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Business Class On Etihad

Getting A Seat Upgrade On Etihad Doesn't Cost As Much As You Might Think

I always wanted to travel in business class. About 20 years ago, I upgraded at the airport on an internal flight in US because the previous flight had been so bad, I couldn’t face ‘cattle class’ on the return flight. It only cost about $100 per seat but it was worth it. What did I get for that, well, leather seats, bigger seats and better service. Unfortunately, I fell asleep after the first glass of champagne….

Anyway, for the last 15 years I have been flying out to the Far East on holiday, not just because I prefer the culture and type of holiday, but also because when you fly with far east or Arab carriers, the flights are just so much better than American and European flights. Seeing what you got in Business on these flights, the In Flight Entertainment, service and the bed seats did make me want to experience this but the cost was just far to much and I couldn’t justify it, especially having to pay for two young children as well. We were turning up at the check-in desk and never once were offered an upgrade (again, probably because we had children) so I didn’t think I’d ever get to sample the delights of Business Class.

That all changed a couple of years ago and I’m going to share with you how it happened and how you can get Business Class on a budget.

We had booked on Etihad to fly to a few countries and one of the stop-overs was Abu Dhabi itself. About two or three weeks out from the flight, I got an e-mail from Etihad asking if I wanted to ‘bid’ for an upgrade to BC. I looked into the offer and basically, what I was being offered was to put a bid in anywhere from £300 per seat through to about £2000. It was shown on a scale and it was visually showing that if you bid low, your chance of success was negligible. The more you bid however the better the chance and if you were bidding £2k per seat then you were pretty much guaranteed an upgrade. It was still a large outlay but manageable. I didn’t want to pay £2k so I put bids in of £305 per seat and thought I’d hear no more about it but it was worth a punt. The day before the flight, bingo, I received an email saying I had been successful and for the leg of the flight I’d bid on, I had won! To say I and the rest of the family were excited is an understatement and it became a integral part of the memory of the holiday. From turning up at Manchester Airport and having the proverbial carpet laid out for you, a bigger allowance on the luggage, the Etihad Lounge, special boarding, then the flight itself with the chair bed, wonderful service Etc, Etc.

That was the first time. 2018 was a similar holiday, out to the Far East. Cattle Class on these type of flights is just completely different to flying West. You have leg room, good service, great In Flight Entertainment. Still, having sampled BC, you always want it again.

We booked the flights and I waited for the email with the offer. It never came. I went onto Etihad’s site and after quite a bit of searching I found the link to the page offering the upgrade bidding. Getting all excited, I clicked on the link and was really disappointed that this year, the bidding was starting at over £600 per seat. Way more than I wanted to pay I have to say and so you can imagine my disappointment. No bid went in and we turned up at the Airport with memories of the last time we had flown with Etihad.

At the check-in, my wife decided to ask if there were any upgrades to BC available. The lady behind the desk, looked at us (and to be honest, in a bit of a snotty manner said no but there were upgrades available to buy if we wanted to), we weren’t actually asking if we could have a free upgrade anyway so style of the reply was a bit unnecessary but she smiled and asked how much the upgrades were. Now remember, the bidding started at over £600 on the Etihad website. The lady clicked into her work station and said (again in a manner that was a bit condescending) that they were £320 per seat. You can guess that it took about 1 second for us both to say yes, we’ll take it! The ladies attitude changed straight away and from there on in, the service we received was, again, without equal. So, for the second year running we got to enjoy Business Class on a budget, fantastic seats, superb meals and all.

So that’s how we did it, twice. I’m sure that we will be able to do it again as well. From everything that I’ve read, the days of free upgrades unless you are a single business traveller, or you are being enticed to give your flight up because of overbooking, have ended. This is a way of getting something for a pretty good reduction.

On the subject of Etihad however. I’ve found them to be a good carrier, pretty much like Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Similar. We were not allowed to check in for the final flight home out of Abu Dhabi this time, though because the plane was ‘broken’ when it came into land and the transiting passenger filled up the smaller replacement plane. Etihad were great though, apart from hanging around for a couple of hours in the airport and not getting any information, they put us up in another 5* hotel for 24 hours until the next flight and I can’t fault them for that. Unfortunately for us, because the flight started outside of the EU, we were not entitled to the 600 Euro per person compensation for the delay but hey ho.

The only downside and one that really irritates me about any Etihad flight I’ve been on, is that before take off, every screen lights up with a video of an Imam who goes onto read a prayer from the Koran. Can you imagine every British Airways flight starting off with a Bishop popping up on every screen and him reading out a passage from the Bible. HHmmm, how long would that last with all the Social Justice Warriors we have in society now…..

So there you have it, first, always fly East, second, investigate online bidding for upgrades and if all else fails, ask at check-in. It is worth it, even if you only do it once in your life

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