About five years ago, Etihad Airways launched its top-level cabin product — the residence. It redefined the passenger experience in long-haul flights and on The Airbus A380, the largest aircraft of the world.
Five years after that, as the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Etihad Airways has launched a new set of short-haul Economy Class products. These refreshed products include: a brand-new seat, a new way of accessing in-flight entertainment and a redesign of the cabin service. Etihad is trying to redefine the short-haul Economy class experience; but will passengers buy into these changes?
Within the next few months, Etihad will upgrade 23 Airbus A320s and A321s with their new Economy seat. Designed by UK manufacturer Acro Aircraft Seating, the new seats feature an ergonomically correct shape width of 18″ on the window and aisle and 19″ on the middle seat. Etihad has said that the improvements will also provide passengers 2” more room at knee level and each seat has access to fast-charging USB ports.
To replace the personal TV on the back of the seats, Etihad has decided to install adjustable phone and tablet holders in their place; similar to what Sam recently experienced on The American Airlines 737 Max.
These seats feature a unique way to recline the back of the seat; there is a front spar mounted recline lever,this changes the location of the button in the armrest to next to the cushion instead.
Front Spar Mounted Recline Lever
Reduction in Business Class Seats
Etihad will reduce the number of Business Class seats on their existing A320/A321 fleet, from 16 to 8. This means an increase in the total of Economy Class seats at the expense of Business Class seats. The change is to support their current business model. The A320/A321 are mainly deployed to serve The India Sub-Continent and Middle East short haul markets, where the main demand is in Economy Class. Upgrading will be much harder with a reduced number of seats in the front cabin.
Change in Entertainment
Etihad have done away with the monitor on the seat-back in Economy, they have instead opted for streaming to personal devices. In the new cabin, passengers will now use the browser on their own devices to connect and log on to the Panasonic eWX system on-board.
Etihad claims that with the new system more, and better, content can be accessed through a new app called E-BOX STREAM.
Change in Service
On flights longer than three hours, a larger contemporary bistro style main course will be served; it seems to me, Etihad have done away with the salad/appetiser. This seems to be another case of cost cutting, but it is being labelled as an “enhancement”.
Traditionally, the caterer will charge the airline to build the tray ready for flight attendant to serve the meals. This new “enhancement” in dining by Etihad has eliminated the need for the caterer to build the tray , instead the flight attendant is now required to do so. This approach has transformed into direct savings on catering bills.
With the new main course, they will be now plated separately by courses; so now desserts will be served together with coffee or tea on longer flights.
New curved triangular plates will be used to show the uniqueness of Abu Dhabi culture. They are made from recycled materials and are 85% lighter, designed to reduce weight and consequently fuel costs.
How to Book
The best way to find deals on Etihad is directly through their website. Sometimes the prices are more attractive, while sometimes they are not. Luckily, Etihad does have some partners that you can redeem miles with for their tickets.
American Airlines is probably the best partner to redeem miles for Etihad’s flights. As of this week, award tickets for Etihad can be searched and booked directly through aa.com; which was not available before. With this new feature, booking an award ticket is much easier than calling the reservation centre; although not all the availability is being properly displayed through American Airlines. You can view the award charts here.
When booking tickets, it’s important to note that there are ways to save miles. One such way is booking tickets from North America to Africa with a transfer in Abu Dhabi; as it can be cheaper than booking a ticket from North America to Abu Dhabi, and then another one from Abu Dhabi to Africa.
If more miles are needed, American Airlines currently has a promotion on for purchasing miles; when buying miles through aa.com, there is up to a 40% discount. More information about the promotion and buying miles can be found here.
These changes on Etihad’s short haul Economy Class definitely alters the flying experience. I suspect many flyers may perceive these changes “negatively”. Clearly, it is coming from a change in demand and a cost cutting perspective. The positive part is the increase in seat width in the middle seat and an increase in the seat pitch.