing money profusely as well.

    As you pointed out, the ME carriers didn’t mind the losses because they are owned by governments that viewed losses as a worthwhile investment in building their region. But, that is not OK. That is a subsidy. Not all payments from governments to companies are subsidies, but ones that support uneconomical decisions like this that disrupt the competitive market ARE subsidies.

    In the Burger King example, providing a massage and champagne with every burger and running large losses is fine if that is what they want to do because they will go bankrupt in pretty short order. But, if a government decided to cover Burger King’s losses so they could continue doing uneconomical things and not go bankrupt, then that would not be fine. A government could use this subsidy bestowing power as an economic weapon to undermine strategic industries of rival countries by just launching competitors that have no intention of ever earning a return on capital for the sole purpose of bankrupting the industrial base of their rivals. Which is why it needed to be done, as much as we all enjoy letting an oil rich emirati shiek subsidize our sky showers and dom perignon, it was necessary to not allow this.

  24. “However, I can’t think of an airline in recent history that has seen a decline in the same way Etihad has”

    Have you tried AA recently?


    The fallacy of stereotyping is I take one example and apply to everyone and you take one anecdote and apply it yourself. Unless you are Donald Trump your answer is as non sensical as my post.

  26. Drew says it perfectly.

    With all the current route cuts, why would anyone book a ticket in advance knowing that they would need re-routing because there’s a big possibility of their flight being cancelled with EY discontinuing a route. That would lead to less bookings and accelerate the demise of Etihad.

  27. I think it’d be beneficial to show a side-by-side comparison, even if in chart form, of what these cutbacks have done to EY relative to other airlines held in high regard. For instance, another commenter mentioned that the removal of pajamas from J just brought them to be aligned with most other airlines. Is it not very possible that even with these cutbacks they’re still on par with or equal to most other airlines. While I love your reviews, they’re highly subjective and I don’t agree with all the things you enjoy just as you likely wouldn’t with mine. Since I’ve yet to fly EY, I may still be impressed since my bar is automatically set lower since I don’t have a history.

  28. Lucky – some of your reporting on this feels more emotional and not as factual. They are now simply behaving with financial accountability more like other airlines. Sad they can’t lay on all the glitz but the days of beyond awesome first class are rarely sustainable.

  29. Just used some Etihad guest miles I had sitting unused from an Oman Air flight, they were going to expire but was able to get a tokyo hokkaido RT out of them for just $5 in taxes and 16k miles…not too bad I guess since fares were pretty high, decent service on the phone as well, although it takes some time to book.

  30. It’s obvious that at Etihad nobody wanted to remember the “success “of the Qualiflyer Group ”
    Same story hope won’t be the same end .

  31. I’m italian so i can tell you how wrong etihad invested in Alitalia. Etihad made a disaster with italian airline. They spent a lot of money in new uniforms, empty lounges, office furniture for Alitalia headquarters. They decided to offer a restaurant like meals service with most of the food been uneaten and consequently trashed… Alitalia hostesses and pilots had to follow training courses in abu dhabi, hosted in expensive 5 stars hotels, when Alitalia have a wonderful training center in Rome. Etigad didn’t do nothing to Alitalia routes… They didn’t increase the frequency of profitable routes and stupidly maintained all the unprofitable routes…

  32. “Debit” – Your form of stereotyping is a form of casual racism and it hurts people. It is not okay to excuse it as nonsensical.

    Anyway – It is not OK to call white males “Blonde Scum” and it stops with me.

    Lets move back to airline talk.

  33. Let’s be real – there never was going to be space for the 3 MEs to share global ambition. To avoid being in third place you had to push hard, get ahead and stay in the running until one fell behind, which QR and EK have done. The hub was always a big factor for me simply because all flights are 2 legs by definition. The delays for EY and their roof problems was the nail in the coffin – the existing hub is terrible in relative terms. All those passengers choosing EY tonexperience that amazing new hub – didn’t happpen. QR clearly leads the pack there and with DUB creaking at the seams their new airport can’t arrive fast enough. I have put EK on pause specifically because the kept on bussing me around – something QR rarely do. QR wins by virtually every criteria in my book – speaking as a regular user of all 3 (whoever is offering the best deal). I am especially impressed that they have resisted the temptation to price gouge with their airside hotel. Well done QR !

    The other aspect – investing in other airlines when you have no proven track record running your own – the height of arrogance with a poetically just outcome.

