Although many airlines have sought to bring back the A380 thanks to surging travel demand, Etihad’s superjumbos remain parked. Four are resting their wings in Tarbes, France, while six are in the Spanish storage site at Teruel. The question has frequently been asked – will Etihad bring back the superjumbo? – and every time, the answer is suitably vague so as not to commit the airline in either direction.
But a recent report from Simple Flying interview with the airline’s CFO confirms there’s still a chance… Given its strong performance in the first half of the year, and its reportedly almost full planes, could it be time to rethink its decision?
Chief Financial Officer Adam Boukadida, speaking exclusively to Simple Flying, responded, “The answer is “who knows?” I haven’t said today that we’re not going to, and I’m not going to say today that we’re going to…If it makes financial sense to do so, then for sure we’d look at it, but at the moment we’re not planning to do so. What we are doing, and we continue to do, is to review the business case on a very frequent basis.”
Key Etihad airports like Heathrow and Paris CDG, for example, are still oversubscribed and slot controlled. Arriving with a supersized aircraft to scoop up the maximum number of passengers on limited slot access would still be of benefit to the airline. In terms of demand, things are moving in a very healthy direction. At the half-year point, Etihad’s load factors were above 75%, and cabins were even fuller over the summer. Boukadida commented, “That number has been exceeded for July and definitely for August; it’s a little bit too early for me to talk about, but no surprise if we’re going to be late 80s 90% load factor for the month of August.”
But of course, it’s not just filling the planes that is a consideration for Etihad. As Boukadida explained, other variables include the overall yield on the price of a ticket – which would also be determined by fuel prices – and with a four engine “heavy”, it’s a lot more costly than a much more efficient 787 or A350. With fuel prices the way they are right now and Etihad on track to produce its first profitable full year in a long time, it’s unlikely the airline will want to risk upsetting its progress, at least in the short term.
There’s no doubt that the Etihad Airbus A380 is a crowd pleaser: In addition to a spacious and quiet cabin even in economy class, the real cherry on top was “The Residence” – a three-room “apartment.” This suite came with an ensuites shower room, a private bedroom, a separate living area, and even a butler!
At $23,000 one way, it was not something many fliers ever got to experience, but it was a very unique offering that no other A380 operator attempted to match. Whether the A380 will ever return to the Etihad fleet remains to be seen, but the message is clear – it’s not completely written off yet. For now, the focus is on efficiency, and keeping its books in the black.
Would you like to see Eithad’s superjumbos back in the sky? Let us know in the comments!