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Etihad Eliminates Inflight Chefs, F&B Managers

Etihad just unveiled its latest cost-cutting initiative that many premium passengers will not be happy to hear about …

Etihad cuts in-flight chefs, F&B managers

Some time ago, Etihad briefly tried to become a premium airline. One of the cool features we saw from the airline was the introduction of onboard cooks as well as food & beverage managers:

  • In-flight chefs were able to customize meals for first class passengers based on the ingredients available to them
  • Food & Beverage Managers were able to assist Business Class passengers with choosing menu items, combining meals with drinks, etc.

Unfortunately Etihad Airways is eliminating the positions of in-flight chief and food & beverage manager. Eligible crew members currently serving in these roles will be offered business class flight attendant contracts.

The airline explained the decision to employees in a memo via Paddle Your Own Kanoo:

“Unfortunately, in order to prepare us for our current business needs, the crew community has to go through another transition phase and unfortunately there will be some redundancies in certain crew roles.

Our premium cabin services have always been an integral part of our commercial offering but, as with many aspects of business, have had to be reassessed in the face of the ongoing pandemic.

As part of this, we had to make the difficult decision to quit. The Inflight Chef and Food & Beverage Manager positions in First and Business.

We are incredibly proud of our talented crew and the contribution they have made to our business in these roles, and this development in no way reflects performance. It’s just another devastating consequence of COVID-19 and a change that cannot be avoided given the current climate we are in. “

Why should Etihad delete these positions?

Both Etihad in-flight chefs and food & beverage managers also acted as flight attendants. So it’s not that they absolutely need staff in addition to flight attendants. However, they were still more expensive for a number of reasons:

  • They were paid more to work in these positions
  • They required special training
  • It is inefficient to have a number of different crew ranks because it is more difficult to plan crews efficiently. This is especially important at a time like this when demand is constantly fluctuating
  • Since Etihad eliminates on-board cooks, the airline can likely cut back on catering as well

I’m not surprised to see this change, and I’m sure Etihad saw this as an easy way to cut costs.

Does this make a big difference to the passengers?

As passengers, is there an enormous impact on the passenger experience?

Personally, I don’t see this as a big loss for the Business Class Food & Beverage Manager. It’s not like going to a fancy restaurant where a sommelier can help you choose between hundreds of wines. I know I should have a red wine with a steak and a white wine with a chicken, and I can usually choose between a few options.

The first class on-board chef is a much bigger loss in my opinion. Now I should first acknowledge that there is a huge variation in the quality of Etihad chefs, and I’ve had some that have been phenomenal and made the experience while I’ve had others that might as well not have been there.

But I have to pay tribute to Etihad for how customizable top-notch menus have been in the past. You can choose your protein, side dishes, sauces, etc., and often the chefs are even creative on top of that, not to mention much better presentation than you would normally find on a plane.

For example, I once had a badly delayed flight from Seoul to Abu Dhabi in Etihad First Class, to the point that the flight went from a night flight to a day flight. However, the menu was not changed so mainly breakfast options were available. The chef used his creativity to conjure up something better and prepared a surf & turf for me.

Personally, I consider this a pretty significant devaluation of the first-class experience at Etihad. It was an area where Etihad’s premium soft product excelled, and that advantage will no longer exist.

Is this the end of the Etihad residence?

There is another interesting possible impact here. Etihad has The Residence, a three-room suite with butler service for the A380 that is different from commercial aviation.

Are there any effects on The Residence with this change?

  • All Etihad A380s are currently on the ground, and there are no plans to reactivate them anytime soon
  • A subgroup of food & beverage managers is trained as in-flight butlers
  • If the A380 returns, will there be butlers after the position of food and beverage manager is eliminated? Or will Etihad train people from the ground up if / when that happens? Or will the airline just not have butlers even if the A380 returns?

Bottom line

Etihad Airways eliminates in-flight chefs and food & beverage managers as its newest cost-cutting measure. I consider the onboard chef’s cut as a huge devaluation of the premium soft product.

On the other hand, with the state the industry is in, who knows when most of the premium cabin soft products will return to their previous levels.

I feel bad for all the people who, at best, cut their wages or, at worst, lose their jobs.

Are you sad to see Etihad eliminate the in-flight chefs as well as the food and beverage managers? What was your experience with them?

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