    Posting this in a fake name because I still have some EY miles I hope to use without being detained at Gulag Dhabi 😉

  34. I also feel like Etihad has fallen. Rubbish food , no chauffeur service in business…… This is one of the reasons the airline stood out and gained customers and loyalty . Selling pyjamas to economy rather than providing them to business customers . Staff are great , but the unfortunately the product they work work with is below par.

  35. The ruling family and AUH have be 3rd most proven oil reserves in the world. With that kind of cash, and a new strategy which they may be transitioning into – If they go back to focus on being Etihad Airways as a stand alone airline. They will get back to respectability. AUH has the Emirates palace, which I believe to be the most wonderful hotel in the world. The fairmont is pretty outraged as well. They are also adding more land to their map. I actually enjoy visiting AUH a lot more than Dubai. They just need to do a better job marketing AUH as a world class destination

  36. Thank you David for your response to “Debit”. I found his comment to be quite offensive and utterly uncalled for.

  37. @Rob What you accuse the Sheiks of -“Subsidizing ME airlines to destroy US airlines” is exactly what the US govt is doing. It is subsidizing loss making Oil companies in the fracking patch to destroy the Oil industry of the ME. How is the US govt subsidizing? Through the bankruptcy code. In very few other countries can you borrow billions to run a business at a loss with no hope of breaking even and then walk away from the debt by declaring a “so called bankruptcy” in which the company continues to operate under Chapter 11. Most other countries if a company borrowed billions it would be chopped up into little pieces and sold off bit by bit which is why companies outside the US dont do it (unless like the ME3 they are subsidized by the govt). The mechanism may be different but the principle is same

  38. read an article yesterday about etihad looking to either cancel or delay delivery of their Boeing 777X order. curious to know what their cancellation fee might be

  39. “This is the evidence that they had been price dumping due to subsidies all of these years as the U.S. carriers (and I) have been beating the drum about.”

    Rob, spot on. Now the Abu Dhabi government has seen what a waste of money those subsidies were and has pulled them or ratcheted them down significantly. Now Etihad has to learn to operate as a proper airline and make money or die, hence the cost cutting.


    I am sorry. I don’t mean to offend you. I don’t know you. I am calling trump scum and he is.

    However, passive aggressive racism has always been white modus operandi: from fair skinned heros and dark skinned villians in Hollywood movies to casually talking about beauty attributes that only whites have like fair skin, blue eyes or blond hair, or always whites in leadership position, whites have been engaging in this “subtle violence” for a long time. They play psychological games through culture. Donald Trump is not too subtle about it. Things are changing and a large group of whites is cognizant of this but an equally large group tries their darndest to muddle the issue. These two groups have aligned themselves roughly in two different political parties in the USA. I am calling out one of those parties.

    Anyway this is not the topic of this post, but i hope you appreciate the perspective when you find yourself wrongfully on the defensive. But frankly my post was not directed at you, not sure why you took it so personally. I expected my post to be ignored.

  41. @Prabuddha
    People really don’t seem to understand bankruptcy. Every time the topic of subsidies comes up there is always someone who says US companies are subsidized because of bankruptcy law. I am not sure why people can’t seem to grasp the concept that owners are completely 100% wiped out in a bankruptcy. There is zero incentive to run a company unprofitably under this notion that “bankruptcy will be a subsidy.” If you can’t understand why this is a completely asinine assertion, I don’t think I can help.

  42. Hi lucky.
    I have a question.
    When your sitting in first and business class do you ever feel any guilt knowing that you havent contributed to the airlines profitability given that the majority of times you travel on points?
    I certainly felt awkard last november sitting in apartment 4a etihad first class from abu dhabi to sydney using AA pionts which your blog guided me towards, knowing etihad werent making money off my flight!
    Just putting it out there.

  43. The problem with the Middle eastern carriers is they can never admit they are wrong. It’s called losing face and they won’ do it, no matter the cost.

    These people are brilliant once you step on-board a plane, but anything on-ground is woeful, appalling. They just cannot get it right. Unskilled and lowly paid workers with very little product knowledge.

    The Interesting thing about this article, is those frauds from Qatar are heading the same way. You could easily substitute the word “Qatar” fo “Etihad” in this article and come to the same conclusion.

    After the greatest frequent flyer program rape and pillage by these Middle eastern bastards, they are heading the same way. And they still have not officially informed anyone. They do nothing but call the changes “enhancements”.

