Etihad Airways says it will no longer fly to Brisbane, even after the pandemic shockwave subsides, with the Queensland capital one of several underperforming destinations being culled from the worldwide route map.
A spokesman for Etihad Airways confirmed the decision to Executive Traveller, saying "as part of an ongoing review of network performance, Etihad Airways will cancel its flights from Abu Dhabi to Brisbane."
"The decision to cancel the route is a commercial one, and a direct consequence of the impact of COVID-19 on global travel and tourism demand. We will work closely with impacted guests and travel agents to notify them of the changes to their itineraries and re-accommodate them on alternative flights."
"The cancellation of the Brisbane route is one of several adjustments currently being made by the airline during this time," the spokesman added.
The airline paused its daily Brisbane-Abu Dhabi flights after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, although it continues to fly to Sydney and Melbourne.
Pulling the plug on Brisbane will leave Australia's third largest capital city open to Gulf competitors Emirates and Qatar Airways, the later of which continues to push for a permanent berth at the Queensland capital.
"We would absolutely love to service Brisbane on a daily basis," Qatar Airways’ Vice President Pacific Thomas Lee Scruby told Executive Traveller last month.
“I think the demand is there for us to do so. To support Queensland has been a dream of Qatar Airways for many years and I really hope we can do that in the future.”
Etihad A380s: grounded for good?
As previously reported, the fate of Etihad's flagship Airbus A380s hangs in the balance, with CEO Tony Douglas saying that the ten-strong superjumbo fleet might never fly again.
"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.
"Everybody loves the A380," he said, but added "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."
"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 also has 20 fuel-efficient A350-1000s on order, the first of which were due to begin flying in 2019.
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.