Free chauffeur transfers are being dropped for first and business class passengers flying with Etihad Airways outside Abu Dhabi.

The service will only be retained at the carrier’s hub in the UAE with a paid option at specially negotiated rates in all other cities from July 3.

The paid airport transfer option will be available to passengers across all cabins and allow Etihad Guest loyalty scheme members to accrue miles on their chauffeur bookings.

Free chauffeur services will continue to be provided for those using the airline’s The Residence private suite on board Airbus A380s operating from Abu Dhabi, London, Paris, Sydney and New York.

First and business class tickets issued prior to July 3 will continue to receive complimentary chauffeur service across destinations where the service is currently offered.

Inflight, Etihad Airways has introduced a ‘neighbour-free seat’ option in economy class. Passengers have the option ‘bidding’ for up to three empty seats next to their original seat – subject to availability and cabin configuration.

This gives the opportunity for increased space, comfort and privacy, at a price that is affordable. Passengers can bid at the time of booking online. Successful bids will be confirmed 30 hours prior to departure.

The airline will also offer economy class passengers paid access to dedicated airport lounges in Abu Dhabi, London, Manchester, Dublin, Paris, Washington DC, New York JFK, Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles.

Those with business class tickets will be able to pay to upgrade to the airline’s first class lounge and spa when flying from or transiting through Abu Dhabi.

Executive vice president commercial, Mohammad Al Bulooki, said: “Etihad Airways is constantly looking at ways to improve its value proposition for guests, focusing on the service elements that are most important to them.

“This change is being put in place as the airline looks to evolve its product proposition while continuing to match individual customer requirements.

“Following a review, the chauffeur services we offer will be amended globally, with the exception of Abu Dhabi, where there are a high number of users of the service.

“Many customers prefer to make their own ground transportation arrangements.

“The decision by Etihad Airways to change its offering has been taken to provide increased choice and to ensure fares remain as low and as competitive as possible, while retaining best-in-class service for all guests, in all cabins.”

He added: “On the ground, premium class guests can enjoy free access to Etihad Airways’ collection of outstanding lounges. By offering paid access to economy class guests, these signature lounges can now be enjoyed by all who desire to experience our award-winning facilities.”