In May, Etihad Airways started moving its unused Airbus A350-1000s from storage in France to its facilities at Abu Dhabi International for the first time in two years. In an exclusive interview with Simple Flying, the carrier’s CEO, Tony Douglas, explained that his company is gearing up to enter the widebody into service next year.
A slow introduction
In February 2019, Etihad decided to cut back orders on several of its aircraft. 42 A350s and two A350-1000s were part of the agreed contract terminations. Nonetheless, the A350 will still be a key feature in the airline’s fleet in the near future.
According to ch-aviation, Etihad has four Airbus A350s stored and another one sitting at Bordeaux Mérignac. Units have been ready to take on since the summer of 2019. However, they only started being ferried to Etihad’s facilities this year.
With the shifting of the planes to the Middle East, progress is on its way. There are high hopes for the cabin fit, and Douglas is excited for passengers to see it for themselves. After the A350’s introduction, it will support other widebodies, such as the airline’s staple, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, on long-haul missions.
“We accepted our first two into Abu Dhabi just three months ago to undertake the cabin fit-out and configuration. We have a large-scale MRO here, Etihad Engineering. Not surprisingly, I’ve been in the first one, and the product is absolutely incredible, as you would all expect from Etihad. We’ll look to schedule those into service probably next year,” Douglas told Simple Flying.
“But, of course, dependent upon travel restrictions, because at the moment, what we’ve really tried to do wherever possible, is hunker down just around 787 given the scale of our availability to that fleet type, and the way in which of course we can optimize it when passenger load factors are low. Having said that, the two aircraft types, with the way they complement each, we’ve obviously got range and additional load with the 350.
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The right balance
In total, Etihad presently has 30 787-9 and nine 787-10 aircraft in its fleet. These aircraft, along with the A350, are fan favorites in the aviation industry. Airlines are increasingly focusing on these two types to make them flagships across their operations. Etihad is privileged to have both powerhouses at its disposal, and Douglas is grateful for this factor and highlights that they help his firm meet sustainability requirements.
The executive emphasizes that the efficiency of the jets will be a difference-maker in terms of those that will succeed in the post-pandemic climate. He is confident that there will be an end to the global health crisis, but sustainability will be at the forefront of aviation for generations.
Overall, Etihad customers won’t have to wait too long to jump on an A350-1000 with the carrier. As international travel slowly gets back on track, 2022 is set to be a crucial year for the airline.
What are your thoughts about Etihad’s Airbus A350 aircraft? Are you excited about the plane entering service next year? Let us know what you think of the type and its prospects with the airline in the comment section.