Etihad has announced a raft of ground and in-flight changes, which it says are “designed to offer increased value and flexibility based on customer feedback”.

Business and first class passengers will no longer benefit from a free chauffeur drive service at all international destinations – the service will remain at Abu Dhabi airport.

The new policy will be introduced on July 3, and will see the carrier introduce a new paid-for chauffeur service for all classes of travel, “at specially negotiated rates” and with the ability to accrue Etihad Guest mile on bookings.

Note that customers travelling in Etihad’s premium The Residence cabins on A380 aircraft serving London, Paris and new York, will continue to benefit from a complimentary chauffeur service at all destinations.

And any tickets issued before July 3 will not be affected by the changes.

Other changes announced by the carrier include:

  • The ability for economy passengers to pay to access Etihad lounges worldwide, similar to that introduced by Emirates earlier this year
  • The option for business class customers to pay to upgrade to the carrier’s first class lounge and spa when flying from or transiting Abu Dhabi
  • The ability for economy passengers to “bid” for up to three empty seats next to theirs, subject to availability and cabin configuration. Bids can be made at the time of booking and will be confirmed 30 hours prior to departure.

Commenting on the changes Mohammad Al Bulooki, Executive Vice President Commercial for Etihad Airways, said:

“Etihad Airways is constantly looking at ways to improve its value proposition for guests, focusing on the service elements that are most important to them. This change is being put in place as the airline looks to evolve its product proposition while continuing to match individual customer requirements.

“Following a review, the chauffeur services we offer will be amended globally, with the exception of Abu Dhabi, where there are a high number of users of the service.”

Al Bulooki said that “Many customers prefer to make their own ground transportation arrangements,” adding that the decision had been taken “to provide increased choice and to ensure fares remain as low and as competitive as possible, while retaining best-in-class service for all guests, in all cabins”.

Etihad recently announced plans to drop its Abu Dhabi-San Francisco service, citing “Lower than planned yields and load factors”.