For a few months now, Etihad has also introduced a Light Fare, which includes only hand luggage and one personal item. Initially, this fare was mostly offered on routes where there was direct competition from budget airlines like Wizzair (for instance, from Rome or Vienna to Abu Dhabi).
This seems to be slowly changing. In recent days, the Economy Sale fare on many connecting routes, such as from Europe to Asia or Australia, also only includes hand luggage.
Etihad is thus one of the first Gulf airlines to charge for baggage. There doesn’t seem to be a clear pattern yet for when the light fare is offered and when it is not.
Moderate Surcharge for Checked Baggage
We have tried a few examples and compared prices with and without checked baggage. The first price is for the Sale fare (only 7 kg hand luggage), and the second is for Economy Value including 23 kg of baggage, more miles, and the possibility of changes:
- Amsterdam – Sydney: €870 without / €910 with luggage
- Madrid – Bangkok: €485 without / €510 with luggage
- Frankfurt – Male: €523 without / €548 with luggage
- Frankfurt – Bangkok: €629 without / €599 with luggage
- Munich – Johannesburg: €649 without / €664 with luggage
- Munich – Sydney: €1,329 without / €1,348 with luggage
Overall, the surcharge for checked baggage is still quite moderate. Compared to the overall ticket price, the additional €10 to €15 per direction is almost negligible. However, this can change at any time.
Comparison Becomes More Complex
With the increasing prevalence of hand luggage-only fares, bargain hunters face other inconveniences. The popular flight search engine Google Flights, for instance, currently cannot differentiate between fares with and without checked baggage. This can make a seemingly cheaper ticket end up more expensive than other options.
Other search engines like Kayak theoretically offer the option to filter by baggage-inclusive prices, but this often doesn’t work very reliably in practice. Thus, the only option is to manually compare several choices. Even if there are light fares available everywhere, the surcharge for baggage varies from one airline to another.
Currently, the changes are not as dramatic as one might fear. Whether tickets to Australia cost €1,330 or €1,348 makes hardly any difference.
In the future, the light fares at Etihad will likely lead to a hidden price increase. It remains to be seen if and when competitors like Qatar Airways and Emirates will follow suit.
Cover Picture: Photo by Fabian Joy on Unsplash