Etihad to retire all Boeing 777s, A380s grounded "indefinitely"

Etihad's future now lies with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350.

By David Flynn, April 22 2021
Etihad to retire all Boeing 777s, A380s grounded

Etihad Airways will axe its entire Boeing 777-300ER fleet and ground its Airbus A380s "indefinitely" as the Gulf carrier races to become a smaller and more streamlined  'boutique' operation.

Dropping his Boeing 777 bombshell at the World Aviation Festival on Thursday, CEO Tony Douglas admitted "we had got far too diversified when it came to fleet types to be operationally efficient."

Douglas said the ten A380s were "a wonderful product, but they are no longer commercially sustainable" – and while they've been grounded since March 2020 and will now remain so "indefinitely", it's hard to imagine the superjumbos will have any role in Etihad's future.

That future will also be without the Boeing 777-300ER after the end of this year.

"You will see of us a very focused, a very disciplined operating model which is heavily built around the fleet of the (Boeing) 787 Dreamliner and (Airbus) A350-1000," Douglas said.

Etihad currently has 19 Boeing 777-300ERs, with orders for 25 of Boeing's next-generation 777X series.

Douglas remarked it was too early to comment on how the 777X – which isn't expected to begin flying until at least 2023 – may or may not fit into the airline's future fleet plans.

"We're now into midsize but commercially sustainable, and obsessive with customer service. It's the boutique end that is where we want to operate."

"In so doing, the statement we've made clear is that the backbone of our fleet, for the medium term, is the 787," Douglas said. Etihad counts 39 Boeing 787 Dreamliners in its fleet, with both the 787-9 and 787-10 models.

The airline has also taken delivery of five of the 20 Airbus A350-1000s ordered, although they've all flown straight into storage and have not yet carried passengers.

As previously reported by Executive Traveller, Etihad announced in October 2020 it would no longer fly to Brisbane even after international travel resumes; the airline also pulled out of Perth in 2018, leaving Sydney and Melbourne as its only Australian ports.

Both of those cities were served by Etihad's Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s; their withdrawal, and a subsequently 35% smaller fleet, will leave question marks over the fate of Etihad's Australian presence in the post-pandemic era.

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 229

Stitting on the tarmac for hour +, a standard when departing Abu Dhabi due to heavy traffic and the heat unfortunately in a cramped Y seat on an EY B787 was one of the most uncomfortable experiences I ever had. Limited air con no water...far from boutique and luxury

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 247

LOL, because anybody expects "luxury" flying in long-haul economy?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 229

Boutique is a word I would use alongside luxury or premium..perhaps not best choice to describe that experience in Y. But the point was more about their services and products being a far cry from boutique. Thinking it's their way of saying downsizing without looking dire. 

Side note the Japanese do 787 Dreamliner luxury well across all cabins from what I have reviewed.

I’m sure Etihad could re-lease some of these planes, any income is better than no income on an asset.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 903

There is a massive surplus of pre-owned 77Ws currently so leasing them out is easier said than done.  It is likely that some 77Ws will end up being converted to freighters whilst others will be scrapped.  It is hard to think of any airline that would be looking to grow its large widebody fleet in the short to medium term so the re-leasing market is basically non-existent.

Etihad's announcement is undoubtedly bad news for its 777-9 orders.  The only question is whether Etihad cancel outright or look to convert the deposits to more 787 deliveries way in the future.

Rumour has it someone has paid interest in dirt cheap Etihad planes with the scrapping of there older planes and having a newer aircraft at a cheaper price, basic 101 stuff it is.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 292

It's ensure whether if Etihad's 77Ws are actually owned, leased or mortgaged.  The banks would likely want a say in the 77W frames that are mortgaged to them, if there are any.  The leased frames are a no-brainer, return to owner.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 903

Given lessors are unlikely to be able to place 77Ws elsewhere, they are unlikely to accept an early return of planes without a substantial lease payout.  

Where the owned planes are encumbered, the banks will only be interested in getting their money back.  In many cases, encumbered 77Ws are probably now worth less than the mortgage attached to them so the airline or its owners will need to pay out their debts to bankers etc. from alternative finance sources.  It is unlikely the UAE Government will let either of its main airlines go broke so the bankers can be fairly comfortable that they are not likely to suffer a major financial loss at this stage.

