Just like there have been rumours swirling for months that Emirates would cancel a good chunk of its existing Airbus A380 order (in turn spelling the end of the superjumbo), there has also been speculation that its fellow UAE-based neighbour Etihad would cancel or alter aircraft orders worth billions of dollars.
In fact, the rumours that Etihad was locked in talks with both Airbus and Boeing have been ongoing since last summer when several unnamed sources said senior executives at the debt-laden airline wanted to either defer, delay or even cancel some orders.
Etihad currently has a massive order backlog for state of the art aircraft including the yet to be launched Boeing 777X. Latest figures from the Washington-based aerospace giant reveal Etihad has 25 of the next-generation 777’s on order, as well as 25 of the 787-10 and 18 787-9 Dreamliner’s yet to be delivered.
Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi-based airline also has orders for 40 Airbus A350-900 aircraft and 22 A350-1000’s – or at least it did. While there’s no official comment from Etihad just yet, Airbus has confirmed during its annual earnings call that they have come to an agreement with Etihad to significantly alter the A350 deal.
Etihad has reduced its order by 42 aircraft and will now only take delivery of 20 A350-1000’s – interestingly, Etihad and Airbus say the new planes will be delivered over the “coming years” which could mean there’s potential for Etihad to delay this order even further.
The new deal is worth over $3.5 billion at list value, although, Etihad will have received a significant discount on this figure.
There’s still no news on whether Etihad will also reduce its order with Boeing but it wouldn’t come as a huge surprise if we suddenly had a similar announcement in the coming days or weeks.
The airline is currently in the midst of a huge strategic review as it attempts to return to profitability having posted losses of $1.95 billion in 2016. Etihad’s expansion seemed almost unstoppable for while and the airline was placing huge and as it now seems, overly ambitious, aircraft orders with both Boeing and Airbus.
However, it’s failed equity investment scheme where it bought stakes in underperforming airlines saw Etihad’s financial situation seriously deteriorate and now the carrier is more focused on regional growth rather than trying to emulate the likes of Emirates and bitter rival Qatar Airways.