For the past year, we have seen Gulf carriers increasing focus on monetizing their amenities ever more aggressively. Emirates and Etihad both began selling lounge access to all passengers in 2017, across their entire lounge network worldwide. Etihad even started selling pajamas, amenity kits, and champagne in Economy Class. Now, Etihad is lowering the price for entry to certain lounges, and even opening access for the “Residence Room” previously meant for Residence passengers flying on the better-than-First-Class product on the A380 in Melbourne.
In January 2017, Emirates began selling access to their Business and First Class Lounges worldwide. They charge $200 for First Class Lounge access, and $100 for Business Class Lounge access. I think that’s actually a pretty fair price, especially if you have a long layover. The price maintains exclusivity (to a certain degree) while generating additional revenue for Emirates. Of course, I’d personally save $200 to spend on a really nice meal, but it’s nice to at least have the option.
In June 2017, Etihad followed suit, selling access to their lounges. Unlike Emirates, Etihad’s prices vary based on how long you want to spend in the lounge. For example, they charge $200 for a 2-hour access period for their First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi. If you want to spend 8 hours in the lounge, you’d have to pay $340 per person. Meanwhile, 2 hours in a Business Class lounge in Abu Dhabi will set you back $100, while 8 hours there will cost you $250. Etihad also has separate prices for access to their lounges outside the UAE, which range from ~US$55 to $79.
According to AusBT, Etihad has reduced the cost of access to their lounge in Melbourne (MEL). Etihad opened the lounge there in 2016, and operates two daily flights between Melbourne (MEL) and Abu Dhabi (AUH). The lounge used to cost AUD 99 for passengers not in Business or First Class, but will now cost AUD 75 (~US$58).
More interestingly, Etihad is also starting to offer access to the “Residence Room” that used to serve Residence passengers for AUD 40 (~US$31).
However, before you get too excited, the access to the private room likely won’t come with the special amenities Residence passengers (used to) receive. As of late October 2017, Etihad no longer flies the A380 to Melbourne. That means there are no Residence passengers originating from Melbourne anymore, and the VIP room is basically just…a fancy conference room. Still, if you are interested to get a glimpse of what the “top” passengers used to get, want to hold a meeting in the lounge, or just want some extra privacy, $30 is not a huge price to pay. And I would say it’s a smart move for Etihad to try to monetize a room that they are no longer using.
Do note, however, you won’t be able reserve access to the lounge or the Residence room. Etihad says that all access are based on availability of the lounge upon your arrival.