Just a few days ago, Etihad Airways announced it will be bringing its flagship A380 superjumbo to Paris from 1st July. However, sources have suggested that Etihad is redeploying both aircraft and Cabin Crew due to a lack of demand and waning passenger numbers.
In a press release, the airline stated: “Paris becomes the airline’s latest A380 long-haul destination.” It would be easy to assume that after a difficult few months, things were looking more positive for Etihad.
“Flying our flagship product to France with additional seat capacity helps fulfil growing demand and meet our guests’ expectations for an even greater travel experience with unmatched luxury, comfort and service,” said Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways Chief Executive Officer.
He continued: “Paris is one of our busiest and best performing European routes, so the deployment of this upgraded service will benefit travellers to and from Abu Dhabi and our popular connecting cities across Asia and Australia.”
Unfortunately, the airline failed to mention that this isn’t a brand new A380 – The aircraft that has allowed Etihad to take luxury to new heights. Kitted out with two onboard showers, a bar and lounge, the three-room ‘Residence’ and nine First Class suites.
A380 Being Redeployed in ‘Seasonal Adjustment’
Instead, Etihad Airways is making what it calls a ‘seasonal adjustment‘ to its schedule. The current Etihad A380 serving Mumbai will be switched to Paris at the start of July and is due to go back to India in October.
However, it’s been widely reported that the switch is being made as Etihad is failing to fill its premium seats on the double-decker aircraft. In particular, The Residence – a private suite in the sky – is struggling to generate any income for the carrier.
To complement the luxury hard-product, Etihad has invested big in its in-flight staff. The A380 has an onboard chef, a Savoy-Academy trained butler and a ‘Flying Nanny’, trained by the world-famous Norland College in the UK.
F&B Managers and Other On-Board Staff are Being Grounded
Also onboard are the airlines Food and Beverage Managers (F&B Managers) – all of whom have experience working in luxury hotels and top restaurants – to oversee the meal service for premium passengers.
It’s now understood that a number of F&B Managers and other onboard crew have been ‘redeployed’ to ground-based assignments. Etihad has moved the majority of staff into its Abu Dhabi airport lounges as the airline delays replacing ground staff.
The policy has been ongoing for several months. There’s no indication of when the redeployed Cabin Crew will be moved back to in-flight duties.
Recruitment Remains Frozen
Etihad has recently struggled with falling passenger numbers across its network. Premium passenger numbers have been particularly hard hit due to a downturn in the oil and gas market, as well as plummeting European traffic.
To counter the damaging fall in profits at the carrier, Etihad has frozen recruitment for all Cabin Crew and other in-flight staff. The airline has also admitted that some staff have been made redundant, while others have been redeployed.
Despite recent media reports that both Emirates and Etihad Airways were hiring more staff, the latest recruitment drive did not include Cabin Crew. However, back in December, Gulf News reported positive forecasts from Boeing. The plane manufacturer said that the UAE and surrounding region would need 200,000 new employees over the next two decades. Of those, at least 92,000 Cabin Crew will be needed to keep up with the rapid expansion of the airline industry in the region.