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.