Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 27 October 2020

Etihad yet to decide on returning its Airbus A380s to the skies, CEO says

Boeing 787 Dreamliner 'massively' more efficient than the four-engine A380, Tony Douglas says

An Etihad A380 in Sheikh Zayed livery. Courtesy Etihad Airways
An Etihad A380 in Sheikh Zayed livery. Courtesy Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways is mulling a decision on whether it will return its Airbus A380s to service again after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the airline to ground its ten superjumbos.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the backbone of Etihad Airways' fleet, is "massively" more efficient than the four-engined A380 jet, Tony Douglas, chief executive of Etihad Aviation Group, said in a podcast released by the airline on Tuesday.

"The jury is out," Mr Douglas said on whether Etihad will ever fly the A380 again. "It's heavily handicapped by two engines too many and [by] other aircraft that can do the job far more efficiently, far more sustainably."

In March, Etihad grounded a bulk of its fleet when the UAE issued a decision to suspend passenger flights to curb the spread of the virus. Since then, passenger services have restarted to 52 destinations using smaller aircraft such as 787s as the pandemic continues to hurt air travel demand amid government-imposed restrictions.

Etihad's fleet of 10 A380 double-deckers, which were first introduced in 2014 and have a seating capacity of up to 486, remain grounded.

"I'm not trying to rule out the A380," Mr Douglas said. "But in the same way as the [Boeing] 747s have finally been retired pretty much everywhere, I think we're probably now going to see an acceleration of the same with the global A380 fleet.

The chief executive did not provide a timeline for when the airline will make a decision on the future of its A380 aircraft.

Etihad Airways chief executive Tony Douglas spoke on the airline's new podcast 'Altitudes by Etihad'. Victor Besa / The National 
Etihad Airways chief executive Tony Douglas spoke on the airline's new podcast 'Altitudes by Etihad'. Victor Besa / The National

The Abu Dhabi-based carrier currently has 38 Boeing 787s in its fleet. Last week, Eithad confirmed this number will increase to 40 by the end of the year. In 2021, the airline will begin to receive the first of another 11 jets on order. It currently operates Boeing 787 and 777 widebodies as well as Airbus A320 and A321 narrowbodies.

Commenting on the recent peace accord between the UAE and Israel, Mr Douglas said the normalisation of ties between the two countries opens up opportunities for air travel.

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Airbus A380 through the years

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"We’ve already been in dialogue and see there’s nothing other than great opportunities to explore the means by which we can give a direct air corridor from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi," he said, without providing details.

Global airlines are more bearish about air travel growth in 2020 after a second wave of Covid-19 cases and travel restrictions stalled a modest improvement during the summer, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) said in a briefing on Tuesday.

The industry body cut its forecast for this year's traffic growth to an average decline of 66 per cent year-on-year, from a previous estimate of 63 per cent.

Updated: September 30, 2020 05:52 PM

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