I flew on Etihad for the first time last year, on a trip to Paris. The experience was impressive to say the least. I had heard a lot of negative comments about Etihad and their planes from many people, but I was pleasantly surprised by my experience. Planes were new, service was good and so was the food.
I flew Etihad again recently on a trip to Beirut, and it felt like it was a different airline! On the way there, we were on one of those old planes that have the TV in the middle of the aisle...no individual TVs. Food was OK...airplane food. But on the way back, it was even worse! There was NO TV! I honestly cannot remember the last time I was on a flight where there was not a single screen!
The flight attendants actually had to demonstrate the safety instructions manually...the way they used to do it around 15 years ago!
But then the worst part was the baggage claim. I cleared customs quickly (have I mentioned that I love e-gate?), and waited for my luggage. I saw a family friend waiting for his luggage as well, and he got his around 15 minutes later. I was still waiting...and waiting...and waiting...
A few suitcases would drop down onto the carousel, and then the belt would stop. And then a few more. And then stop again. This went on for about an hour, until I realized that the bags that started dropping down were for the next flight, not mine!
There were still quite a few people waiting for their bags, and a few of us dashed over to the lost baggage counter. I was FUMING!
Luckily, a young man told me to wait again at the carousel, because the Etihad luggage was still arriving...so I went back, waited a bit longer, and FINALLY, around an hour and 20 minutes after my flight landed, I got my suitcase.
Another case in point is that my friend flew Etihad the day before I did, from Beirut. He got to Beirut airport 2 hours before his flight, only to find out that his flight was delayed 3 hours. Poor guy had to roam around Beirut airport for 5 hours before he finally got on his flight!
All this to say that if an airline is to establish itself as the "country's national airline", then it should do a better job at being consistent with its service. That is the only way a brand will survive in the long run.