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The Etihad Airbus A380 is home to the most opulent way of traveling on a commercial airliner (The Residence), one of the world’s best First Class seats (the Etihad First Class Suite) and it’s only one of two commercial aircraft to offer an onboard shower. Sadly, if you were hoping to try out any of these indulgences you won’t be doing so any time soon.
Most of Etihad’s A380s have been grounded since the current crisis started to take hold in March of this year (at least one of these aircraft has flown a few cargo flights since then) but the airline has, up until now, continued to show the A380 in its schedules for various routes next year. Not any more.
Over the weekend that’s just gone, Etihad removed all mention of the A380 from its schedules, and on the 5 routes that the A380 was supposed to operate from the end of March 2021, Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners have now appeared. These are the routes in question (HT: Routes Online):
- Abu Dhabi – London Heathrow
- Abu Dhabi – New York JFK
- Abu Dhabi – Paris CDG
- Abu Dhabi – Seoul Incheon
- Abu Dhabi – Sydney
A the beginning of this month, comments by the Etihad CEO appeared to suggest that the days of seeing A380s in Etihad livery were numbered when he said that the aircraft was “heavily handicapped by two engines too many, and other aircraft that can do the job far more efficiently, far more sustainably.” Now, with the A380 no longer anywhere to be seen in Etihad’s schedules and with the aviation industry predicting a slump for the next 2 – 3 years, there’s every reason to wonder if yet another airline is about to bid farewell to its Whale Jets.
Air France has already retired all of its A380s, Qatar Airways says it doesn’t know when or if its A380s will fly again, Qantas has sent all of its A380s into storage (some very far away from home), Lufthansa has confirmed that its A380s are being mothballed for an indefinite period of time, and even Singapore Airlines is reviewing the A380s position in its fleet. Considering most of these airlines are in a stronger position than Etihad (it’s all relative!), it’s hard to envisage a situation in which it makes sense for Etihad to keep its 10 A380s.
Emirates is an outlier in all of this (its latest schedule shows it operating up to 19 routes with A380s in Summer 2021) but then Emirates is the world’s largest A380 operator with over 100 aircraft, and that’s more A380s than all the airlines I mentioned above have put together. The likes of Air France, Lufthansa, and Etihad can easily substitute some of the more efficient aircraft in their fleets (A350s, 787s, etc…) for the comparatively small number of A380s they’re retiring or keeping on the sidelines. With 115 A380s, and only Boeing 777s as an alternative, Emirates doesn’t have that luxury. Because of this, it may not be long before Emirates is the only commercial A380 operator in the world.
For the first time, Etihad has removed all mention of its A380s from the schedules and, given its financial position and the current aviation crisis, it’s hard to see the aircraft returning any time soon. In all likelihood, and in the absence of any miraculous recovery in the travel industry, the reality is that we have probably seen that last of Etihad’s A380s.