Etihad Airways confirmed on Friday that it is preparing to return its Airbus A380 superjumbos to the skies in Summer 2023, with the double-deck aircraft set to initially serve the flagship route between Abu Dhabi and London Heathrow Airport.
Rumours of the superjumbo’s return have been circulating for months, but until now, the airline has consistently downplayed the role of the gas-guzzling A380 in the future of the Etihad aircraft fleet.
Like many A380 operators, however, an expected capacity crunch with travel demand outstripping new plane deliveries has likely emboldened Etihad to reactivate its fleet of 10 superjumbos in preparation for the busy summer season.
Late last month, it was even revealed that Etihad had restarted crew training on the A380 – a sure sign that the aircraft would be returning to commercial service ahead of a formal announcement.
Etihad’s A380 fleet has, however, been in long-term storage in France and Spain since early 2020 when the pandemic first decimated the airline industry, and it will be a months-long process for engineering teams to reactivate the planes for passenger operations.
Although few details have yet been announced, Etihad has confirmed that four A380s will be returning just as they were before the pandemic, with the airline’s ultra-luxurious three-room Residence Class also being reactivated.
Other initial routes for the A380 are likely to include Paris Charles de Gaule and Sydney, although this has not yet been confirmed.
Former Etihad chief executive Tony Douglas seemed less than keen on bringing back the A380 and had pushed the airline’s sustainability credentials by building Etihad’s fleet around fuel-efficient aircraft like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350-1000.
New CEO Antonoaldo Neves, however, said the airline had “decided the time is right” to return the A380 to service because demand was so strong that it was no financially viable to do so.
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.