Flying on an airline as an elite member of that program is always a helpful thing. Often, when we travel in business or first class, that elite card does not do that much to improve our overall experience. However, when traveling in economy, being an elite member can make all the difference. If you got in on the Etihad mistake fare sale, this may be of interest to you.
Flying Etihad As An Etihad Elite Member
Last year, Etihad had run a matching program to their Etihad Guest Gold status (middle tier). I had matched to it but had not heard back anything and assumed it was just denied. Fast forward a couple of months after that and I received my Etihad Guest Gold card in the mail.
Etihad Guest Gold
As an elite tier, Etihad Gold does not offer as much as one might think. For instance, when flying economy, passengers must pay to change to a seat with more legroom. That includes Gold members! That is not a complimentary offering like it is with mid tier/upper tier elite members of US programs. The only real benefits for US travelers with holding Etihad Gold status is the chauffeur service, lounge access and priority boarding/check-in as well as some extra luggage (15kg extra). Sure, you receive bonus miles and such but most of us are not flying Etihad enough to make that worthwhile or we would credit to AA or something like that.
But, since the status was free and I have flown Etihad a few times, I thought I might as well take it. My previous flights on Etihad had all been in business class without any economy flights. So, when my economy flight came up recently, I thought it would be nice to see how they treated Etihad Guest Gold members.
My Elite Experience
When I got to the airport in Athens and they opened the gate for my flight, I went up to the counter to inquire about getting a better seat. Once they saw my status, they offered me an upgrade to business for 345 euros (4 1/2 hour flight from Athens to Abu Dhabi). I politely declined and they gave me my choice of the best seats in economy. I chose the exit row, aisle seat.
The gate agents were very kind and helpful with me and kept checking to ensure that I was happy with my seat selection. I figured that not many Etihad elite members must fly out of Athens (many flyers that are elite are most likely Aegean elites since Aegean codeshares with Etihad).
Aboard The Aircraft
I had priority boarding access and boarded to take my seat early. I was very surprised at how nice the economy seats were! Very nice news for those of you who got in on the Etihad fare mistake sale from last month!
I understand that there are different aircrafts and the seats may differ, but I found the economy seat on this Etihad plane (an A330) to be very sufficient in comfort. And that is just talking about the seat itself and not the incredible amount of legroom that the exit row afforded.
As for the legroom, it was excellent! If you are traveling aboard a long-haul Etihad flight, you want an exit row seat! One of the things I found in this seat was that, unlike some other exit rows, it did not feel as if the seat itself had less padding than other seats. It seems that Etihad did a nice job of making a comfortable economy seat, even in the exit row. Still, there is the divider between the seats but only in the exit row. Also, even though your video display is in the seat in front of you, your actual entertainment display is in the side of your seat and can be released after take-off.
When it came to elite recognition aboard the plane, I was really surprised! I had sat back to get some rest as the rest of the plane was boarding but sort of woke up just before take-off as a flight attendant came back to talk to me. She kept addressing me as “Sir Charles” (could get used to that!) and asking me what pre-departure beverage I wanted and when I would like my meal served. I was a little taken back at this very personal touch – in economy! While the gate agents were very friendly with me, I did not expect the flight crew to treat a mere elite member with the same level of attention but they did.
She asked if I would prefer to eat right after take-off or sleep a little and then be woken for the meal. I said either way was fine with me – no hurry. She took my order and was gone. After take-off, I received my meal and drinks promptly. She said she thought she would get it to me right away so I could get some more rest after the meal. 🙂 In fact, I was finished with my meal before the rest of the meal service even started! It felt kind of strange to have the other passengers near me eyeing me as the FAs kept checking in with me. I have never been made to feel that “elite” in economy – even when I was a charter Diamond member with Delta and the status was the latest top tier!
The meal itself was a little different simply because of the way the presentation of the menu options was made. A menu was distributed like you would get in business class and it actually seemed as if it was going to be a more full meal than it was. The meal itself was very good and the silverware being real was a nice touch. I am not complaining about the meal as the portions and kind of meal was typical for economy. I was just surprised because of the more formal menu system and not being used to that on most economy flights.
Overall, my experience as a Etihad Gold member in Etihad economy was very good. If you have an upcoming flight on Etihad, the economy experience was better than I would have expected. As for being a Gold member, the experience as one of their elite members was worth the few minutes of signing up for the match. 🙂
At this time, there is not an active status match offer, but you can find the previous status match offer here. The details are all present and it may be worth trying to match just to see if they would give you the status. Nothing to lose!