Etihad CEO says its A380s may return to the skies

“Never say never” mulls Etihad boss Tony Douglas over the superlative but still-grounded superjumbos.

By David Flynn, December 14 2021
Etihad CEO says its A380s may return to the skies

Etihad Airways isn't quite ready to write off its Airbus A380s, with airline CEO Tony Douglas saying the superjumbos may yet return to the skies, depending on how quickly travel recovers and reaches pre-pandemic levels.

The fate of the superlative superjumbos, with their three-room 'super first class' Residence and spacious first class Apartments, will be determined by the irrefutable logic of numbers.

"If the economics of it work, they're back in," Douglas says, reflecting that "the traveling public, our guests, loves them."

But "if the economics don't work, I'm not a registered charity, they're out," Douglas tells Business Insider

"For the last 18 months, (the A380s are) out because the economics don't work... the market has only really come back in the past two months, it's probably too early to say."

"I'd never say never but they're not in the plan at the moment," he added.

Maybe the sun hasn't set on Etihad's A380s after all...
Maybe the sun hasn't set on Etihad's A380s after all...

While superjumbo stalwart Emirates continues to fly the A380, with Singapore, British Airways and Qantas also bringing their double-decker juggernauts out of retirement, Etihad sees its A380s through the same lens as rival Qatar Airways: as a short-term fix should demand for travel temporarily out-strip the size of their aircraft fleet.

For Etihad, which earlier this year announced the axing of its entire Boeing 777 fleet, the future belongs to the modern, mid-sized and fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350.

"If I was ever minded to bring them back, it would have to be business justified in terms of volume and yield but it would then only be a stopgap until we take more deliveries of these," Douglas allowed. "Because the minute I've got these, I can then do the same job in a far more efficient way."

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 – represented 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.

For then-CEO James Hogan, the A380s were a cornerstone in reimagining 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.

Also read: Flush with success – check out these luxurious first class airline lavs

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Any comeback for the A380 would be limited until Etihad could grow out its fleets of twin-engine Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350-1000 XWB, both of which are the new backbone as part of a fleet simplification and renewal plan. Sustainability is a primary focus for Etihad moving forward and the Airbus A380 cannot co-exist with the airline’s green future in the long term.

The familiar statement from Douglas reveals the challenge that airlines face with the A380. Airlines and Airbus itself frequently boast how much passengers enjoy flying on the A380, given the abundance of space in all cabins that allows for onboard products not found on smaller aircraft.

Travel demand is currently “going off like a fire hydrant,” Douglas said, but consistently filling 496 seats is the challenge that Etihad faces.

 

 

 

Ultra-premium travelers stand to lose the most as retiring the A380 means retiring The Residence cabin. Only available on the A380, travelers could book $US20,000 ($AU27,882) private apartments in The Residence complete with a bedroom, living room, and butler.

 

 

 

In short

 

– it will all depend as long as 

as long as 

as long as the econ

 as long as there's sufficient demand for them

 

 

gas-guzzling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

’ CEO says its Airbus A380s and the $20,000 luxury apartments onboard might fly again — but only temporarily

Etihad Airways is not yet ready to fully close the door on the world’s largest passenger jet, the Airbus A380.
CEO Tony Douglas told Insider that market conditions may warrant the temporary revival of the aircraft.
Sustainability is a key focus for the airline, however, and any A380 return would be short-lived.
The aviation industry is split on what to do with the Airbus A380 now that travel is rebounding and flyers are expecting the luxuries offered prior to the COVID-19 pandemic on their flights.

 

Once a status symbol for the world’s airlines, the world’s largest passenger jet was a drain on passenger-deprived airlines in the pandemic’s early days. But the grim outlook in the early days of the pandemic turned into a comeback story as airlines started reviving their A380s.

By the end of the year, six airlines will be flying the A380 including Emirates, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Korean Air, and China Southern Airlines, with airlines like Qantas planning to resume A380 flights in 2022.

Not all airlines will fly the A380 again as the likes of Air France, Malaysia Airlines, Lufthansa, and Thai Airways have sent their A380s away for good.

Etihad Airways, however, isn’t quite ready to fully close the door on its A380s. CEO Tony Douglas told Insider at the Dubai Airshow in November that it’s possible the aircraft will fly again once more under the Etihad brand but only if certain market conditions are met.

The familiar statement from Douglas reveals the challenge that airlines face with the A380. Airlines and Airbus itself frequently boast how much passengers enjoy flying on the A380, given the abundance of space in all cabins that allows for onboard products not found on smaller aircraft.

Travel demand is currently “going off like a fire hydrant,” Douglas said, but consistently filling 496 seats is the challenge that Etihad faces.

“For the last 18 months, [the A380s are] out because the economics don’t work,” Douglas said.” The market has only really come back in the past two months, it’s probably too early to say.”


Inside an apartment in ‘The Residence’ cabin onboard an Airbus A380. Etihad
Travel restrictions still hinder leisure and business trips alike to the countries once served by the aircraft. From Abu Dhabi, Etihad’s A380s flew to destinations including London, Paris, New York, Sydney, and Seoul, South Korea.

 

 

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/etihad-airways-ceo-airbus-a380-residence-apartments-may-be-reinstated-2021-12?r=US&IR=T

 

 

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