Etihad axes first class on Melbourne-Abu Dhabi flights

By David Flynn, May 22 2018
Etihad axes first class on Melbourne-Abu Dhabi flights

Etihad Airways is pulling the plug on first class flights from Melbourne as the Virgin Australia partner moves both of its daily flights to a two-class Boeing 787-9.

The Gulf airline's latest schedule reveals that the Boeing 777-300ER which currently flies as EY460/EY461 and includes eight first class suites will replaced by the Dreamliner from October 1, 2018.

The second daily service of EY462/EY463 is already flown by a Boeing 787-9.

While some of Etihad's Boeing 787s feature eight cosy first class suites, those assigned to Melbourne-Abu Dhabi are from a second tranche of two-class jets which top out at business class – albeit with the highly-regarded Business Studio seats (below), so that's a win for most corporate high flyers.

Etihad Airways' Boeing 787 Business Studio business class
Etihad Airways' Boeing 787 Business Studio business class

AusBT review: Etihad's Boeing 787 business class

However, with only 28 business class seats against 40 on the Boeing 777-300ER, this also means that points-based business class award bookings and upgrades on EY460 and EY461 are likely to be harder to come by.

Read: How to use Velocity frequent flyer points to book Etihad Airways flights

The move comes almost a year after Etihad canned its Airbus A380 flights from Melbourne, which removed not only the extravagant Residence three-room 'penthouse above the clouds' but the flagship first class Apartment suites.

As previously reported, Etihad's ongoing Aussie draw-down will also see its Perth flights dropped from October 2018.

Etihad also withdrew its first class service to Brisbane in December 2016 when the airline migrated from a three-class Boeing 787 fitted with first class, to a two-class Dreamliner maxing out at business class.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jan 2014

Total posts 294

I’ve always liked Etihad, so it’s sad to see them falling apart like this.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

10 Aug 2015

Total posts 79

Are they definitely falling apart or just allocating their planes to more profitable routes?

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1242

Based on route & product withdrawals (here and elsewhere) and their lack of money making, I'd say falling.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jun 2014

Total posts 224

Disappointing....
sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

The Business Class 787 Studio does look fantastic though.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 122

What a great shame . When i heard about their Alitalia partnership (now failed) , I just thought this aint going to end well for them .Hopefully they can ride the storm.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 391

Sydney remains the financial centre and this may generate high yield bookings, but Melbourne's population continues to increase faster and will at current rates exceed Sydney's easily within 30 years.


It begs the question as to why with Melbourne being the home of so many other sectors - manufacturing and creative industries like design and art are two - and Melbourne attracting more shoppers, why do these airlines tend to give Sydney flights the better 'equipment?'

Both cities have a coterie of wealthy residents who can afford to pay high fares for business or in fewer cases first class.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jul 2014

Total posts 52

Like any business (should), airlines deploy their assets so as to maximise return on investment. Etihad would presumably not have made this change had MEL generated a decent paying F load, and if it was not felt that the asset of a 777-300ER could not generate more profit elsewhere. Inbound F traffic will be greater to Sydney for the foreseeable future, notwithstanding the Victorian capital's many charms, and if those of us who live in Melbourne would like to see more F products, we need to be shelling out for them on a sufficiently large scale.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 336

Alan Joyce has made the comment that (for QF), sales in F from MEL are not strong, whereas they are quite good from SYD. And many of us are well aware that it is easier to get F award/upgrade seats from MEL than from SYD, because of lower demand for paid F seats.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 132

Well maybe in 30 years, when it "exceeds Sydney" they can reconsider? But for now, Sydney is larger, attracts more international visitors, and is the financial hub of Australia.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 391

While I don't want to go OT too much, Sydney's population as measured includes the Central Coast, which is a separate area. So it's increasingly arguable as to whether Sydney is larger in population than Melbourne. Tourism to latter has been rising faster than to Sydney so any gap is narrowing.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 132

And Melbourne's includes the Mornington Peninsula,

Bacchus Marsh, the Yarra Ranges and the like.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jun 2015

Total posts 60

I guess tourists willing to fly F makes the huge difference for Sydney over Melbourne.
sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Hope they never axe the 'Amarula Gold' in favour of just Bailey's, that would be an economy cut...

Etihad Platinum

01 May 2015

Total posts 16

I flew yesterday F syd->auh. F was full, but there were 290 empty seats in economy and the stewardess was telling me how that’s been a recurrent theme even out of Sydney. They were blaming things like the reduced luggage allowance etc.

Ultimately sad to see the demise of this once top-rate airline.

22 Jan 2018

Total posts 69

They’ve pulled out of Dallas and SFO as well, and no plans to add additional USA cities

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 132

I would have thought rather than luggage allowance, in economy price is the #1 factor for long haul? Are Etihad still price competitive on key routes out of Australia like Sydney-London?

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 391

Its website lists a return east coast - London fare of $1303. Maybe cheaper through travel agents, but Cathay Pacific and Philippine Airlines are among those with return fares that have been below A$1000, so on that basis - Etihad is uncompetitive.

27 Jan 2016

Total posts 53

Agreed - their luggage is 30kg which is pretty generous for economy

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 391

Great info SydneyTravels.