  44. Great points all around on how they have cut the customer experience, but, I gracious – I am so tired of hearing you bloggers talk about the “bean counters” and using the classic olive story. Running a large company is complex, but, as complex as it is you have tons of data – all of these decisions are based on data. Airlines realize they don’t need to give you as much and, frankly, I don’t blame them one bit – flying economy and just going for upgrades, etc. – you are not as profitable as the business flyer going to Hong Kong multiple times a month. It’s business, its supply and demand, whine all you want but this is how it works.

  45. @Rob
    Few people seem to understand the fundamental difference between the balance sheet and the income statement. A one time restructuring of accumulated liabilities is vastly different than operating at a loss each and every day.

    The governments are stopping the money flow and now they have to cut costs, gee what a concept.

  46. The customer service is so bad. It took me 2 years to get the problem solved. How can I like this airline?

  47. Now you know what we, your reading customers feel like when you post sponsored articles with a link to the same card in every paragraph. Sadly, rather than provide true customer service you’re most likely to say “it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want”. You’re not much different from the way airlines behave.

  48. Sad story but a textbook example how to ruin an excellent business. Have been loyal business traveller for some years and still have Guest Gold card but have avoided them for last 18 moths and probably will not fly with them in the future. All the “olives” taken from us have made us consider if we are happy to pay more for less just to be loyal. Excellent cabin crew (all mercenaries..), useless management.

  49. Very well written article. I enjoyed reading it.

    In my opinion, their problem is their hub Abu Dhabi rather than their airline Etihad. They just look at what Dubai does and try to mimic neglecting that they need to make Abu Dhabi as relaxed as Dubai. Otherwise, they just look like another serious/hardline islamic country having hard time attracting visitors and foreigners.

    They also need to improve their relationship with their neighbors, Qatar and Iran, as they are big players in the Persian Gulf region.

  50. Lucky, I understand that you are disappointed that Etihad has moved from being over generous to operating like a business.
    You make it sound as if Etihad is going out of business soon, but that simply is not the case.
    As to service: apart from debatable stuff like the toiletries and pyjamas (which weren’t great anyways) service in the premium cabins is reasonably steady over the years. The culling of chauffeur service outside the UAE is unfortunate, but one needs to keep in mind that these services are expensive.
    Looking forward I would expect that the pendulum will swing back at some time and some product components will be added back.

  51. Well, First I will like to the see the real numbers of QATAR AIRWAYS and what the figures look like after the blockade, the first year anniversary is just now in June. Despite that, QR has maintained a solid product until now, expanding its global network with new routes and adding frequencies. Diversifing the business portfolio of investments in other one world partners was a great move of his execellency, the man behind Qatar Airways. On the other hand the strategy of the last Ceo of etihad airways and his Australian little team was successful for the airline for the last 10 years, the company was growing consistently offering a great and innovative product onboard achieving elevated levels of customer satisfaction and the highest quality standards not only Inflight but also on the ground. Etihad had a great team of professionals from all over the world.
    The bad investments made in other air carriers are a whole different story. Abu Dhabi has a lot of potential to grow, the new midfield terminal in AUH is under construction. The Oil price is on the rise again, with the right strategy you may all get a surprise here. This is a very agile business in a very agile environment, so it’s kind of business as usual..

  52. Very well written article. I enjoyed reading it.

    In my opinion, their problem is their hub Abu Dhabi rather than their airline Etihad. They just look at what Dubai does and try to mimic neglecting that they need to make Abu Dhabi as relaxed as Dubai. Otherwise, they just look like another serious/hardline islamic country having hard time attracting visitors and foreigners.You might find the book – The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis interesting given you discussion of perceptions towards brands/companies. Great read about two men that revolutionized economic thought.

    The bad investments made in other air carriers are a whole different story. Abu Dhabi has a lot of potential to grow, the new midfield terminal in AUH is under construction. The Oil price (Facebook autoliker )is on the rise again, with the right strategy you may all get a surprise here. This is a very agile business in a very agile environment, so it’s kind of business as usual..

  53. I was Gold with Etihad for a year or so, but found the airport too chaotic, the business lounge too cramped every time, and then on top of that they started using Air Seychelles which just didn’t have the style or nice business class seating. Then I went back to Qatar for a couple of flights, but found that there is now no special business/first class building with separate arrival/departure facilities when transiting, and now we have to fight our way through their big new airport with everyone else. So currently I’m Platinum with Emirates, and other than the big airport they are doing fine. I”m sticking with them for the time being. Qatar’s connections have often been either too tight or too lengthy, whereas Emirates has good options in that regard.

  54. Up until 2017 I did between 2 and 4 SYD to Europe J class flights a year so experienced the decline. QR is amazing and transiting through Doha is so much better than Abu Dhabi. I flew AUH-CDG and their economy was truly awful. Can’t imagine that I will fly Etihad again.

