Etihad Airways axes first class on Brisbane-Abu Dhabi flights

By Chris C., November 3 2016
Etihad Airways axes first class on Brisbane-Abu Dhabi flights

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.

Also read:

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1245

It was only a matter of time.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Feb 2014

Total posts 143

It's a good move, J is always going to sell more seats than F out of airports such as BNE, we just don't have the "strength" yet to support an F market for more than 1 Middle Eastern carrier out of BNE. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 233

Economy has always been packed when i've been on this flight. It seems likely 76 economy seats would be more valuable than 8 first seats, especially if they have the range.

BNE would struggle to fill 8 first class seats on a daily basis IMO.

08 Apr 2011

Total posts 24

Totally understandable. There just isn't enough of a market for F out of BNE, and EK have it covered.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

12 Jun 2015

Total posts 4

Have two First Class seats confirmed, BNE-AUH for May 17 spoke to Etihad guest services, "would not or could not confirm changes at this time, will contact you in near future" 

13 Nov 2015

Total posts 49

This is shocking and devastating news for both paid and mileage F flyers.  Etihad competes with QF, BA, TG, SQ, Malaysian, Garuda, Qatar and Emirates for F passengers into and out of Australia.  It smells  like the start of a broad retreat for them. A stunning blow for BNE.. 

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 441

Considering SYD and MEL are 2 of only 5 airports on earth that receive the EY A380 Im not sure how this could be considered a 'broad retreat'.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

16 May 2011

Total posts 113

EY still maintains double daily services to/from MEL and SYD with daily 77W and A380 flights with all flights receiving F. They also have First/Business lounges in both airports. Considering that F is still being offered by other carriers such as SQ, QF from only MEL and SYD says something about the demand for F class in other parts of Australia. I don't see how this is them "retreating" the product from Australia?


03 May 2013

Total posts 670

Gulf Air Days all over again......EY will always be the pepsi living in the shadow of coke Emirates. They will eventually fail just like Virgin(as a full service carrier) will in the shadows of Qantas. Wont happen tomorrow but it will happen.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 444

Sorry to burst your bubble, but both Eithad and Virgin Australia are here to stay for the permanent term.


05 Nov 2014

Total posts 6

Took a look at AUE reservations BNE to AUE. F/C was mostly booked for the day of travel I selected. So crunched the numbers for a different view.  8 F/C pax generate a gross of $66,688.00 per flight. The 28 B/C already on aircraft will stay on aircraft so is not a financial consideration at this time, providing that the B/C price does not go up or down.  76 T/C pax designated as Economy Class pricing by Etihad yields a gross of $103,056 per flight. From here one needs to know differential in catering, flight crew head count requirements two class vs three class, and weight differentials allowed for one F/C passenger vs one T/C passenger, and perhaps fuel burn differentials.   With the above as a back drop it appears that the AUE decision is being driven by economics. Perhaps one of the people, aka Chris, who spend their lives tracking airlines and flying on them could get an interview with the appropriate AUE representative in Dubai and get a definitive answer.  If Chris is the man with the exclusive on this story then he should be "connected" to the right people to get and give the total scoop.  And please, no AUE confidential information responses.  Cheers Mates 

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2438

Hi DHB, we don't cover 'aviation', per se, nor related elements like airline economics or fuel efficiency, so those aren't questions we would ask or report on.

We instead write our news with a focus on the business traveller, and the news for that audience is that Etihad first class will be discontinued from Brisbane, replaced by 72 economy seats, as covered.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

12 Jun 2015

Total posts 4

Hi Chris, I pressed Velocity on this issue as I am travelling F/C BNE-LHR in May, they had no knowledge of the change? Checked with Etihad, same ?  

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2438

Hi CoffeeBoy, it's our understanding that on a very small number of flights in 2017, first class will be sold to/from Brisbane for operational reasons (i.e. when Etihad needs to use a three-class aircraft), so either you're incredibly lucky and your booking falls on one of these dates or you'll need to call back again.

We're unable to assist with individual bookings, so you'd need to check with the airlines (but perhaps give them a few weeks to finalise these changes).

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