That's a seat occupancy percentage of 30.1 per cent in economy class (based on 415 seats in that class on an Etihad A380.)


In February 2017, on its Australian routes, 74.7 per cent of Etihad's overall seats were occupied inbound, while outbound ex Oz, percentage was 59.7 per cent.

In both cases this was below the median for all international airlines operating here in that month, but seasonal demand differs by route, although as a general comment February is quite low demand as it's just after Oz school hols when some of us have had long holidays and spent all we want to on self funded travel for a while.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Jul 2017

Total posts 13

Friends recently flew fra-Mel and said the same thing. The back of the plane is empty.
AKD
AKD

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2017

Total posts 5

I don't know that you can use one individual experience as an indication of how things are across the board. We flew out of MEL a month ago (on the 787-9) and it was 95% full; our connecting flight to MAD was full in Y and J.

It was nice to have a consistent product throughout so on that basis this is a good move.

Aegean Airlines - Miles & Bonus

17 Sep 2017

Total posts 17

Trust me, Etihad’s business studio is nothing to write home about... more the soft product and service which lets the experience down. The seat is also very hard.
LP
LP

30 Jun 2016

Total posts 45

I personally found the business studio on 789 to be excellent. Nice level of privacy, stylish design and pretty comfortable.
On the positive, i've always found service in business class improves when there is no first class service offered on Etihad.

08 Feb 2016

Total posts 14

I fly this route a couple of times a year, and always found the 777 they used on the evening Melbourne flight to be in pretty poor condition – bathrooms, seats and floors in particular. So despite the reduced capacity and upgrade opportunities, I’m glad this move means we will get a newer and nicer plane.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Feb 2017

Total posts 1

Once an airline with a great reputation. Slowly going downhill. Just returned from AUH into SYD on the A380. Business cabin half full, first less than half and to cap it off the service in J was appalling. Sad to see.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

01 Mar 2017

Total posts 3

We have always flown in first class with BA on our annual pilgrimage back to the UK, but after a very disappointing trip last year we have booked to fly Etihad out of Sydney in first class, so fingers crossed.

QF LTG

29 Feb 2016

Total posts 12

Interesting comments - last week had best ever F Syd Auh Lhr on the A380 - personable crew, top service etc. didn’t see downstairs but F was 7 of 9 full and biz looked 75%. There are stats somewhere to argue those F/J percentages would pay for majority of opex, with Y being small margin ?

Given our history with EY, it probly means return flts next month to Mel will be ordinary...


Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 Mar 2015

Total posts 40

That's me out of Etihad then! Singapore, Emirates and Qatar are definitely superior these days. EM still give you a car too. A friend flew Etihad J to Munich last month and was very underwhelmed by service and food. I think with all the petty cost saving going on, the staff are demotivated and Etihad have just lost the plot.

12 Aug 2017

Total posts 75

I am worried by the severity of Etihad cut-backs and huge losses. If a company is cutting back at some stage maintenance will be under pressure too.

I know other airlines are in the red but Etihad's approach is just too aggressive and public.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 411

Wonder which airline is going to hire James Hogan next??

UA

30 Jun 2015

Total posts 13

I just flew SYD-AUH-JFK return in F on the A380 and there were only two of us outbound to AUH and just myself inbound. AUH to JFK was full both ways. Residence empty on all legs. Can see the A380 disappearing from Sydney also.

22 Aug 2018

Total posts 1

I think I know why their economy seats are empty, having flown on one of the last A380's out MEL - AUH and a 777 on the way home.... The difference in the two flights was astonishing! Not just from the quality of the aircraft and comfort, but the service and meals too. Their after trip experience with customer service was appalling to say the least. Worst experience with an airline ever.

I overheard other passengers on the plane asking how they could lodge a formal complaint when they land. Clearly they didnt have a pleasant Etihad experience either. And Im sure they received the same silent treatments and rude responses from their customer service as I did. Their standard response time is 1 week!


I should note we had a corporate agreement with Etihad, however, our account manager warned us of cut backs on the airline and we moved away from our agreement. They have pulled so many services that other airlines still offer, so sometimes consumers will go with the adding convenience of a chauffer airport transfer service for business class passangers. Baggage has been massively scaled back and access bagged charges are quite high and has a new tier system. They even weigh your carry on and charge you if you are 1kg over!

You only need to visit their Facebook page to see the endless complaints from their customers. That's why their planes are empty! Qatar and emirates are far better airlines, and they fly A380'S out of Melbourne ;)

So why the cost cutting? Poor partnerships and investments. Heads rolled at the top... and then cost cutting began.... I'm sure the reason their crew are cranky, is because its had a flow on effect on them. Looks like they are now going through a phase of trying to regain its operations by become an overpriced budget airline.

PS flying Etihad (against better judgement) in two weeks time. Bit scared, but prepared for the new level of service ;)

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 391

Nomadildi, don't doubt any of what you say: a fascinating post.

But most passengers arem't like you: they wouldn't know beforehand (or care) which aircraft they're flying on (though for a minority A380 has appeal) and many book on price alone, so does what you say merely suggest that Etihad is either uncompetitive with its fares, or isn't giving travel agents sufficient commission to have bookings through that channel directed its way?


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