Etihad’s focus on smaller aircraft puts fleet plans in limbo
Now Reading
Etihad’s focus on smaller aircraft puts fleet plans in limbo

Etihad’s focus on smaller aircraft puts fleet plans in limbo

Etihad has a fleet of 40 Dreamliners and potentially 11 more still to come after already trimming its order by 20 aircraft in 2019

Etihad A380

Etihad Airways plans to rebuild operations around smaller twin-aisle jets once coronavirus lockdowns ease, spelling an uncertain future for the biggest models the Gulf carrier has in its fleet plan.

Etihad hasn’t set a delivery date for Boeing Co.’s coming 777X, and it’s not clear if the Airbus SE A380 superjumbo will ever return or how many A350s are needed, chief executive officer Tony Douglas said in an interview on Wednesday. He said the focus will instead be on the smaller Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

“The point really is to concentrate on the backbone, and the backbone for us is the 787,” Douglas said on Bloomberg Television.

The CEO’s comments underscore how far the pandemic is threatening to transform travel as airlines shift focus to shorter routes where demand is expected to recover faster, potentially at the expense of the globe-spanning super-hub model long championed by the three biggest Mideast carriers.

Etihad once sought to go toe-to-toe in linking every corner of the planet with Qatar Airways and Dubai-based Emirates, whose president, Tim Clark said Wednesday he expects hubs to survive.

Yet even before the health crisis, Etihad had made some of the deepest fleet cuts in the industry as it tried to rein in losses and refocus the network on the needs of Abu Dhabi, the airline’s owner.

Douglas didn’t go into specifics on longer-term plans for the order book. He said he doesn’t expect air travel to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023, adding that he didn’t want to create “false certainty” in terms of a rebound.

Etihad has a fleet of 40 Dreamliners and potentially 11 more still to come after already trimming its order by 20 aircraft in 2019.

Alongside the 787s it’s currently looking to deploy no more than 12 Airbus A350s, Douglas said. The company has an order for 20 of the planes, down from 62 originally, of which five have been delivered and are standing idle.

Residence Suite
Of Etihad’s 10 A380s, the CEO said he’s “not sure we’ll ever bring them back,” with the double-deckers having a role only on the busiest routes to cities such as London and New York even in the event of a strong rebound.

An exit would mean an end to the Residence, an opulent suite layout introduced in 2014 that came with a dedicated butler.

Etihad has six remaining orders for Boeing’s 777-9 after already scaling down its commitment from 25. The model is now slated to debut in 2023 after numerous delays. Douglas said there’s no fixed date to take deliveries.

Etihad has become the first carrier to fully inoculate its crew, Douglas said, adding that he expects potential passengers who have had the jab to have “right of passage.”

Larger Super-Hub
At Emirates, hit particularly hard during the slump because of its all-A380 and 777 fleet, Clark was upbeat about prospects for a rebound, saying the number of destinations served could actually grow by 30 per cent, mainly by tapping smaller markets through sister airline Flydubai.

“There was never any suggestion that the super-hub that we created would alter in any way,” he said at a webinar hosted by CAPA-Centre for Aviation.

You might also like

© 2021 MOTIVATE MEDIA GROUP. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Scroll To Top