Etihad Now Charges For Premium Drinks And Snacks In Economy

The good times are well and truly over at Etihad. Once boasting one of the best economy cabins in the world, financial pressures are forcing the Abu Dhabi airline to cut costs. The latest victims of cost saving measures are economy cabin snacks and drinks.

While meals remain free, Etihad passengers in the economy cabin are now being charged for snacks and certain drinks requested outside the scheduled meal service. This applies to both short- and long-haul routes.

Etihad A380
Etihad is now charging for drinks and snacks between meals. Photo: Etihad Airlines

It is the latest in a series of cutbacks at an airline once well known for its extravagance. Business class passengers have been bearing the brunt of cuts to inflight service, but now the pain is being shared with the main cabin too.


Congratulations, your meal has been ‘enhanced’

Etihad has revamped and “enhanced” their economy meal service. On flights over three hours, the entree and salad are no more. To make up for this, the main course meal will be slightly larger. Dessert will continue to be served after the meal on longer flights.


There continues to be an alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks service with meals. But Etihad likes to style itself as a premium full service carrier, and if you are facing a 12 hour plus flight with them it’s likely you might want a snack or a cup of coffee outside the meal service. Charging passengers for basics like this is more easyJet style than premium airline service.

Sweet and Salty

Etihad’s pay-as-you-go snack service is called Sweet and Salty. It’s a standard airline assortment of snack bars, instant noodles and microwaved light meals such as a USD$7 lasagne. Drinks include such items as Saile & Sabga gourmet hot chocolate and Piper by the glass.


Standard tea, coffee, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages remain free throughout the flight.

Etihad is now charging for drinks and snacks in economy

The Sweet and Salty menu does not include water or alcohol. These appear to remain complimentary outside meal times.

Some airlines make a virtue of rock bottom fares with lots of paid extras. Etihad has always sold itself as a premium airline but socking economy passengers for a cup of tea and a slice of cake is not standard premium carrier behaviour.

Etihad also charges its economy passengers for seat selection.

Etihad challenges

The challenges facing Etihad have been well covered here at Simple Flying. The airline is only 16 years old and, for most of its short life, it has had bold expansionary plans. Backed by the Government of Abu Dhabi, the airline has aggressively expanded to destinations and airports around the globe.

Etihad was known for its lavish premium cabins and flooding markets with excess capacity. But, in the face of strong competition, high operating costs, unfriendly governments in key markets and some poorly conceived investments in Europe, many experts believe Etihad has never made money.

One known for lavish service, Etihad have been struggling. Photo: Etihad

There was a series of ill fated investments in airlines like Alitalia, Jet Airways and Air Berlin. These were based on a strategy of buying into failing airlines, turning them around and using them to feed traffic into the Etihad network. It didn’t work.

Right now, Etihad cannot match the capacity of its near neighbour rival Emirates, and it cannot match the in-cabin product of Qatar. Etihad is clearly stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Final thoughts

Charging passengers for a muffin isn’t new in the aviation business and it’s a bit of a first world problem. But the market has always distinguished between LCCs that charge and full service carriers that don’t. Etihad needs to decide which market it wants to be positioned in.

Etihad appears to be taking a middle road, charging passengers for some things and not for others. The problem is that it’s sending mixed messages.

Etihad still charges premium carrier fares. If I have to choose between Etihad, which is going to be mean with snacks, charge me a fee to choose my seat and quibble about my bags, or an airline like Singapore or Qatar which will look after me all the way to Europe with one all-inclusive fare, I know which carrier I would choose.

Have some thoughts on Etihad ? Post a comment.


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Hello, I just want to correct your article, as it is mistaken. You are correct when you say you have a complementary meal. However the sweet and salty menu offered is in addition to what is offered. Basically, if you want something different or are not satisfied with your meal or maybe wants some popcorn in front of your movie, this is an available option. Now, tea, coffee, soft drinks, alcohol, remain free just like it use to be. Some people might prefer a different choice of what was originally offered, like a Starbucks coffee. Then they have an option… Read more »


I think I really like this new idea. I hate LCC as their seats are always crappy. I love premium airline because they have many thing I need and many things I don’t really care about. To be able to choose some and being charged with is actually ok, I don’t mind spending 10-15$ on my cravings added to my free meals which I would get on any airline. Only thing I noticed on EY recently is the shortage of crew, I think they always operate on minimum crew, which is alright on a light load, with this new service… Read more »


Actually EY never operates with minimum crew, However, what makes you think they are is the crew ranking system there which makes it harder to see all of them, they have a food and beverages manager, nanny, in flight chef, cabin manager, cabin senior, beside the common flight attendants.


