Etihad CEO doubts his Airbus A380s will ever return

We'll probably never see Etihad's opulent Residence or spacious first class Apartment suites again.

By David Flynn, March 12 2021
Etihad CEO doubts his Airbus A380s will ever return

Etihad Airways now looks almost certain to retire all ten of its Airbus A380s, which have been grounded since March 2020 – closing a chapter of ambitious innovation in which the Gulf carrier sought to re-invent first class flying.

Etihad enlisted Nicole Kidman to launch its up-market premium cabins with plenty of global glam.
Etihad enlisted Nicole Kidman to launch its up-market premium cabins with plenty of global glam.

Crowned by the extravagant three-room Residence suite and nine spacious first class Apartments, along with a small Lobby bar and social area, the A380s – launched in 2014 – showcased how former Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan to reimagine the airline as a high-end competitor to neighbour Emirates.

The Residence was promoted as a three-room penthouse above the clouds.
The Residence was promoted as a three-room penthouse above the clouds.

While The Residence was an aspirational 'halo' product for Etihad, its Apartment suites – which offered a seperate armchair and bed, along with a mini-bar and vanity cabinet – easily bested the first-generation offerings of superjumbo launch customers Emirates and Singapore Airlines.

Etihad's spacious and well-appointed first class Apartment suite.
Etihad's spacious and well-appointed first class Apartment suite.

However, Etihad Airways group CEO Tony Douglas now says of those parked A380s "I'm sure it's very likely that we won't see them operating with Etihad again."

Douglas doesn't expect air travel to return to pre-crisis levels until 2023, and says the airline has accelerated its five-year turnaround plan which was in place before the pandemic hit, reducing passenger numbers by 76% across 2020 and tipping the Abu Dhabi-based airline into a US$1.7 billion 'core operating loss'.

"Had we not been engaged in the transformation programme and had we not accelerated it as a result of Covid, it would have been an awful lot more," he told UAE publication The National earlier this month.

"We put the metal down on the floor on the transformation agenda and it was difficult because we had to make further network and fleet decisions." 

Farewell to another airline's Airbus A380.
Farewell to another airline's Airbus A380.

Douglas had previously cast doubt on the A380's future, 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."

With the exception of Emirates, which is slowly rebuilding its A380 network, most other airlines appear to agree with Douglas.

Singapore Airlines will retire more than a third of its A380s which have been "deemed surplus to fleet requirements", although the remaining superjumbos will all be upgraded to feature the airline's latest first class suites and business class seats.

It's a premature farewell for over a third of Singapore Airlines' A380 fleet.
It's a premature farewell for over a third of Singapore Airlines' A380 fleet.

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 will retire five Airbus A380s – half of its fleet – while a superjumbo-sized question mark remains hanging over the rest.

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 last 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."

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


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.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 239

What a crying shame .

The A380 is the most comfortable aeroplane in all classes a passenger could ever wish to fly in.

Isn't sad to see the Queen of the Skies brought down to earth by a largely airborne microscopic bug.

Bit like David and Goliath !!

Thank goodness there will still be some A380's flying again in the future.

I for one will seek them out when things settle down again which , unfortunately ,won't be any time real soon.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 385

I'm really going to miss those first class Apartment suites! The very first time I flew in one it quickly became my 'go-to' for first class. The suite, the onboard chef, even things like the shower were all something really special, plus the first class lounge at Abu Dhabi once it finally opened. As much as I appreciate Qantas there just wasn't anything to compare against the EY A380.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 176

Agree with you, QFP1. But, I must say....

I did get lonely in the First Apartments. Huge indeed they were. But, you did feel a little Nigel No Mates. Cheers

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 685

Interesting. You didn't seem to consider the 'Residence' British-trained butler service really special?

When first introduced by Etihad, I recall reading an extensive article on the rigorous training these specially selected Residence individuals undertook. Only the very best of their First Class crew were even considered for this training. If I recall correctly, it was a fully inclusive separate and privately run course, lasting in excess of 3 months.

The ideal of this service was to make the trip nothing less than memorable. That, I would have liked to experienced.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Mar 2018

Total posts 20

International travel will possibly never return its a fact that is becoming increasingly more probable.


int travel is returning en masse in EU in April/May 2021 & shortly after in many other parts of the world.

BA is talking about widebody aircraft to Greece.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 601

I had finally booked myself SYD-LHR for May 2020 in the apartments and what would have been my first ever F class flight.  I remember how super excited i was when i had booked them back in Oct that just leaves EK for a shower in the sky with their dated F product

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