… not new products in the air.
Etihad has started flying its first A380 around. The Etihad A380 features a whole new suite of products (pun intended).
One Mile At A Time has reviewed the inaugural Etihad A380 service in the First ‘Apartment’.
While it looks to be an impressive hard product, it is important to remember that the hard product is only one element of a pleasant air travel experience.
Every time we fly out of Abu Dhabi (AUH) on Etihad, we are appalled by the poor ground service for first class:
- there is currently no Etihad first class lounge at the airport. First class customers must use the business class lounge. If the rumours are to be believed, we are months away from seeing a new first class lounge.
- at the gate, first and business class customers are treated the same with regard to priority boarding.
- when boarding flights which use a remote stand, customers connecting to or from first class are rammed into a bus with everyone else.
- where there are priority security lanes, these are often not adequately guarded to keep economy class passengers out.
As an example, we recently flew out of AUH on a US-bound flight. The above is the ‘priority’ line to enter the boarding gates for US bound flights at AUH earlier this month. While there was a boarding pass to get into these lines with economy passengers told to stay on the right (clearly signposted) and the line being roped off just after this check, not a single person in the signposted ‘priority’ line was traveling in First or Business Class (nor appeared to hold the requisite frequent flyer status). There were no Etihad staff around to rectify this.
The lane on the left was clearly marked for wheelchairs, but we ended up using it in frustration.
Once through this nightmare of a line for the second boarding pass check, the rest of the US pre-clearance experience was actually very straightforward and speedy.
Etihad appear to be building a combined lounge for first and business class after US CBP formalities.
While it is intended that the new Midfield Terminal at AUH will open on 17 July 2017 at 7 AM, Etihad need to comprehensively redo their ‘service’ concept at AUH well before then. At the very least, Etihad need to get together a bunch of staff to escort first passengers around AUH so they do not have to wait. This will cost a fraction of even the design of the new A380 cabin.
Make no mistake, the ground service at AUH is amongst the worst in the world for longhaul international first class. Etihad have poured resources into re-doing their hard product, but for some reason these embarrassing and very obvious lapses of service persist at their hub.