June 2011 | While European airlines such as British Airways (new First), KLM (Delft Blue, Dutch Design) and Austrian (new amenity kit) are looking at their heritage to differentiate their travel experience (see our recent whitepaper “How airlines can use their heritage to add some storytelling to the travel experience”), fast growing Etihad is taking a more opulent approach towards luxury.
Etihad’s First Class private suites, available on the airline’s A340-600s and A330s, have their own sliding door, a personal wardrobe, a mini bar and a 23-inch LCD screen. The leather seat and furnishings are upholstered by Poltrona Frau, which also provides interiors for Ferrari cars. Already voted as ‘Best First Class’ at the 2010 Skytrax ‘Airline of the Year’ awards, Etihad is further upping the ante by introducing new amenity kits and onboard chefs in its First Class.
Etihad’s new amenity kits for women include a black cosmetic purse detailed with crystals by Swarovski and products from Swiss luxury brand La Prairie, such as moisturiser, hand cream and lip balm. The male version of kit is a black leather cufflink box with amenities such as a shaving kit with a Schick Xtreme 3 razor and shaving cream. Other items include toothbrush and toothpaste, ear plugs, socks and eyeshades.
For Swarovski, who has collaborated with consumer brands such as Philips and LG before, this was the first time it teamed up with an airline. Says Lee Shave, Etihad Airways’ Vice President Product and Services: “In our market research, we found that very few airlines are developing product suited to the needs of female travellers, so we created these separate amenity product line.“
Following recent introductions by Turkish Airlines and Asiana, Etihad will also be offering an onboard chef to serve its First Class passengers. Aiming to offer a restaurant-like service in the sky (passengers in Etihad’s First Class can also dine together), the onboard chef will cook dishes to order, including raw meats, based on the passenger’s personal preferences. They will also be responsible for menu development for Etihad’s lounges in order to create a more consistent culinary experience for passengers. The new chef service will be introduced in October 2011 on and Etihad is currently recruiting 100 chefs with formal culinary training. The airline has also created a new position of Corporate Executive Chef to oversee the onboard chefs.
Etihad’s new sky chef will replace the airline’s current ‘food and beverage’ managers, a position created in 2008 to talk passengers through the onboard menu, explaining how the food is prepared and suggesting the most suitable wine. The F&B managers will now be dedicated to passengers in Etihad’s Business Class.
However, while the Sky Chefs on for example Turkish Airlines, Austrian and Gulf Air do provide an extra dimension to the in-flight dining experience, the limitations of the onboard galley equipment allows them to prepare little other than for example a steak or a fresh omelet egg for breakfast. At the other hand, as regular cabin crew often work across different aircraft and cabin classes, they often don’t have the specific routine of an onboard chef to be able to prepare dishes quickly and at a constistent standard.