Etihad Airways will introduce its first Airbus A350-1000 passenger jet into service with a flight to Paris, marking the first time the UAE has flown the long-haul aircraft.
The plane will take to the skies on March 31, Tony Douglas, chief executive of Etihad Aviation Group, said at the Bloomberg UAE Capital Markets Forum on Thursday.
"On March 31, we will be launching the Sustainable 50, which is a brand new Airbus A350-1000 on its maiden flight into Paris Charles de Gaulle," Mr Douglas said.
The airline has yet to reveal the new cabin interior and configuration.
The pace of introducing the first five of Etihad's 12 A350s will depend on the market recovery and the airline will be "agile" in adapting to these market conditions, Mr Douglas told The National this month.
The A350-1000 is Airbus' twin-engined passenger jet that was designed to compete with Boeing's popular 777-300 and 777-300ER versions that rise to 400-seat capacity. The lightweight carbon-fibre Airbus is an all-new design aircraft that was intended to break US rival Boeing's dominance in the “mini-jumbo” segment.
The A350-1000 took to the skies in November 2016 for its maiden flight, followed by the first aircraft delivery in 2018 to its first customer Qatar Airways.
Other customers include British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic. Qatar Airways is its biggest customer.
Etihad Airways also signed a letter of intent last month for seven Airbus A350 freighter jets as the air cargo market continues to boom.
"We will look to convert [it] into contract by the middle of the year," Mr Douglas said. He said the letter of intent was a separate deal and not a swap of existing aircraft commitments.
Etihad has forecast a "positive" outlook for the year after narrowing its annual core operating loss by 72 per cent in 2021 in an "extraordinary turnaround" driven by record cargo revenue, cost-cutting measures and debt reduction.
Etihad's current fleet
- Airbus A320, 30 aircraft
- Boeing 787, 39 aircraft
- Boeing 777, 19 aircraft
- Boeing 777 freighter, 5 aircraft