Etihad says its Airbus A380s are not coming back anytime soon

The swish superjumbo looks to be out of action until at least late 2021.

By David Flynn, October 12 2020
Etihad says its Airbus A380s are not coming back anytime soon

Etihad Airways' impressive Airbus A380s look set to remain grounded until at least late 2021, with the superjumbos pulled from the airline's forward schedule and a spokesman saying they won't return to the skies until there's sufficient demand for the double-deckers.

According to industry body the International Air Transport Association, air travel won't return to pre-COVID levels until 2023-24.

The Gulf carrier stood down all ten of its A380s in March, with only the smaller Boeing 777 and Boeing 787 fleet taking wing as Etihad began rebuilding its network.

However, Etihad's timetable continued to list the A380 on key routes such as London, New York, Paris, Seoul and Sydney many months in advance.

That changed this past weekend, when Etihad removed all Airbus A380 flights from its schedule through to September 2021 – which is as far ahead as the airline allows bookings – in favour of the Boeing 787-9.

Etihad's spacious A380 first class suites will be greatly missed by high flyers.
Etihad's spacious A380 first class suites will be greatly missed by high flyers.

A spokesman for Etihad Airways has now confirmed the extended grounding for its A380s.

“As Etihad continues to focus on recovery and rebuilding our global network, we will continue to rely on the efficiencies and advantages of our twin engine wide-body aircraft," the spokesman told Executive Traveller.

"During this period, Etihad’s 10 Airbus A380s will remain grounded, until demand grows and there is sufficient appetite to reassess their viability."

Etihad CEO Tony Douglas has already raised the question of if its A380s will ever fly again, saying that while passengers love the double-decker cruiser, "I think it’s heavily handicapped by two engines too many, and other aircraft that can do the job far more efficiently, far more sustainably."

Sad time for the superjumbo

Most other A380 airlines around the world have mothballed their superjumbo fleet in the hope that better days lay not too far ahead.

Qantas' entire superjumbo fleet is being parked until at least the middle of 2023, pending the recovery of demand for air travel in the post-pandemic world, while Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker says his airline's ten superjumbos "will not return for at least a year, maybe never."

Also read: How Qantas will hibernate its Airbus A380 for the next three years

British Airways' A380s also remain stood down, while Air France announced in May 2020 that it would retire its ten A380s "with immediate effect."

Lufthansa, having already disposed of six A380s earlier this year, now says its remaining eight superjumbos  "will be transferred to long-term storage and removed from planning. These aircraft will only be reactivated in the event of an unexpectedly rapid market recovery."

The fate of Singapore Airlines' 19-strong Airbus A380 fleet will be decided in the coming months following an extensive review of both the size and shape of the airline's network, and the jets needed to fly it.

As previously reported, Etihad has also confirmed it won't be returning to Brisbane even once the pandemic passes.

PREVIOUS [October 1, 2020]  Etihad Airways could be the next carrier to deep-six the superjumbo, with airline CEO saying its fleet of ten Airbus A380s might never fly again.

Speaking on Etihad's own Altitudes podcast, Tony Douglas indicated the fate of its A380s – which are crowned by the extravagant three-room Residence supersuite, and nine spacious first class Apartments – hangs in the balance.

"The question as to whether they’ll ever fly again, to be equally direct about it, I’d say the jury’s out," Douglas admitted with candour.

The living room of Etihad's A380 three-room Residence suite.
The living room of Etihad's A380 three-room Residence suite.

He's of no doubt that passengers love the double-decker cruiser.

"Everybody loves the A380. It’s resounding. You know, the product that it presents, and the grace in which it does so. It was, for such a long time the pinnacle, the industry leader."

Etihad's Airbus A380 also boasted the popular Lobby lounge.
Etihad's Airbus A380 also boasted the popular Lobby lounge.

But from Etihad's perspective, the A380 was a plane it took on in better times, when the airline – under previous CEO James Hogan – dreamt of a brighter future for the Abu Dhabi-based flag carrier.

Douglas was already working to rescope Etihad's ambitions around being a smaller, more boutique airline with less reliance on an Emirates-style 'global crossroads' model, before COVID-19 grounded most of its fleet and brought the challenging economics of the A380s into stark relief.

Does the A380 have a place in Etihad's future?
Does the A380 have a place in Etihad's future?

"I think it’s heavily handicapped by two engines too many, and other aircraft that can do the job far more efficiently, far more sustainably," Douglas reflected.

"So I’m not trying to rule out the A380, it would break my heart even more to do so at this stage. But in the same way that 747s have finally been retired pretty much everywhere, I think we’re probably going to see now an acceleration of the same with the global A380 fleet."

