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Move to stop flying A380, B777 marks a turning point for Etihad

Issac John /Dubai
issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com Filed on May 1, 2021
Etihad operates 19 B777-300/ER’s, which are an average of just over 10 years old. — File photo

The latest move, which marks a major milestone for one of the iconic airlines in the world, is subsequent to a decision by the national carrier to retire its Airbus A380 as it ramps up plans to become a more efficient airline by exclusively flying 787s and A350s on long-haul routes.


The dramatic move by Etihad to discontinue operations of two large wide-body aircraft types — the double-decker Airbus 380 and Boeing 777 — marks a major shift in the UAE national carrier’s fleet strategy that had helped script the airline’s remarkable growth story as a sought-after international brand by flyers.

With the airline transitioning to what it has termed would be a more efficient long-haul fleet of wide-body jets, including Boeing 787-9 and 787-10 Dreamliners as well as Airbus A350s, there will be fewer first-class options, aviation analysts said.

Beginning in 2022, Etihad passengers will have the options to fly either the Dreamliners that offer fewer first-class cabins than 777s, or on one of the 20 extended-length Airbus A350-1000s.

The decision to stop operating Boeing 777-300ER jets before the end of 2021 was taken in line with Etihad’s new operating model that targets to return the carrier to profit by 2023.

The airline’s chief executive Tony Douglas has disclosed the move in an online World Aviation Festival. The move is subsequent to a decision by the national carrier to retire its Airbus A380 as it ramps up plans to become a more efficient airline by exclusively flying 787s and A350s on long-haul routes.

“You will see us as a much focused, very disciplined operating model which is heavily built around the fleet of the 787 Dreamliner and A350-1000,” Douglas was quoted as saying recently by new agencies and aviation journals.

In March, Etihad said it was unlikely to welcome the Airbus A380 back to its fleet in the wake of the Covid-19 shutdown.

In an interview, the Etihad CEO said A380, the largest aircraft in the world, was no longer profitable to operate. “We have now taken the strategic decision to park the A380s, I am sure it is very likely that we will not see them operating with Etihad again,” Douglas was quoted as saying in the interview.

Etihad operates 19 B777-300/ER’s, which are an average of just over 10 years old. Some of which have been converted to cargo flights in response to increased demand. That doesn’t account for the 11 Boeing 777s that the airline already retired.

The carrier has in its fleet 39 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, including 30 787-9s and nine 787-10s. The airline has more of these planes on order.

The airline has ordered a total of 20 Airbus A350-1000s but hasn’t started flying these planes although it has taken delivery of five of them. These planes could enter service in the not-too-distant future

Douglas said it was too early to comment as to how the Boeing 777X jet, which they have ordered, would fit into their future fleet plans.

Aviation analysts said the surprise retirement of B777-300/ER means that a major part of Etihad’s first-class seat capacity would be reduced as several of these planes feature first-class cabins.

“Going forward, we may only ever see Etihad first class again on a small portion of the 787 fleet. I’m not sure if Etihad plans on installing first class on the A350, as I haven’t heard anything one way or another,” Ben Schlappig, a travel consultant, said.

— issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com

author

Issac John

Editorial Director of Khaleej Times, is a well-connected Indian journalist and an economic and financial commentator. He has been in the UAE's mainstream journalism for 35 years, including 23 years with Khaleej Times. A post-graduate in English and graduate in economics, he has won over two dozen awards. Acclaimed for his authentic and insightful analysis of global and regional businesses and economic trends, he is respected for his astute understanding of the local business scene.





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