Etihad Airways has successfully sold four of its ten A380 superjumbos to aircraft manufacturer Airbus in a deal that will see the Abu Dhabi-based airline return the remaining six double-deck jets to the skies in the near future according to reports. Etihad had previously flagged the very real possibility of permanently grounding its A380 fleet.
Airbus has not commented on the reports but aside from its increasingly public spat with Qatar Airways, the airframer rarely comments on commercial deals and agreements outside of routinely announced orders and deliveries.
Etihad chief executive Tony Douglas has mused about the future of the A380 suggesting the quad-engined superjumbo no longer suited the airline’s needs. Douglas has pursued a turnaround strategy at the loss-making carrier that has seen the business significantly reduce in size.
The 10-strong A380 fleet was grounded at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and have remained unused ever since. Some of the jets are in deep storage in a special facility in Spain. Officially, Etihad says the aircraft are grounded “indefinitely”.
In April, Douglas described the A380’s as “a wonderful product” that “are no longer commercially sustainable”. Douglas has been highly critical of Etihad’s diversified fleet and has sought to build the future long-haul fleet around Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350.
The A380 could, however, prove still be profitable on particularly busy routes like London and Paris.
As part of its fleet simplification and business transformation, Etihad does, however, plan to offload its fleet of A320 series aircraft to Air Arabia Abu Dhabi – a joint venture between Etihad and Sharjah-based Air Arabia.
Air Arabia Abu Dhabi will then take over flying nearly all of Etihad’s less lucrative regional routes. Aviation insider, M Zulqarnain B on Twitter claims Etihad will transfer crew to Air Arabia Abu Dhabi along with the A320 fleet.
Pilots and cabin crew will have the choice of accepting new contacts or being fired.
Etihad has been contacted for comment. Last week, the airline announced that it had sold off all of its subsidiary businesses including a ground handling and airline catering company to a government-owned investment fund.
The sell-off will allow Etihad to concentrate on its core airline business.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.