EXCLUSIVE | Virgin Australia partner Etihad Airways will withdraw its first class service on flights between Brisbane and Abu Dhabi by the year’s end.
From December 1, the airline will swap its current three-class Boeing 787-9 – fitted with first class (pictured) in addition to business class and economy – for a two-class Dreamliner, topping out at business class.
Like its three-class cousin, the two-class bird retains 28 of the airline’s latest Business Studio business class seats…
… but arranges them in a single business class zone at the very front of the aircraft (right), as opposed to two distinct, smaller zones further back as on the three-class jets (left):
Removing the eight first class suites and shifting business class further forward instead makes room for a staggering 76 more passengers in economy class, which comes in a 3-3-3 layout:
An Etihad Airways spokesperson confirmed the changes to Australian Business Traveller, sharing that “the additional economy seats will enable the airline to better cater to the strong year-round demand in the economy cabin on the Brisbane route.”
Passengers affected by the removal of first class will be contacted by Etihad to discuss alternative travel arrangements, which may include a downgrade to business class between Brisbane and Abu Dhabi, or flying instead via Sydney or Melbourne where Etihad first class continues to be offered.
Etihad debuted first class service to Brisbane in June 2015 when upgrading its Airbus A330 Brisbane-Singapore-Abu Dhabi flights to a non-stop Brisbane-Abu Dhabi route using the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
Gulf neighbour Emirates continues to offer first class on its daily Airbus A380 Brisbane-Dubai flights and its Boeing 777 Brisbane-Singapore-Dubai services, while Korean Air too provides a first class option between Brisbane and Seoul aboard its Airbus A330s.