Airlines will tell you that a plane not flying is a plane not making money – No wonder turnarounds seem to get tighter and tighter and schedules are maxed out. But perhaps sometimes it’s just cheaper to ground a plane, rather than make even heavier losses on unprofitable routes.
That may well be the case at Etihad Airways which has reportedly put three brand new Airbus A350-1000 aircraft into storage. According to Airbus, the three planes worth $366 million each were delivered between May and August and have been registered as A6-XWA through A6-XWC. But all three planes haven’t yet made a commercial flight and were allegedly sent straight to storage fresh from the Airbus factory.
It was revealed earlier this year that debt-laden Etihad Airways had significantly renegotiated a multi-billion dollar order with European aerospace giant Airbus as it reassessed its ambitious growth plans. In February, Airbus said it had agreed to reduce Etihad’s massive outstanding A350 order by 42 – worth over $13.3 billion at list value.
Instead, Etihad would be left with just 20 A350-1000’s left in its order backlog – the Abu Dhabi-based airline said in March that it had hammered out a deal with Airbus to take delivery of just five of these aircraft “in the coming years”.
In 2016, Etihad reported a huge loss of $1.87 billion on the back of a failed equity investment scheme that saw the airline buy minority stakes in now-defunct airlines like Air Berlin and Jet Airways. Etihad has managed to reduce its annual losses to $1.28 billion in 2018 by slashing costs and dramatically cutting back its rapid growth ambitions.
In January, a leaked memo revealed that Etihad was operating with a surplus of over 150 flight crew after cutting back both its route network and fleet. The airline made at least 50 pilots redundant earlier this year.
In an emailed statement an Etihad spokesperson told us: “Etihad Airways will re-time the entry into service of five new Airbus A350-1000 aircraft as part of its ongoing business transformation plan.”
“The Airbus A350 remains an important part of Etihad’s future fleet and network strategy. A decision on introduction date will be made as part of the airline’s broader strategy planning,” the statement continued.