I'm going to miss those Etihad A380s, they had the best first class suites until SQ's second generation A380s arrived, fares were often pretty good and the few times I flew on them the first class cabin was almost full, and it was clear from talking to fellow passengers that most of them were repeat flyers.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 591

Best news I’ve heard all week! Here’s hoping other airlines follow.

Yes, Joe, we all know you hate the Boeing 777, I'm sure every airline around the word is going to retire their 777s just to please you.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 591

One can but live in hope Lost.

06 Jan 2017

Total posts 12

B777 are not my preferred aircraft either.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 150

This is astounding news! If Etihad had confirmed the A380s would never fly again, well that's what everybody expected, but to get rid of all of its Boeing 777s is a huge step. Looking at the numbers this is about a 35% reduction in EY's fleet once you also take the A380s out of the picture.

While the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 can fly from Abu Dhabi to Sydney and Melbourne, I have to wonder if Etihad's going to do that in 2022 or just give up on Australia and assume that anybody from the UAE who wants to travel to or from Australia will go on Emirates. I think Tony Douglas has talked before about EY being less of an Emirates wanna-be and more point-to-point, it's not like many people want to fly to Abu Dhabi. Maybe EY will just focus on the most profitable routes, not sure if SYD and MEL are in that basket.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 633

I don't know why you'd be so 'astounded' regarding this news. @Gold4Life ..

It is no reflection on their current upper-level management team but .. it has been common knowledge in the industry for the last 4-5 years that Etihad had burdened itself with a failing strategy of investing in what could only be politely called 'sub-par' carriers in multiple parts of the world. That included India's Jet Airways (bankrupt some 18-24 months ago), Virgin Australia (bankrupt 12 months ago) and a certain Eastern European / Balkan carrier, which is barely keeping it's head above water. Add to that the bizarre open-jaw Brussels hub which failed to produce any of the projected revenue or synergy that was predicted. Etihad has a lot to "thank" a certain Australian ex-CEO for all of this turmoil. You don't get to smell success by continuously investing in failing, money-losing investments.

The final hint actually came some 10 days ago when all references to the A380-800's were completely wiped from the carrier's website. No more mention of the fabulous 'Residence' experience, no mention of, or allusion to, the highly personalised butler service or any on-board lounges. I guess we will all have to look upon Nicole Kidman with a modicum of pity .. and hope that she can corral another 'world class' airline advertising opportunity.

As for the B777-300ER's .. well, I am reminded of Etihad's modest but eminently successful start .. flying A320's to Europe some 20+ years ago. Seems as though the immediate future will see some revisiting of those humble beginnings until some level of stability can be reached. Or until they finally effect a low-key merger with neighbouring  Emirates. The B777-8's could soon be a fleeting memory, as well - although whether it would be via Etihad is doubtful. An alternative possible bet would be some of Emirates' anticipated B777-9's being passed to a merged partner, should that prediction occur.

Trying to grow too quickly in the Middle East has it's own pitfalls when your competition is aggressive carriers - including Emirates, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airways. Etihad - if it survives - will be remembered for it's eminently impressive service, extraordinary food and beverage, sharp uniforms .. and an amazing, colourful designer livery. 

Unfortunately, the adage of style over substance doesn't always trump lack of management expertise. Let us hope they can stay the mile.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 150

'Astounded' probably because I'm not an avgeek or someone who is deeply into the aviation industry, I think like most people here I'm just a guy who flies a lot for work and holidays, doesn't follow lots of blogs or the machinations of the industry, so while I of course knew that EY was in poor shape and James Hogan left a trail of bad investments, and this decision to ditch the 777s make sense in hindsight, it was just a very surprising and very sweeping decision to me. But as I said, it does make sense, I just don't spend a lot of time thinking about the airline industry per se.

