Watch: Etihad on why grounding a jet is nothing like parking a car

Eighty per cent of the airline's fleet is now at Abu Dhabi international Airport

At midnight on Tuesday, March 24, the sky above the UAE fell quiet after the authorities announced the suspension of passenger flights in and out of the country.

The move was made to help stem the spread of the coronavirus from air travel, and it lead to Emirates and Etihad bringing home hundreds of aircraft from all around the world.

In Dubai, more than 200 of Emirates's A380s and 777s are parked up at Dubai International and Al Maktoum airports. In the capital, Etihad has more than 100 jets on the ground.

It's not like parking a car. We have to keep them maintained
Gary Byrne

The UAE's national airline has released a behind-the-scenes look at what it means to have more than 80 per cent of its fleet parked at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before in my aviation career,” says Gary Byrne, head of technical operations at Etihad.

Keeping more than 100 Boeing 777s, 787s and Airbus A380s stationary is no small task. The video explains that Etihad’s engineers are working around the clock to maintain the aircraft.

“It’s not like parking a car. We have to keep them maintained,” Byrne says.

This involves covering engines and exhausts with protective wraps to shield them from sand and dust.

While they're sat on the tarmac, Etihad staff regularly run maintenance checks like powering up the aircraft, running engines and inspecting flight control functions.

In the video, some aircraft are being inspected in the hangars at Etihad's home base. This is typically where jets undergo heavy maintenance checks.

10,000 seat covers replaced

Etihad has replaced 10,000 seat covers

Etihad is using this "downtime" to refresh cabins on its grounded fleet. In the video, staff can be seen checking and repairing seats and in-flight entertainment screens, shampooing cabin carpets and washing and ironing soft furnishings like seat covers.

So far, the airline has replaced 10,000 seat and back rest covers and has teams of 200 working during each shift on its cabin refresh programme.

“When our aircraft go back into service, for the passenger it will be like getting on to a brand new aircraft," Byrne says.

Passenger flights in and out of the UAE are grounded until April 21, with exemptions for select repatriation flights.