  55. I hear ya…

    At the same time, Etihad serves a route I take frequently (AMD-JFK)… allowing me to get to the US with just one stop.

    I LOVE the private bus for premium passengers when they can’t get a jetway for their A321s. That’s a nice touch.

    Even with cost cutting, something about the brand feels more refined than Emirates, and why I still prefer it. Qatar interests me not at all.

    The biz class studio is super.. I always enjoying flight it on the A380.

    Wish the pajamas were still there but I don’t mind bringing a pair to change in to.


  56. I couldn’t agree more. I have no further inclination to fly with them any more.
    The crap guy Hogan has a major role here but I still blame Etihad as they should have seen this guys reputation with what he did to GF and BM. The way the cost cutting is being done is again unbelievable and without proper communication to the customers. The only saving grace now is the pre clearance in AUH. How long would that stay is also not clear.

  57. For $40,000, by saying one olive, American Airlines proved to the world how stingy/cheapskate a company can get…..

  58. I was going to fly Etihad for the first time in paid J from JFK-AUH-SIN return but got caught up in the JFK flight cancellation. They offered me a new flight but with a 12 hour layover. They weren’t proactive about offering me accommodation/meals for the new extended layover so I just cancelled the flight and booked a much cheaper China Eastern flight. I know China Eastern will be a worse soft product, but it was literally 35% cheaper ($3,000 in savings), includes car service to and from JFK (a further savings of $250 for me as I live in New Jersey) and since my partner speaks Chinese, I don’t have to worry about language barriers which seems to be an issue on the airline. Bottom line for me is that for these Gulf carriers that specialise in long-haul transiting passengers to work, they need decent connection times (an 11 hour layover doesn’t work for most people). If you don’t have the scale like Emirates you’re going to struggle as the business model relies on decent connections.

  59. This Guy talk about Ethiad like a piece of S**** but is amazed by Ukraine International Airlines crappy business class.
    Clown. Period.

  60. Great article, thanks for posting! I’m also an avid traveller and also switched to a healthier lifestyle. Now training for a race with SportMe running app and I’m curious how am I to inject my running routine into my exotic journeys. Your blog posts are truly inspiring.

  61. + who cares about the pyjama in business class… why you don’t complain about the lack of amenity kit on Singapore then? I value more amenity kit than a cheap made in china scratchy pyjama.

  62. And compare to Emirates, Ethiad is just amazing… Emirates is like dubai : a bling Disneyland. Etihad is like Abu Dhabi : refined, elegant and discreet chic. I go for the second one without any kind of doubt!

  63. When I flew on several Ethihad flights in J back in 2014-2015 and I already got a feeling of “amateur” airline. They still had chaffeuer service and olives, but AUH stroke me as a 3rd world airport and service in J and on the ground was very inconsistent.

    I was also stuck in fog in AUH for a couple of hours and I thought that it was handled extremely poorly with conflicting information about departing flights and gate changes every few minutes!

    I also remember number of different aircraft configurations, had at least two very different A330 flights (I think one was Ethihads and another was a leased Jet airways plane).

    I did not find many good reasons to fly with them again.

  64. “Had I actually paid for these flights, I would have been upset.”…….hence, part of the problem IMO

  65. A lot of this is just a matter of acting rationally instead of spending money like oil wells grew on trees. With all due respect I’d rather see a financially stable airline operation that can compete long term with decent product and prices for my business, than one which blows a ton of money buying up failing airlines and sending a chauffeur for Lucky.

  66. Sorry I never got to fly with them during the glory days. But Lucky, does this make them bad, or just average…there is a big difference. Emirates still has a middle business class seat… Most do not have chauffeur service, even for first (US carriers do not even have first anymore). I see they are not the top tier they once were, but does that mean they should be avoided over carriers like United Polaris, Lufthansa Business, or BA Business?

  67. I unwillingly travel Etihad just so that I can visit family in Abu Dhabi. Etihad business class is appalling, and there economy class is the worst of the ME3.

    I wouldn’t mind if Emirates took over Etihad, made a secondary base in Abu Dhabi and then cut flights ruthlessly until service improved

  68. @GB

    AND…. While being equally nonsensical in terms of homogeneity, the Qualiflyer airlines were then(*) mostly in far better health than those of Etihad partners… Swissair, Sabena, Delta, Singapore, etc…

    But Qualiflyer was the brain-dead child of a disgruntled AA executive who briefly (not briefly enough) led Swissair and wanted to hit back at his former employer.

