Etihad Airways likes to keep its A380 passengers as comfortable as possible. From the revolutionary Residence multi-room private quite on board to the new Etihad Economy Space offering the carrier delivers choices for passengers willing to pay a little (or LOT!) more to be comfortable on board. The new Economy Space option delivers extra leg room for economy class passengers at a relatively low price. All ten of the A380s will carry the new product by December 2018 according to the company.
The retrofit includes removing one row of seats from the forward-most zone of the A380 lower deck. The other eight rows in that section will be rearranged to offer up to 36″ of pitch for passengers.
We recognise that no two travellers are alike, and today’s customers demand more choice and personalisation during their travels. In response to the popularity and demand for extra legroom seats, we have reconfigured our Economy cabin to allow travellers to enhance their overall travel experience. While many airlines have been squeezing more seats into economy class, we continue to focus on providing our guests with exceptional products and services that meet and exceed the demands and budgets of different types of travellers. – Jamal Ahmed Al Awadhi, Etihad Airways Head of Guest Experience
The Etihad Economy Space seating option does not change any other aspects of the on-board service. The IFE and dining service for Economy Space passengers remains the same as for other economy class guests.
Access to Etihad’s Economy Space legroom seat priced at $180 on an upcoming New York City-Abu Dhabi flight, compared to $35-40 for most other advance seat selection options. The up-charge is similar for flights to Sydney. On shorter flights between Abu Dhabi and Europe the cost differential drops to around $95. The $10-15/hour price point matches what several other airlines offer for similar products.
For Etihad the move addresses multiple challenges. It allows the carrier to inexpensively add more spacious seating on board. It comes at a far lower cost than a proper premium economy cabin. It also does not command the same fare premium. It increases revenue opportunity with minimal risk. Odds that those ten seats would sell given historical load factors. The potential for up to $10,000 in extra ancillary revenue per flight could help the carrier as it struggles financially. Similarly, reducing the number of seats on board also helps the airline’s ability to push up fares a tiny bit as it reduces inventory in some markets. This change is not going to dramatically change the carrier’s finances, but it is a small step in the right direction.
Of course, demand from passengers for a proper premium economy cabin remains strong. Qatar Airways remains steadfast in opposing such a shift. Emirates plans to launch its version of premium economy on the A380s due in the 2020 time frame. Other carriers continue to grow premium economy offerings as well.
Given Etihad’s precarious financial positioning a major investment in a true premium economy remains unlikely. The Economy Space offering describes exactly what it delivers – space – in the name and does not confuse that issue.