Etihad’s Airbus A350 is getting ready to make its debut

The Gulf carrier looks to be preparing the A350 to finally join its fleet.

By David Flynn, May 25 2021
Etihad’s Airbus A350 is getting ready to make its debut

Etihad Airways' first Airbus A350 is now sitting at the Gulf carrier's Abu Dhabi hub, sparking anticipation that the advanced jets will soon join the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the vanguard of Etihad's modernised fleet.

Almost two years after Airbus began delivering the A350-1000 to Etihad, five of the jets painted in the airline's livery have stood idle at Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport – but one of those was relocated to Abu Dhabi on the weekend, where Etihad's engineering team will begin the cabin interior fit-out.

Approached for comment on the A350's weekend shift, a spokesperson for Etihad Airways said "we are delighted to welcome it home, but while the global network remains under constant review as we adapt operations to the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on global travel, the introduction date of the aircraft’s entry into service is yet to be determined as part of the airline’s broader strategy planning."

It's been just over one month since Etihad CEO Tony Douglas announced the airline would scrap its entire Boeing 777-300ER fleet and ground its Airbus A380s "indefinitely" as the Gulf carrier races to become a smaller and more streamlined 'boutique' operation.

Etihad's future will take shape around the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350.
Etihad's future will take shape around the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350.

"You will see of us a very focused, a very disciplined operating model which is heavily built around the fleet of the (Boeing) 787 Dreamliner and (Airbus) A350-1000," Douglas said.

"We're now into midsize but commercially sustainable, and obsessive with customer service. It's the boutique end that is where we want to operate."

Etihad counts 39 Boeing 787 Dreamliners in its fleet and also holds orders for 20 Airbus A350, although Douglas has previously said the airline is looking to operate only up to 12 A350s.

Etihad's Airbus A350 first class, business class

Although the configuration of Etihad's Airbus A350-1000 jets has not been revealed, it's expected they could contain a small first class cabin in common with some Boeing 787-9s, with between four and eight private suites using the same design as developed for the Dreamliner.

Will this be Etihad's Airbus A350 first class suite?
Will this be Etihad's Airbus A350 first class suite?

Likewise, Etihad's Airbus A350 business class would likely feature the same Business Studio seats as developed for the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787.

Etihad's Business Studio is expected to feature on the Airbus A350.
Etihad's Business Studio is expected to feature on the Airbus A350.

These offer direct aisle access and convert to a fully lie-flat bed, although an alternating layout means that half the seats – those next to the aisle – face backwards.

Etihad's Business Studio is expected to feature on the Airbus A350.
Etihad's Business Studio is expected to feature on the Airbus A350.

Etihad also holds orders for 25 of Boeing's next-generation 777X series, although Douglas has said it's too early to comment on how the 777X – which isn't expected to begin flying until at least 2023 – may or may not fit into the airline's future fleet plans.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg.

David

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.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1021

Given Etihad's plans to build their fleet around the 787 and A350 going forward, it is highly likely the 779 order ends up being cancelled or converted.

Eli
Eli

30 Jul 2015

Total posts 105

"although an alternating layout means that half the seats – those next to the aisle – face backwards"  - Why is this written, like its a negative?

MANY of us like the rear facing seats ...its not an issue at all.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2568

That's not written in any negative way at all, it's simply pointing out that half the seats face backwards.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Mar 2018

Total posts 72

I don't get this too.

Especially if you're a first time flyer, or afraid of flying, or the super rich, backward facing seats are so underrated. 

Anyways, for me, it's a clue because firstly, it's THANK GOODNESS not an herringbone, so no intrusive over shoulder annoying seatbelts. And secondly, you know whose product is also frontward and backward? ANA and Qatar.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 361

I think most people have an instinctive negative reaction to sitting backwards on a plane until they actually try it, and then they realise it makes no difference to the experience at all, except that it's a bit 'unusual' during the taxi, take-off and landing stages, and 'unusual' simple because they're used to facing forward. I've done 'backwards' flights in Qatar's Qsuites and BA Club World, doesn't bother me at all.

QF

02 Oct 2012

Total posts 45

The A350 is a great aircraft and hopefully Etihad will have a first class cabin on these.  I will really miss the Apartment first class cabins on their A380.   We all need something to dream about don't we?

25 Jun 2018

Total posts 13

Forward or backward facing seats?   When the U.K. royal family had their own aircraft in the Royal Flight, the ‘best’ seats faced backwards - why?   Much safer in the event of an incident involving a sudden deceleration.   The passenger is protected by the seat back not just the seat belt.


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