Other airlines have tried similar schemes. Virgin Atlantic allows customers to bid on a seat upgrade. The airline also tested a program like Etihad's but ended it in May 2016.
Etihad's service is live now and is subject to availability. If the flight is sold out, no one will be charged for their bid. It's not clear how much bids will go for, but the airline says it will be "affordable." This is economy class, after all.
The surprising joy of finding out you aren't sitting by someone may be gone, but you can still grab a little of that joy for the right price.
Correction: The article previously said the program launches July 3. The program is, in fact, currently live.
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.