Really interesting article and Etihad certainly find themselves in a difficult position. I’ve been a silver card holder with Etihad for several years, flying both economy and business. The business product certainly has taken the brunt of the cuts, like the removal of the chauffeur service and changes to lounges. I flew economy last week with Etihad and while the concept of charging for additional food seemed odd, it didn’t effect the overall product in my option. I still think it’s a very good product. I hope people don’t decide to fly on other airlines based on this change but… Read more »


😝 we dont care if you’re a silver member we are not asking about that. just accept the fact you have to change your airline buddy regards 😂


U guys don t know… Etihad cut the crew ( cost cutting) so it s absolute minimum now! So really sorry if u have to wait ages to get what u paid for but we all have only 2 hands and we fo try our best but it s simply inpossible to deliver great service with no ppl! We have 7 crew for 340 ppl in economy! ( while half of them go for rest – we have set of 3 and 4 crew for entire cabin) I do feel bad and sorry for passengers that they have to wait… Read more »


I’m an EY flight attendant too. What Barti is saying is correct. Etihad is cost cutting from every aspect of their business. To the point that we don’t have telephones in our accommodations. Have these initiatives worked? Billion dollar losses in 3 consecutive years….so you tell me.


I’ve always travelled business class with Etihad, and whilst there have been noticeable cuts I still think the product is better than most airlines. Hat off to the crew for keeping it together whilst these changes occur, I can only hope that these are some more temporary changes whilst they get back on their feet.


It hurts when someone scraps benefits and start charging for them.
Why don’t they do the other way. Charge the fare considering all. Give scope to surrender certain comforts in return for flypoints or discounts.
Well my mare opinion.
Thank you for the wonderful article.


I think it a very good idea that Etihad offers different and extra food for a price because flying in Economy does not mean you cannot afford to spend a bit of money on top of the complimentary meals and beverages which are included if you feel like it.
All airlines should do the same.


I agree, it’s a great idea to provide passengers with the option to pay extra for additional drinks/ snacks or even PyJamas! In fact, I bought snacks on my last flight with Etihad. But at the same time, Etihad is reducing their standard complimentary food/ drinks (i.e. Etihad no longer serve salad, butter, cheese, crackers or provide menus) and removed amenity products such as toothbrushes/ hygiene kits from their service. These are standard complimentary products that most passengers expect from a “full service” airline. IMO, Emirates has the right approach, they have all of the above things that Etihad removed… Read more »

Andrew Robinson

I flew Etihad in business in April 2018 after an absence from them for five years. The change was like night and day; so much that when flying this year I chose Qatar and did not regret it one bit. They were excellent. So much so I’m flying then again in December but this time in economy. I briefly looked at Etihad and again dismissed then both after my own experience; bit even weirder for them nearly every single review in Airline Eq uality is negative. I’ve never seen an airline with so many bad reviews.

Alan Carter

I still don’t understand why brandy is no longer available in economy I’ve inquired but no explanation was offered

A Roberts

Same has happened to Emirates. Very poor experience now, The UAE generally is going to come an almighty cropper sooner or later.


I jjust flew with Etihad airline two days ago. I was very disappointed that they had very countable staffs on the 777-300er with full passengers on board. With 7 hours flight-long, we got one meal ( look cheap too ) , and then nothing accept the glass of water. Are you sure that you are a full service airline? After this flight, I dont think that I will choose Etihad again. No wonder why so many passengers are in line for Qatar. Poor Ethiad !!!!

Karin Meijboom

I have flown with Etihad in the past and was always very satisfied. Yesterdays flight a big dissapointment, only one meal and drinks service on a 7 hour flight. No breakfast for a 9:30 AM arrival, left me parched and hungry. Unattentive crew never served water during the night.

Tom Boon

Oh wow, that sounds rather uncomfortable. I hope you were able to find something upon arrival at the airport!


On Monday this week I was on an 8-hour flight followed by a 2-hour stopover in Abu Dhabi which stretched to 4 1/2 hours for technical reasons which were not explained to us and then a 7-hour flight. On each of the flights we received one standard meal on attaining cruising altitude and a coffee and one small biscuit before beginning the descent to land. If you wanted anything else you had to pay for it. Even a cup of coffee. Further, I am not a muslim and I don’t have any interest in knowing how far from Mecca I… Read more »


Then I would suggest you fly a non-Middle Eastern carrier such as BA, UA, AA, QF etc. I am Muslim and it is nice that an airline, which is from a Muslim country, say the travel prayer. If you don’t have any interest in knowing how far you are from Mecca, then ignore it. It’s like saying you are not interested to know how far you are to your destination! The Muslim prayer is not told to you, you can put earplugs in. It is for Muslims and for the airline itself. In al honesty, it’s very immature for you… Read more »

B Wood

We have just returned from Rome to Australia, first time using Etihad Business Class. Whilst reasonably happy with in-flight service and food we were disgusted with the Bus Class Lounge in Rome. We have been to a lot of lounges and this was by far the worst we have ever attended. It was an absolute insult to Bus Class passengers or those who wish to pay to enter. We are not fussy eaters at all, but expect reasonable food and surrounds because of the overall fare paid. Their choice of food, of only penne pasta, luke warm, meatballs with tomato… Read more »


For the first time in over 5 years, I’ve flown last year Feb/Mar BNE to ZRH which was before the new meal plan. Food was terrible and so scarce that I arrived starved. Got organised for the flight back with heaps of food in my hand bag. Emailed complaining about the meals provided, they couldn’t care less. Flying again next week with them (I know… crazy!) only because it’s priced better than LCCs, I get 30kg, a good connection and comfy seating = best value for money. I say that now… after the 14h leg I’ll be wishing to be… Read more »