Etihad’s extravagant Airbus A380s may return to the skies

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

By David Flynn, January 21 2022
Etihad’s extravagant Airbus 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.

Qatar Airways has already resurrected four A380s to serve London and Paris, both of which were among Qatar's most popular A380 destinations in the past, especially for the leisure market as well as connecting passengers to and through the airline's expansive international network.

Qantas is bringing back ten of its 12-strong superjumbo fleet, with the first to return now flying between Sydney and Los Angeles and Sydney-Singapore-London to follow in June.

For Etihad, which earlier this year announced the axing of its entire Boeing 777 fleet, the future definitely 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

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 323

This Ey Etihad First is just so so -  mwah food,  average or below champagne, and if you are 6ft 3  its just OK. The Residence Suite - that's not for most of us!  The best things  are the toilets, amenities and that wonderful shower 5 minutes total of water which you can stop start for as long as you want before you land at JFK  and then have a free limo service after effectively a Domestic Arrival in the USA because Clearance is done at Abu Dhabi (AUH).  Now if we talk Lufti or Qatar or Thai First on an A380, were talking good champagne, good food, no boxed in feeling and adequate retractable privacy screens, but sadly no shower.  And we are talking immaculate ground services and super First Lounges or a speparate Terminal, personal assistants buggy services and seamless connections

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 175

Interesting comment, cbourl. 

I think if we're lucky to be up the front we shouldn't be whinging too much. This said, if we're paying for it, yes, you can expect a bit. Personally, I used to enjoy the EY First Lounge before the run home to SYD from AUH. The sleep was a ripper. If anything, I thought it was a bit too flash. Yes, I hear you on the Champers (I take SQ any day here). 

It will be interesting how all the Middle East airlines position First & Business post-Covid. There's a heck of a lot of money to recover before we start pouring the Bolli freely (I know, I know - Bolli isn't on the menu, alas). Cheers!

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 323

Sure Bevan We shouldn't be too critical

It's just EY are good, but not fantastic.  Anyways Bollinger I've seen at the AA Flagship First Lounge at LAX and JFK - inf fact at JFK  there were  about 20 unopened bottles of Bolli in the champagne stand  in the cooler island.


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