Etihad’s Introducing a Most Unwelcome Economy Fee This Sunday

Jul 11, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Wednesday morning, Etihad emailed frequent flyers with an opportunity to “enhance your economy class journey.” Oh, intriguing! Could the airline be introducing fancier new meals, perhaps? Or, maybe there’s a new premium economy product on the way?

Nope… the product adjustment here is simply a new requirement to pay for something you currently get for free: standard seat selection. Some “enhancement.” Ugh.

This change is not to be confused with the carrier’s existing “Neighbour-Free Seat” option, which lets you bid for up to three extra seats in your row — if your bid is successful, you can secure an entire row of seats for yourself. That at least offers some added value, although considering Etihad’s current financial situation, and the fact that the airline’s trimming flights, it seems somewhat likely that you’d end up without a neighbor either way.

The new seat-selection fee kicks in this Sunday, July 15, and joins other recent initiatives, like an opportunity to book Etihad’s Residence Lounge (albeit without Residence amenities) for just $40. Many airlines already charge for economy seat picks, and some, including British Airways, even charge ridiculous fees to select a seat on paid business-class fares.

Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be any sort of “grace period,” though — the fee is already appearing for travel dates beginning July 15; you can only select a free seat for flights through this Saturday.

For example, on Etihad’s A380 flight to JFK, this Friday’s flight is displaying two buy-up options: Standard Seats (essentially regular seats in the forward economy cabin) for about $41, and Preferred Seats (exit rows and other extra-legroom options) for $182. There are plenty of “Available Seats,” though — those are the ones that don’t cost extra, and they’re available throughout the rear cabins.

Beginning Sunday, while “Available Seats” are still listed in the Seat Map Key, there aren’t any displaying on the seat map — the seats that are free for flights through Saturday cost about $33 for flights beginning Sunday. Additionally, the current “Standard Seats” become “Preferred Seats,” with today’s “Preferred Seats” then labeled as “Extra legroom seat.” There’s no change to pricing for those options, though.

The one saving grace is that “Economy Flex” tickets appear to be exempt — though in the case of Abu Dhabi (AUH) to New York (JFK), a Flex ticket will cost you nearly $400 more than regular coach. That might be worth considering if you also expect to make changes or apply for a full refund, but that differential far exceeds the $33 seat-selection fee.

Similarly, Economy Flex award tickets are also exempt, though those require more than twice the number of miles on the AUH-JFK route.

Now, all this said, it’s easy for anyone to avoid this new seat-selection fee. Beginning 24 hours prior to departure, you’ll be able to pick any remaining standard seat for free — you only need to pay to select a seat before the check-in window opens.

You may also be eligible for a seat-fee refund if you don’t actually get to fly in the type of seat you purchased — being reassigned to a similar seat in a different row won’t trigger a refund, though, nor will accepting an upgrade to business class, upgrading to a “Neighbour-Free Seat” or, unfortunately, changing your itinerary.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.