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Etihad pulls Airbus A380 from service indefinitely

Aviation Updates Philippines – Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad Airways has removed its Airbus A380 aircraft from its schedule indefinitely, just over a week after its CEO hinted at the possible retirement of the airline's A380 fleet.

Etihad A380
Etihad, which previously had been removing the A380 from its schedule one or two months in advance, has now completely removed the aircraft from its schedule for the next 11 months. Etihad's schedule, which displays flights until September of 2021, currently shows the following aircraft operating the airline's previous A380 routes:

  • Abu Dhabi to London: 4x daily; 3x daily flights to be operated by three-class B787-9s and 1x daily flight to be operated by a two-class B787-9
  • Abu Dhabi to New York-JFK: 1x daily flight to be operated by a three-class B787-9
  • Abu Dhabi to Paris: 2x daily flights to be operated by two-class 787-9s
  • Abu Dhabi to Seoul-Incheon: 1x daily flight to be operated by a two-class B787-9
  • Abu Dhabi to Sydney: 2x daily; 1x daily flight to be operated by a three-class B777-300ER and 1x daily flight to be operated by a two-class B787-9

Etihad's A380s have been grounded since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Etihad A380 exterior

In late-September, Etihad CEO Tony Douglas spoke about the future of the Airbus A380 on the first episode of Etihad's Altitude by Etihad podcast.

"So everybody loves the Airbus A380. It's resounding. You know, the product that it presents, and the grace in which it does so. It was, for such a long time the pinnacle, the industry leader. The question as to whether they'll fly again, to be equally direct about it, I'd say the jury's out," he said.

Etihad A380 The Residence

Etihad took delivery of its first A380 in December of 2014 when the airline was under its previous CEO, James Hogan. At the time, Etihad was a major global carrier, going head-to-head with regional rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways. The Etihad A380's First Class "Apartments" and Business Class "Studios" were widely praised, and its three-room private suite with butler service, known as The Residence, was the first of its kind in commercial aviation.

Etihad A380 Residence

However, mounting losses and questionable business decisions including its failed investments in struggling airlines such as Air Berlin, Alitalia, and Jet Airways began to take its toll on Etihad in the years that followed. 

When Tony Douglas took over as CEO in January of 2018, he began steering the airline towards becoming more of a niche carrier, focusing primarily on passengers traveling to and from Abu Dhabi. The airline axed its flights to Dallas and San Francisco and reduced its flights to New York and Los Angeles. It also introduced a host of cost-cutting measures such as pulling the plug on its chauffeur service, downgrading catering in its lounges worldwide, eliminating its inflight chefs and Food and Beverage (F&B Managers), and many others.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment

With global travel currently experiencing a downturn due to the pandemic, Etihad likely won't be needing all the extra capacity that the A380 currently offers for the foreseeable future. 

"I think it's heavily handicapped by two engines too many, and other aircraft can do the job far more efficiently, far more sustainably," Douglas remarked.

He added: "So I'm not trying to rule out the A380, it would break my heart even more to do so at this stage. But in the same way that 747s have finally been retired pretty much everywhere, I think we're probably going to see now an acceleration of the same with the global A380 fleet."

Photos by Pixabay, Lars Hentschel, and Etihad Airways

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