Etihad Adds Seoul As Only Its 6th Airbus A380 Destination

a row of chairs on a plane
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Unlike Emirates (an airline which has more A380 aircraft than most other airlines put together) Etihad has just 10 Airbus A380s and right now those aircraft serve just 5 of Etihad’s worldwide destinations. From July the airline is adding a 6th – Seoul.

From 1 July 2019 Etihad will swap out the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner that it currently operates to/from Seoul with an Airbus A380.

The currently posted schedule looks like this:

EY876 AUH 22:05 – 11:35+1 day ICN (Daily)
EY873 ICN 01:00 – 05:45 AUH (Daily)

The 486-seat aircraft will offer the following cabin configuration:

  • The Residence
  • 9 First Class “Apartments”
  • 70 “Business Studio” Business Class seats
  • 80 “Economy Space” Economy Class seats (extra legroom)
  • 325 Regular Economy Class seats

The Business Class seats on the Dreamliner are very similar (almost identical) to the Business Class seats on the A380 so Business Class passengers won’t notice much difference (although the A380 will offer 38 more Business Class seats than the Dreamliner)….

a seat in a plane
Etihad A380 Business Class

…..but the larger aircraft will also offer a First Class cabin which is noticeably absent from the 787.

a bed in a plane
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment

There’s further good news in the Economy Class cabin where passengers will find 80 “Economy Space” seats which each offer up to 36″ of legroom and, although the Etihad 787-10s are being refitted to include Economy Space seats this year, the Dreamliner definitely won’t be offering as many such seats as the A380.

How & Why Is Etihad Doing This?

Etihad hasn’t taken delivery of any more A380s so the aircraft that will be operating this route is being pulled from elsewhere – specifically this A380 is being pulled from one of the two daily flights the airline operates between Abu Dhabi and Sydney.

From 1/2 July Etihad will go to employing a 777-300ER for one of its daily flights to/from Sydney….

a screenshot of a flight schedule

…and this is an unfortunate downgrade.

The Etihad 777-300ER offers an inferior First Class cabin (worse seats and no shower), an inferior Business Class cabin (worse seats) and an inferior Economy Class cabin (less width and legroom) than the A380 so it will be important to choose carefully if booking flights between Abu Dhabi and Sydney.

I have to admit that I wasn’t very sure why Etihad was choosing to move its A380 to the Seoul route from July but the following extract from the press release offers a possible reason:

“The UAE and South Korea are major trade partners and the UAE is the largest importer of South Korean goods in the Middle East and Africa and the value of trade between the two countries is valued at approximately US$ 15 billion annually. It is estimated that over 200,000 Korean tourists now visit the country each year.”

With that information in mind the aircraft swap makes sense as the A380 can carry more cargo and more people and, presumably, Etihad has seen the demand for both on the Seoul route and realised that it’s A380 would work well there.

Bottom Line

This is good news for anyone wishing to visit Seoul by transiting Abu Dhabi (or even by starting out in Abu Dhabi) but it’s also very good news for anyone looking to get good value out of their American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

A oneway Business Class award between Abu Dhabi and Seoul (flight time of between 8.5 and 9.5 hours) costs just 40,000 AAdvantage Miles while a First Class award costs just 50,000 miles and that value is pretty hard to beat.