Why Brands Fail - Etihad
The first airline I was ever loyal to was Etihad. I had landed a digital transformation consulting gig with multi-billion dollar airport caterer based in England. This opportunity had me traveling to Europe from Australia from Sydney and Etihad offered the highest level of service for the client's travel budget. Within the course of one year, I reached Platinum status and have more than 15 pairs of inflight pyjamas in my third drawer.
As a frequent flyer, you see air travel out of different lens, develop routines and learn the nuances of various air craft. As a frequent flyer on Etihad I've flown in every part of the plane and most recently decided that this airline lost that proverbial loving feeling. ✈️🤔
When deciding to take a jaunt to Greece to escape the -3 degree Canberra winter chill on an impulse with my tiny human in tow I refused to book on the cheapest carrier because I know that status matters, especially when traveling through an airport in the Middle East.
I booked my party of three in economy, not because Etihad was the cheapest, but because I thought my family would get looked after. Our first leg was out of Singapore and an evening flight. The cabin supervisor did not greet me throughout the flight, and service was despicable.
Not only did I not get any acknowledgement for my patronage of the airline, I experienced some of the worst cabin service faux pas one could expect from a five star carrier. I placed my flight attendant light on and requested a gin and tonic. A gentlemen took my request and then one hour later, came back with my drink. It was warm. Not just cool. More than temped. When I asked for ice (clearly he went to space waitress academy where they teach flight attendants how to make a simple spirit and soda cocktail...) he looked at me oddly, and told me the ice had all melted. Funny. We had only been in the air for three hours.
After finishing my drink in row 50+ I walked through the back galley to see an overfull ice bin and four flight attendants taking their tea break on my way to the restroom. I spoke to one of the flight attendants suggesting some retraining for the gentleman because WHO DOES THAT!? and serves a warm gin and tonic? Who? Not even the English will drink a warm G&T!
Etihad - you've lost that lovin' feeling
When we arrived in Abu Dhabi, we managed to make our weary way to the First Class lounge. Because of my previous status and the age of my tiny human, I was able to get the family inside for our 8 hour layover. The staff in the First Class Lounge were magnificent. Despite it being the season of the fast, we were well fed and able to find respite in the wonderful quiet areas with ambient lighting and recliners.
The day flight from Abu Dhabi to Athens was entirely another story. The cabin supervisor, a male from Eastern Europe ran a very tight ship and had apparently briefed the staff that there was a VIP onboard, however, it was not until the end of the flight that our flight attendant worked out the person with the most tier miles was indeed me. It never ceases to amaze me that most men and even more females in hospitality always expect the most senior travelled person in a family party to be a male. They refer to my husband as 'Mr. Rodriguez' (that is not his name), and think there is a typo on the reservation or manifest. Is it not the 21st Century where women can now lead?
I know that an airline generates most of its revenue not from the random and seldom flying, but the frequent flyers, who will continue to be loyal even when the airline lets them down. I filled out an Etihad survey upon my return, articulating my disappointment in their economy service on those legs of my trip. I received no follow up or an email apology.
In parallel, I flew Delta Airlines from Atlanta to LAX last month. On the flight over, the electricity in our seats was not working. After my laptop battery lost its power, I pointed this out to the flight attendant and she attempted to reset it. When we had no joy, she asked for our frequent flyer numbers. Before we could deplane in LA, she had our accounts credited with 15,000 miles for the inconvenience because her airline keeps their promises.
Etihad competes now more than ever with other MID-EAST carriers with nice planes and lots of international routes. In my opinion, it needs to make a better effort to keep its female customers loyal and happy. Why Etihad should you care? We - females, mothers and business women - drive 90% of the vacation travel purchases, as well as are the fastest growing segment of business travellers. Ignore us at your peril.