The Boeing 787: The Efficient Backbone Of The Etihad Fleet

After one of the most difficult years in Aviation history, airlines around the world are now looking to the future. For Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad this means placing a lot of faith in one aircraft in particular – the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. We’ve examined how the Dreamliner could help Etihad’s recovery and position for a better future.

Etihad Being dreamliner
Etihad has invested heavily in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which will form at least 50% of its fleet. Photo: Etihad

Etihad is one of the world’s largest operators of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. After two more deliveries in 2020, it now has a fleet of 39 Dreamliners with an average age of just over six years. The aircraft has been described by the airline as the “backbone” of its fleet, and it will continue to form the main part of the airline’s fleet for the foreseeable future. By 2023 the Dreamliner will form at least 50% of its fleet.

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Etihad’s Dreamliner investment

The airline’s decision to use the Dreamliner as its fleet’s focal point is based on the new aircraft’s efficiency, range, and cargo space. Etihad uses the 787-9 and 787-10; both are some of the world’s most fuel-efficient aircraft. This, of course, lowers operating costs and helps Etihad meet ever more demanding environmental rules.

Rising fuel costs have been the downfall of multiple airlines over the past year, so those like Etihad that operate newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft are starting to reap the rewards of investing in modern technology.

In addition to being more fuel-efficient and therefore reducing operating costs, the Dreamliner has the perfect range to complement Etihad’s network. The 787-9 has a range of 7,530 NM (13,950 km), while the 787-10 has a range of 6,345 NM (11,750 km).

With its main hub in the United Arab Emirates, Etihad is ideally placed to use its Dreamliners to connect Europe with Asia, Australia, and the US through the Middle East.

Etihad Airbus A380 future
The future of the airline’s larger A380s is in question. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

What does the Dreamliner mean for Etihad?

Etihad’s decision to use the smaller Dreamliner seems to be casting doubt on the future of its larger A380s which may not return to service. Etihad CEO Tony Douglas believes that shorter routes will recover faster and will see increased demand over the coming years.

By focussing on shorter, point to point routes, Etihad is separating itself from its neighboring carriers, Emirates and Qatar Airways, which have found success connecting the furthers corners of the planet through Middle Eastern hubs.

Another option for Etihad would be to strengthen its network across Africa. Previously the airline operates a few flights to key destinations such as Johannesburg, Casablanca, and Cairo. Compared to other carriers like Emirates, Etihad offers fewer options.

Etihad, Kids Fly Free, Abu Dhabi
Etihad was struggling financially before the pandemic struck and relied on state aid to keep it in the sky. Photo: Getty Images

Can Etihad make a profit with the Dreamliner?

It’s no secret that Etihad hasn’t had the healthiest finances for the past few years. The state-owned carrier has been relying on outside funding for several years as its losses add up year after year, and that was before the pandemic. But Etihad had been looking to make changes before the pandemic forced its hand.

With a small workforce and new Dreamliners, Etihad is hopeful it will start making a profit within the next few years. The airline has slowly been reducing its losses year on year and now hopes it can get out of the red and into the black with its modern fleet of fuel-efficient Dreamliners. Only time will tell if the new aircraft will help the airline’s finances.

What do you think of Etihad’s investment in the Dreamliner? Do you think the airline can start making a profit again? Should it retire its A380s for good? Let us know what you think in the comments.