Has Etihad released any details of its A350-1000s, do we know if these gave first class? Because if they don't then it will only be some of the 787s which have first class, and already without the Boeing 777 and A380 that's going to mean a dramatic shortfall in Etihad's first class flying.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 150

No, they have apparently taken delivery of five A350s so far but there was never any 'launch' or a big delivery flight for PR, and none of them have started commercial flights. I expect they will have first class though and it would be the same as on the Boeing 787-9s, which is quite a nice little private suite, there's probably just eight of them also, same as on the 787s with first class.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 903

It was rumoured that they were delivered without interior fit-out having been completed.  I don't know if this was true.

Didn’t they turn up with the wrong interior and the aircraft were turn around?

23 Apr 2021

Total posts 1

Seems a shame to do so after spending so much money on the Midfield terminal complex. Also a pity considering local "partner" EK is keeping both aircraft types. But obviously a lot of airlines will be restructuring more when flying is normal again (after Covid19). Sadly, I can't help thinking EY might be turning into another "Gulf Air" sized carrier. But it was always a bit strange having two big airlines in the one Emirate. So I can't help thinking maybe QR will become the second biggest regional competitor to EK.

someone is going to pick up some very cheap (to buy or lease) B773s. What about Virgin with delivery Nov 2022, when world economies should be well & truly back to 2019 levels ?

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 150

Nah, Bain has said it wants the Boeing 787, this was Paul Scurrah's plan and Bain seems to be behind it, I expect they will take a bunch of the Boeing 737 MAX orders and see if they can trade for a lease deal. But then again, who knows, if they can get these ex-EY 777s at a song it could make good financial sense, certainly no shortage of 777-rated pilots and cabin crew, although the product I think it a bit behind already, so by 2022 they might want something more up to date?

if acquisition costs are very low, then you don't have to work aircraft hard. Virgin could probably get previous VA 777 drivers to work for less or get 777 pilots from anywhere. Have heard some will work for nothing, initially.

QF LTG

29 Feb 2016

Total posts 22

So, wont be any Etihad first class on anything once the 777s go..

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1257

Five of their 787s are configured with first class.

No, there's first class on many of the Boeing 787-9s. Not all of them, as some of the Etihad 787-9s have just business and economy, but there are also three-class 787-9s too.

21 Apr 2017

Total posts 13

Etihad have made the right call. The 777’s in many respects are a generation behind now compared to the 787 & 350. People that fly now, want a good product & price too match. If you you don’t have that, they will find someone that does. The next generation of planes now deliver that on many fronts. Covid has forced the hand of many airlines too rethink their business model, too where they need to be. Airlines if they are going to survive Covid, need to come out the other side super lean & mean. Only the fittest will survive.

& perhaps a low cost long haul airline, could pick up as many 773s as they wanted, for a song, get crews much cheaper than they used to be & fly routes with very little competition.

Lot at for example, BNE, SYD, MEL to YVR(Vancouver). Apart from Air Canada flying nonstop, there were recently just a few Qantas flights in peak season mostly from SYD & no daily.

Crazy part is look at a fare BNE, SYD or MEL/YVR departing in early January & looking at $3300 plus return in economy. Then look at smae costs into LAX or SFO where was some competition from nonstops or 1 stops via NZ or Fiji & fares of $1000 return in economy. LAX is only 3 hours from YVR, 2 from SFO.

Plenty of other examples where a low cost long haul could work, with perhaps a psuedo business class up front, a bit like Air Transat. Wouldn't be surprised if the likes of Air Transat start flying to Australia, maybe seasonally, direct (1 stop) maybe with cheap 777s. The Scoot model works.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 903

Current pricing for international is largely meaningless.  It is more likely than not that widespread international travel outside of a couple of near bubbles won't recommence until some time in Q1 2022 and even then it is unclear if some form of quarantine may still be kept.  No airline has any idea of what demand will look like when borders reopen.  

Alan Joyce should rock the industry by retiring every single Qantas A380 and buying all the Etihad A380s with extraordinary fit outs, repaint them...he’s got time... then instantly become world best....or continue with the worse First Class product in the sky.

03 Oct 2011

Total posts 35

You think Qantas has the "worse First Class product in the sky"?  Have you flown BA F?

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 597

I thought someone would have asked the question how does this affect the possible tie up of VIrgin Australia and Etihad? Is that partnership now dead?


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