Etihad Airways pulls the plug on Brisbane

Etihad Airways will no longer fly to Brisbane, the airline has confirmed to Executive Traveller.

By David Flynn, October 6 2020
Etihad Airways pulls the plug on Brisbane

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."

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

"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.

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


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.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 241

Will be interesting to see how the Supreme Chairwoman of Queensland spins this one. 

She’ll probably just ignore it as 99.9% of QLD won’t care about this.

06 Jan 2017

Total posts 12

Do you mean the Chairwoman of Qld. that saved the state from the virus.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 444

Ohhh, you mean Jeanette Young??

Others will fill the void eventually. Can’t wait for 2020 to finish.

07 Oct 2020

Total posts 2

Yeh like whom? I am surprised more airlines don't  just go into CNS within Qld than bne

so etihad & brunei gone as options to uk & EU, IIRC. Qatar wants to go daily.

Only way to LAX from BNE nonstop is now qantas.

Some fares look like they will increase after possible big sales to kick off opening up of international routes.

Latest news I recd. re LAX flights - qantas flights to LAX still alive from around January 10, 2021, as are options via Fiji.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 954

You must share where you see plans that QF plans to fly to LAX in January.  Everything I have seen has said QF have demobilised QF International until July next year except for some NZ.  Even the NZ plan has been very slow to commence because of quarantine requirements on the other side of the ditch.  Hopefully some other destinations may come back earlier but these will be A330 ports like SIN and HND.  As for US, it is hard to see them coming back any time soon.  USA appears to be heading into a very bad winter with Covid largely out of control.  I can't see the Australian Government risking a third wave by opening up to America for many months to come.

I believe you are correct in saying the QR want to continue services to BNE.  Their current services are special and operate outside of the bilateral agreement.  An ongoing service to BNE will require an amendment to the bilateral between Australia and Qatar as their current services to MEL,SYD and PER fill up their existing entitlement (ADL doesn't count against their rights).  I can't imagine that QF would welcome such a change and will lobby heavily against it. 


QF flights BNE/LAX from January 10, 2021 are still alive in system. Friends are booked & can't cancel as they have to wait til QF do or penalties. Maybe it's just a way of delaying refunds. Whether they actually fly them or not is unknown to all.

You can actually buy January 10, 2021, BNE/NAN/LAX on FJ codeshared with QF, either on the FJ website or through an agent. Much cheaper through the latter. Substantially so, as FJ really need agents.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 327

I’m sure they will return when market conditions allow in 3 to 4 years time. Their load factor was up around 85% but obviously not making the money to justify staying post covid.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 303

EY load factors into BNE may had been high but as reported by others elsewhere the majority of the fares were of the low yield VFR/budget/tourist fares which isn't ideal for an airline also basically in financial debt/bankruptcy for some time.

Please provide evidence of these other reports or the breakdown you have of low vs business fares sold on BNE flights

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 236

Probs not same happened with Perth - Flights always had good loads and business full on their A330/787 but were axed and not to return.

friends last year bought BNE/(Milan/Brussels) return for $800 for adults & something like $600 for the kids, departing in June school holidays flying Thai. Only negative was didn't connect in Bangkok on way home so they had to have a night.

So other airlines, had to have some similar fares, so those lowest fares must have been loss leaders. Saw plenty of fares on other airlines to London return for under $1000 & London has higher taxes than most other EU ports.

Brilliant ScottyFromMarketing can approve Qatar Airways flights to Brisbane and seasonal flights to the GC during the massive Arab Months celebration on the Gold Coast (OOL now has ILS) Most Aussies outside of the GC don’t realise 60,000 super rich Arabs descend on the GC every year after Ramadan spending up big during the Aussie winter which is during their 50c summer. Real Cash! Limos everywhere! Restaurants packed with tables of 12-15 the norm. Bring on Qatar Airways.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 241

If Queensland won't even let in people from New Zealand or most of NSW, I doubt the Arabs will be allowed in anytime soon (unless they play AFL or make movies). 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Apr 2017

Total posts 131

Unfortunate but not unexpected. Hopefully Qatar gets permission to fill the spot.


17 Jan 2018

Total posts 88

Seriously who can blame them! Australian and QLD Govts hell bent on destroying the economy and especially the travel/hospitality sectors. Dont blame EY, blame the Australian bureaucrats and politicians. The lucky country reminds me of TVs Fantasy Island (remote and isolated). Remember when the little guy used to say "its a plane, its a plane", thats Australia for the forseeable future.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

06 Apr 2012

Total posts 115

Etihad's racked up an eye watering US$5.6 billion in losses in the 3 financial years up to 2019.  On top of that it's booked an additional US$758m loss in 1H 2020 alone.   Even before the advent of COVID and Federal/State border controls the airline was in a precarious state and had already been scaling back services across the board.   One company's downfall is often another company's opportunity though which is why we are seeing Qatar moving swiftly and purposely to establish regular services into the Qld capital at this time.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 241

Can't see travel or hospitality ever recovering in Queensland. I know many people who used to go to Queensland 1-2 times a year for holiday from the southern states who will never plan to go again because of their terrible attitude. 

Queensland might have warm weather, but there is nothing unique about it (unless a dying reef is your thing). Given their approach I am sure it will be too little too late for a lot of their tourism industry, and then they continue to be a state that is beautiful one day, subsidised by NSW the next. 

07 Jan 2016

Total posts 34

I guess that those folks are also planning to never holiday again in WA, Tasmania, NZ and the Pacific Islands given that these jurisdictions also do not allow unrestricted inbound travel from NSW at this time.  That just leaves them with a choice of NT, Sth Australia and Canberra as their future holiday destinations.  

07 Jan 2016

Total posts 34

I guess those folks you refer to are also planning to never holiday again in WA, Tasmania, NZ and the Pacific Islands given that these jurisdictions also do not allow unrestricted inbound travel from NSW at this time.  That just leaves them with a choice of NT, Sth Australia and Canberra as their future holiday destinations.  


03 May 2013

Total posts 623

Etihad is no loss. They have declined significantly soft product wise and staff attitude is meh at best. Nice hard product but now nothing more than a reminder of their glory days. I've never understood the eagerness for BNE being neither a tourist nor a business destination, relatively speaking.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 303

BNE was the gateway to other Queensland tourist spots such as Cairns and the Gold Coast prior to covid for passengers from countries which weren't served by the local/overseas LCCs and/or were "cashed up" to not bother taking the LCC option directly to OOL/CNS.  

Those tourists were of the "higher yielding" "cashed up" crowd from overseas which has all but evaporated in this current environment.


think more than ever, many will be buying economy tix & trying to upgrade. Airlines will need new ideas on how they can get revenue to do this. Some already have blind auctions using dollars. Some might need to have auctions using frequent flyer points/miles or combination of ff pts & dollars.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Etihad Airways pulls the plug on Brisbane