First and business class passengers flying with Etihad Airways outside of Abu Dhabi will no longer enjoy the luxury of complimentary chauffeur transfers to and from the airport.

The airline has announced that the service will only be available at the carrier’s hub in the UAE, while passengers will have to pay for the service in all other cities from July 3 no matter which cabin class they are in.

Additionally, Etihad Guest loyalty scheme members will be able to accrue miles on their chauffeur bookings.

A complimentary chauffeur service will continue to be available, however, for passengers flying it the airline’s The Residence private suite on board Airbus A380s operating from Abu Dhabi, London, Paris, Sydney and New York.

For those who booked first and business class tickets prior to July 3 will also get the service free of charge at destinations where the service is currently being offered.

Other changes announced by the airline include the option for economy passengers to purchase access to Etihad’s worldwide network of lounges worldwide; the option for business class customers to purchase an upgrade to the first class lounge and spa when flying from or transiting Abu Dhabi; and the option for economy passengers to ‘bid’ for up to three empty seats next to theirs, subject to availability and cabin configuration.

Economy passengers can bid in order have a ‘neighbour-free seat’ at the time of booking, with successful bids confirmed 30 hours prior to departure.

This gives the opportunity for increased space, comfort and privacy, at a price that is affordable, the airline said in a press release.

Executive vice president commercial, Mohammad Al Bulooki, said that the decision by Etihad Airways to change its offering has been taken to provide increased choice and to ensure fares remain as low and as competitive as possible while retaining best-in-class service for all guests, in all cabins.

“Etihad Airways is constantly looking at ways to improve its value proposition for guests, focusing on the service elements that are most important to them,” Al Bulooki continued.

“This change is being put in place as the airline looks to evolve its product proposition while continuing to match individual customer requirements.

“Following a review, the chauffeur services we offer will be amended globally, with the exception of Abu Dhabi, where there are a high number of users of the service.

“Many customers prefer to make their own ground transportation arrangements.”

What do you make of these changes by Etihad? Is this really an attempt by the airline to ensure increased choice and competitive fares, or perhaps just spin to increase profits? Let us know in the comments.