Etihad CEO: The A380 Has Two Engines Too Many

While Etihad Group CEO Tony Douglas has left a tiny window of possibility for the A380 to be reactivated with his airline, he has also been saying for months that the type was not commercially feasible. During a late-August interview with Simple Flying, Douglas laid out his reasons for why the superjumbo should be put to rest for good.

Etihad Airways, Airbus A380, Return
Etihad’s entire A380 fleet has been sent to long-term storage in two European locations. Photo: Getty Images

Two engines too many

As part of our ongoing “Future Flying” series, Simple Flying was honored to have a chance to speak with Etihad Group CEO Tony Douglas at the end of August. During the hour-long discussion about the status of his airline, the group chief was asked about his airline’s fleet of Airbus A380 superjumbos. Etihad has (or had) 10 of these aircraft in its fleet, with all of them now sitting in long-term storage across two sites in France and Spain.

While has now moved these 10 aircraft to the “Historic” column, Douglas acknowledged that there was still a very slim chance that the jet could return home to Abu Dhabi and go back into active service.

At the same time, during the same interview, Douglas laid out his reasons for keeping the A380s grounded, saying:

“The simple reality is: anything with more than two engines simply doesn’t work. It hasn’t [worked] for almost half a generation now – and it certainly doesn’t anymore, because the cost of operation, the fuel burn, is simply no longer competitive or even close to being competitive.”

Etihad, Airbus A380, Teruel
Etihad Airways had some of the most luxurious cabins in the industry onboard its A380s. . Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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Previous-generation powerplants

Douglas goes on to say that, in addition to having two engines too many, the A380’s existing engines are a generation behind. This is especially the case when compared to the most modern of powerplants that are fitted on to newer and more efficient twinjets today.

“…the aircraft is handicapped by two engines too many, and also a generation of engine design, which is way behind the modern era engines that power today, the likes of 787 and A350 in particular.” -Tony Douglas, CEO, Etihad Group

Etihad CEO: The A380 Has Two Engines Too Many
The 787 is now the backbone of Etihad’s long-haul operations. Photo: Getty Images

Mourning the loss of the giant

In discussing why his airline isn’t operating the superjumbo, Douglas acknowledged the fact that the decision will disappoint many of Etihad’s customers:

“….we’re desperately disappointed to no longer have 380 operational in our fleet. From a guest experience standpoint, it’s outstanding. And for all of you who’ve been onboard in particular, the Etihad A380, you’ve probably acknowledged that it represented the absolute pinnacle of presentational standard and customer service.”

Outside of interviews, Etihad as an airline has removed the A380 from its website completely. While this is far from an “official announcement,” it’s a symbolic gesture that will properly set customer expectations for an aircraft other than the A380.

Etihad A380
The A380 is quickly becoming a rarity in the skies. Photo: Airbus

It would be nice to live in a world that would allow for an easy and simple retrofit of existing Airbus A380s to have two large and efficient engines instead of four. Sadly, it isn’t a modification that is desired nor profitable in today’s climate.

Do you think we’ll ever see an aircraft as large as the A380 ever again, but with two engines? Let us know in the comments.