    (*) For some, it subsequently changed.

  69. May Sir Tim Clark and EK follow Hogan and Ethiad’s fate. And the A380 descend into oblivion at the same time.

  70. “I’ve gone from being a loyal customers of American, to one who just happens to fly the airline, and continues to hold top tier status.“

    You undermine your credibility with this statement. It would take substantial effort for most of us to accomplish that on discretionary spend.

    To say that you hold this status indicates that the loyalty program is working, or it’s not and you’re ostentatious. Either way, it doesn’t add anything.

  71. I’ve flown EY F (both Apartments and 777) a number of times over the years, using AA miles, and have always enjoyed it and their F lounge in AUH. I really like the on-board actual kitchen and chef on the A380. I’ve never flown them in J because from what I can tell, their J hard product is inferior even to AA’s. Long-haul premium carriers do need to supply PJs in J, at least on long overnight flights.

    I also fly QR J a lot, both on discount R fares and AA awards. They have a nice J product, and do provide PJs on long-haul overnight flights. Once, QR upgraded us from J to F (on their A380 DOH-SYD). I was shocked at how poor QR’s F hard product is.

    I’ve yet to fly Emirates.

  72. I agree, so sad. Hope they merge with Emirates already and keep making Emirates the greatest airline in the world!

  73. A simple search on Linkedin shows that Etihad hired a lot of poor performers from United to run its network planning department. Why Etihad would think that hiring Analysts from a very mediocre and underachieving carrier like United and making them Senior Managers at Etihad was a good idea shows the complete incompetence of Etihad’s upper management. At least they fired most of them but now the damage is already done.

  74. What Biased news. Have been flying Etihad and Emirates no complaints at all. Whoever wrote this post must have not got a chauffeur service while they were traveling in economy.

  75. Etihad on Jet Airways configured 777 was the best business class seats for privacy and comfort on long haul flights, it reminds me in certain way to virgin Atlantic upper class. Etihad pijamas quality in J class was quite good, cutting cost on the amenities, food quality, lounge service and reducing meal loading ratios is not the solution. Probably the Arabs these days are being assessed by the wrong people again. I don’t see any major savings here, it all just contribute to loose value, the brand is bleeding and the reputation is being damaged day after day. Maybe this is all part of the new strategy. Anyhow I’m among those that think that the best is yet to come. ENJOY.

  76. Debit, your a racist and should never be allowed on this forum again. This is a great aviation geek site. Cut off the booze at 6:00AM and start AA.

  77. My main reason for not flying them anymore is that they have unscrupulously sucked the liquidity out of Topbonus, the FFP of airberlin, as the liquidators report shows. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be a bankruptcy offence in Germany, unlike in all other countries I know. So legally, they might be getting away with this, but not morally …

  78. @Lucky – Ethiad Apartment or Qatar Q Suites? (traveling with wife, ME to USA)

    Have the former booked, and the latter is available. Never flown A380.

  79. @ Andrew — Etihad First Class Apartment is still going to be better than any business class, especially if you haven’t done the A380 before.

  80. @ Andrew, you’ll have significantly more space and privacy in the Apartment, along with an on-board chef and kitchen for customized meals, and of course a shower. However, you will be isolated from your wife for the most part, due to the amount of space and privacy. If you book a pair that adjoins you can open the “kissing panel” and be face-to-face when in bed, but when eating or watching TV or reading you will be separate (although one could join the other on the couch).

  81. Great detailed article. Having been recalled in 2003 by the then royal chairman to help him start the sales in the UAE of this great airline, I was just one of the team for two great years that saw a great vision for this new airline. Sadly this vision turned to personal greed and money was spent in the wrong direction rather than in a continued loyalty of its passengers and some staff. There was a total breakdown in communications from the top-down and down-top. This reckless behaviour by those in power is what has led to the downfall and decline of this great airline. Having also spent 22 wonderful years with Gulf Air in the UAE, that belonged to four countries at one time sadly saw a similar decline and sadly we hear very little of this airline too. Is Etihad leading towards the same destiny? A very sad story indeed!!!

  82. Hi Lucky – I would welcome a new review of Etihad’s A380 First Class. Considering all that has changed, and how much you used to love the onboard experience and the AUH lounge, it would be wonderful to get your perspective on how things are, now.

    I’m especially interested in this, as it looks as though next August/September, I will get to experience Etihad’s and Emirates’ A380 First class and Qatar Airways’ A350 Business (sadly not QSuites) class products over the course of one trip, and all for the first time.

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