Etihad Airways has been on a relentless cost-cutting drive lately. The airline has already axed unprofitable routes (like Perth-Abu Dhabi), cut back its chauffeur drive service, reduced Business class amenities and introduced fares that exclude checked baggage. Now, the latest victim of Etihad’s cost-cutting is its Economy class catering.
Etihad recently announced new “enhanced” Economy class meals on flights over 3 hours. The airline says it is will now offer all passengers a larger “bistro-style” meal, served on recycled materials and using lighter cutlery. Complimentary dessert will continue to be offered after the meal service (or with the meal on shorter flights). Etihad claims that this will also help it to reduce its use of single-use plastics by 80% by 2022.
Using lighter materials (which reduce aircraft fuel burn) and reducing waste is undoubtedly good for the environment. But that’s not the end of the announcement…
As part of the enhancements, Etihad has removed the entree and salad from its Economy meals. Etihad is also no longer offering complimentary snacks and drinks outside of the “core dining service”. Passengers feeling peckish after Etihad’s Economy meal service is over will now have to pay for items from the airline’s buy-on-board menu.
Delectable delights on Etihad’s “Sweet or Salty” retail menu include kit kat bars for USD3 (~$4), blueberry muffins for USD5 (~$7) or chocolate-chip cookies for USD5 (~$7). More substantial meals such as lasagne are available for USD7 (~$10). Meanwhile, drinks such as tea, coffee and hot chocolate will now set you back USD3 (~$4) outside of the meal service in Economy on Etihad Airways.
Etihad’s flights from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to Abu Dhabi are more than 14 hours long. On a flight of this length, it’s quite normal for passengers to get hungry or thirsty between meals. For a supposedly full-service airline to charge $4 for a cup of tea on a flight of this length is just petty. Presumably, tap water will still be free.
Most full-service airlines offer complimentary snacks and drinks on request to their Economy class passengers between meals on long-haul flights. Some airlines, such as Qantas, even have self-service snack bars stocked with things like biscuits, fruit and soft drinks.
If Etihad continues to make cuts to its service, it will be difficult for the airline to continue calling itself a full-service carrier with a straight face. Etihad already lost its 5-star Skytrax rating and was downgraded to a 4-star airline earlier this month.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: How low can Etihad go?