Etihad Airways is not yet ready to fully close the door on the world’s largest passenger plane, the Airbus A380.
CEO Tony Douglas told Insider that market conditions may warrant temporarily relaunching the plane.
However, sustainability is a key objective for the airline and any A380 return would be short-lived.
The aviation industry is divided on what to do with the Airbus A380 now that travel is rebounding and travelers are expecting the luxury offered before the COVID-19 pandemic on their flights.
Once a status symbol for the world’s airlines, the world’s largest passenger plane was a drain on private passenger airlines at the start of the pandemic. But the bleak outlook of the early days of the pandemic turned into a throwback story as airlines began to relaunch their A380s.
By the end of the year, six airlines will use the A380 including Emirates, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Korean Air and China Southern Airlines, with airlines like Qantas planning to resume A380 flights in 2022.
All airlines will no longer fly the A380 like the tastes of Air France, Malaysia Airlines, Lufthansa and Thai Airways permanently returned their A380s.
Etihad Airways, however, is not quite ready to shut the door on its A380s completely. CEO Tony Douglas told Insider during the Dubai Airshow in November that it is possible that the plane will fly again under the Etihad brand, but only if certain market conditions are met.
“If the economy works, they’re back,” Douglas said of restoring his fleet of 10 Airbus A380s from their current long-term storage. “The traveling public, our guests, love them, love the way we have presented it through our first class, our ‘Residence’, our business class and our economy [class.]”
The familiar statement from Douglas reveals the challenge airlines face with the A380. Airlines and Airbus often brag about how happy passengers are to fly the A380Given the abundance of space in all cabins which allows for products not found on small aircraft.
Travel demand is “exploding like a fire hydrant right now,” Douglas said, but consistently filling 496 seats is the challenge Etihad faces.
“For 18 months, [the A380s are] because the economy is not working,” Douglas said. The market has only really come back in the last two months, it’s probably too early to tell.”
Travel restrictions still hamper leisure and business travel in countries formerly served by air. From Abu Dhabi, Etihad A380s have flown to destinations including London, Paris, New York, Sydney and Seoul, South Korea.
“I would never say never, but they’re not in the plan right now,” Douglas said. “If the economy doesn’t work, I’m not a registered charity, they’re out.”
Ultra-premium travelers stand to lose the most, because removing the A380 means removing The Residence cabin. Only available on the A380, travelers could book $20,000 private apartments at The Residence with a bedroom, a living room and a butler.
Any return of the A380 would be limited until Etihad can expand its Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350-1000 XWB twin-engine fleets, both of which are the new backbone as part of a plan to simplify and fleet renewal. Sustainability is a primary goal for Etihad going forward and the Airbus A380 cannot co-exist with the airline’s green future in the long term.
“If I ever intended to bring them back, it would have to be justified in terms of volume and yield, but then it would only be a stopgap until we take more deliveries of these,” Douglas, pointing to models of the Boeing and Airbus planes, said. “Because as soon as I have them, then I can do the same job much more efficiently.”
Read the original article at Business Intern