Etihad's A380 first class Apartments boasted a seperate armchair and bed.
Etihad's A380 first class Apartments boasted a seperate armchair and bed.

If Douglas glances towards his east, near neighbour and staunch rival Emirates has already put some of its A380s back into the air, and outgoing Emirates President Sir Tim Clark hopes to have all 115 of them flying by 2022.

But if Douglas looks west, he'll spy Qatar Airways, where CEO Akbar Al Baker says his airline's ten A380s "will not return for at least a year, maybe never." 

Douglas hasn't indicated when he would make a firm call on the fate of the Airbus A380.

Etihad also has 20 fuel-efficient A350-1000s on order, the first of which were due to begin flying in 2019.

Could Etihad's Boeing 787 first class suite also appear on its Airbus A350-1000 jets?
Could Etihad's Boeing 787 first class suite also appear on its Airbus A350-1000 jets?

The airline has yet to detail if those jets would include four first class suites similar to those of its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, or if the A350s will top out at business class using the airline's Business Studio seats.

Also read: These designs show how the Airbus A350 can embrace first class

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 248

Such a shame, I'd say these were probably one of the easiest First Class seats to redeem (with the right points). Groundbreaking and innovative when launched, it's a shame Etihad has falled so far from grace, but hopefully they all recover and we can get back to Post Covid next year!

This CEO of Etihad has no clue of airline business as he is not from the industry, he has project management in Railway. Hogan was a criminal, but he was able to execute a deal where money laundering was at the forefront. He overpaid for aircraft to Boeing and Airbus for aircraft that were never delevered to their specifications. I was the man who detected it, but with full cooperation from his VP engineering Jeff Wilkinson, he forced me to leave Etihad without a penny after working there for eight years. I wrote to khaldun CEO of Mubadala, but they are all aligned to same corrupt practice. Billions stacked away overseas  and Hogan gets to play with it from Switzerland, being a fund manager. 

Few days earlier I wrote to President of Emirates Tim Clark suggesting him to turn their A380 into restaurant. One in every major city. Look what SIA did with their A380s.

Days for big airlines are gone forever. Their expansion were not in best interest of travelling industry, it is rather money laundering at a massive scale if not phenomenal scale. Be it Lufthansa, Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Qantas, Malaysia Airlines or Turkish, their huge expansion are simply about at the best interest of the share holders, stake holders & bureaucrats in their governments. Look at a tiny state within emirates, Sharjah - decided to order 200 more A320s, where is the finance coming from? Investigation into deep will reveal that it is just like another organised crime, well planned and executed, money made in phenomenon amount even before the business started, money stacked away in secret, which, citizens of those country has no clue, its all about money laundering, at its highest level. People are being fooled all along.

Qantas is in big trouble, they have 6 weeks to go bankrupt. Qantas was destroyed from inside, because it's employee don't take the ownership at all these days morally, this CEO is a big clown, he plays a very tricky game gambling within. He is finish and so is Qantas. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2014

Total posts 118

Ok then.

yes qantas is in bigger trouble than virgin & when rex take on the triangle what can they do with qantas's higher costs ?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

02 Jun 2019

Total posts 16

There goes Bucket List Item #2

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1237

When they were introduced, The Apartment and The Residence truly redefined what commercial first class flying could be and really pit Etihad as an erstwhile competitor against Singapore Airlines and Emirates and their A380 first class products. Over the years there has sadly been some dilution of the soft product, and if Etihad retires its A380s altogether it will lose whatever aspirational lustre it has left.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 170

I agree with Eminere. Jeez, the EY product was fabulous when it first came out.

Thoroughly enjoyed Business in the 380, in that small front section, and the First Apartment's were/are flash. But, bloody isolating. I really felt like Nigel No Mates. But, the dilution of the product just kept on creeping in. It was like walking into David Jones but ending up in Franklin's...

21 Apr 2017

Total posts 12

When you have a small fleet of 380's, its alot easier to make a retirement decision. When you have 115 like emirates, you have very little choice but to keep flying them. I guess a case of too many eggs in one basket! Lets hope they keep flying a while longer yet. It really is a magnificent flying experiance.

surely the likes of Emirates, gets fuel much cheaper at home, so at least in 1 direction, fuel costs are always low.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Mar 2014

Total posts 221

All the money wasted at airport terminals setting up for a380s

07 May 2020

Total posts 62

What a shame. You can blame it on the quasi dictators running Australia's self declared republics.

people at airbus must be tearing their hair out.

They tried to create a 2nd hand market for A380s by seducing Hifly into taking one. Am sure airbus must be maintaining them on some very special deal.

Surely there must be some demand for them ? They are not that much bigger than A350/B787/A346.


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