Etihad Airways charging a second bag fee? Bad idea for a brand trying to establish itself
As promised at the start of the year, SimpliFlying will be bringing you more Guest Columns from leading aviation practitioners around the world. Our second guest article of the year is written by Oussama Salah, who is an aviation expert based in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Being a Jordanian who flies around the region a lot and works in the sector, he shares with us his thoughts on why the proposed checked-in bag fee by Etihad is not a good idea.
This was a remark made by James Hogan Etihad’s CEO, otherwise I would have thought it was a joke. Why would an aspiring and highly branded airline with cash flushed owners want to do something like this?
Etihad operates in a highly competitive and well connected market, whether it is the UAE, MENA or the Indian subcontinent. The traveling public (both Arabs and Indians) in the region is traditionally price sensitive and is used to weight and not number of bags. It is basically a visit friends and relatives (VFR) market used to carrying gifts and shopping across continents, bags and sacks of them.
So price sensitive, just look at the number of LCCs and quasi LCCs in the GCC alone (Air Arabia, FlyDubai, Jazzera Airways, nasair, SAMA and Bahrain Air) that have started in the last 5 years. There are rumors of another LCC in Abu Dhabi and Qatar Airways intimated that they may set up one to compete in that segment. Even legacy carriers compete on price, at the peak of the summer season an extra ten (10) kilos of free excess baggage may be the only price differentiator.
Currently and among legacy carriers, the least expensive tickets are probably on Qatar Airways. So as long as you are not in a hurry and do not mind transiting through Doha for a few hours, then you are in luck. And, this is a highly branded airline too.
At a time when carriers in the region are restructuring (Gulf Air) or have joined alliances (Royal Jordanian and Egypt Air) or are rebranding (Saudia and Oman Air), and faced with stiff competition from two of the most branded airlines in the world (Emirates and Qatar Airways), I fail to see what Etihad hopes to achieve.
It seems airline branding does not include economy class. And this is a sad situation indeed.
What do you think? Is it a good idea or a bad idea for a premium Middle East airline to charge a bag fee? Will they lose customers? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments and on Twitter (@simpliflying)