Etihad’s CEO has claimed he is unsure if the airline’s A380 fleet will ever make a return to the skies. Instead, the airline is focusing on smaller, more efficient jets to operate on its routes, with the 787 Dreamliner earmarked as the backbone of its fleet.
Etihad may never bring back its A380s
Etihad has a total of 10 Airbus A380s in its fleet, all of which have been grounded since March 2020. With demand for high-capacity aircraft almost non-existent, coupled with higher operating costs, airlines around the world have done the same. Tony Douglas, CEO of Etihad, has said the carrier has no plans to unground its A380s any time soon and isn’t clear whether they will ever return. Douglas told Bloomberg,
“The double-decker jets would have a role only on the very busiest routes to cities such as London and New York in the event of a strong rebound.”
The airline still has an interest in larger jets, with outstanding orders for the new Boeing 777-9 in place. Seating around 426 passengers, the 777-9 is now expected to enter service by late-2023 after continual delays. Etihad has six orders for the 777-9, although Douglas has said there is no fixed delivery date set so far.
Moving forward with the 787 Dreamliner
With carriers shifting to more efficient aircraft in the current climate, Etihad is placing its faith in the 787 Dreamliner. The airline has a total of 39 Dreamliners – 30 787-9s and nine 787-10s – all of which are active. With uncertainty surrounding the future of its A380 fleet, CEO Douglas is focusing on its Dreamliners instead, saying,
“The point really is to concentrate on the backbone, and the backbone for us is the 787 Dreamliner.”
Along with its Dreamliners, which are currently all in service, Etihad is looking to introduce 12 Airbus A350s to its fleet. The carrier has already taken delivery of five A350s, although the planes were immediately sent to storage in France. Etihad originally had a total of 62 A350s on order but has whittled this order down to just 20 aircraft. Despite rumors of plans to cancel its A350 orders, it appears Etihad is still keen on the plane.
Etihad adapts its network
To adapt to the rapidly changing aviation industry, Etihad has been forced to tweak the hub model associated with the Middle East’s big three carriers – Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways. This means operating shorter routes, a model entirely unsuitable for giant aircraft like the A380. However, Douglas is not ruling out a return to its pre-COVID ways, stating,
“While we have revised our outlook for the rest of 2020 based on current realities, we remain optimistic that as international borders re-open, we will increase our flying and carry more guests securely and with greater peace of mind.”
Do you think the A380 will rebound strongly once (if) air travel returns to normal? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.