Etihad Airways is set to permanently get rid of inflight chefs and onboard Food & Beverage (F&B) Managers as it looks to cut more costs in the face of the continued downturn prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sources who claim to be familiar with the matter say Abu Dhabi-based Etihad may lay-off its workforce of inflight chefs by the end of October, while F&B Managers could be made redundant by the end of this year.
Both inflight chefs and F&B Managers are fully trained members of cabin crew who make up part of the crew complement. They do, however, cost more to train and often form part of the crew complement on top of the legal minimum.
Inflight chefs can help personalise dishes for First Class passengers, preparing food on demand and helping guide customers through what is on offer. Meanwhile, F&B Managers act as onboard sommeliers and guide the service in Business Class. They are differentiated by the white jackets they wear.
In recent years, Etihad has made much of its luxe onboard product offering with inflight chefs and F&B Managers making up two key ways that the airline stood apart from regional competitors like Emirates and Qatar Airways. But after recording a staggering $1.95 billion loss in 2016, the airline is no stranger to cost-cutting that at times make Etihad look more like a budget carrier.
Way before the COVID-19 decimated the aviation industry, Etihad had already introduced Buy on Board snacks for Economy Class passengers and had started to rip out seatback entertainment on its short-haul fleet of single-aisle Airbus aircraft.
In a new podcast, Etihad Airways chief executive Tony Douglas said the carrier had embarked on several projects at the outset of the Corona crisis including one which looked at what customers would want in the future. Douglas explained that as a result of that project, the airline had designed a contactless service which is obsessive about hygiene
Douglas also noted that the airline had embarked on its biggest and “costliest” maintenance programme ever despite revenues almost drying up overnight. When asked about the future of Etihad’s 10-strong fleet of Airbus A380’s Douglas said the jury is still out.
“Anything with more than two engines isn’t going to sustain itself going forward,” Douglas explained. “We’re heartbroken to see our 380’s parked up. The question as to whether they’ll ever fly again, to be equally direct about it, I’d say the jury’s out.”
“It’s heavily handicapped by two engines two many,” Douglas continued while concluding that he wasn’t trying to rule out the quad-engined gas guzzler.
Douglas again reiterated the pain of making thousands of employees redundant as a result of the pandemic. Describing the workforce as a “family”, Douglas has previously said those who had been laid off would be offered their jobs back once the market picks up.
Several sources, however, have complained about the opaque way in which employees have been selected from redundancy. Several sources have complained about pregnant cabin crew or those on maternity leave being laid off.
Etihad has declined to comment on the selection criteria for redundancy and has not disclosed exactly how many employees have been laid off. The airline did not respond to a request for comment on the future of the inflight chef and F&B Manager roles.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.