Etihad Moves Unused A350 Out Of Storage After 2 Years

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has moved the first of its five new Airbus A350-1000s from Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport (BOD) to its mega-hub at Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH). When the Gulf carrier first started taking its A350s two years ago, it immediately flew them from Toulouse to Bordeaux, where they have remained in storage.

Etihad Airbus A350-1000
Etihad is finally flying its A350s to Abu Dhabi. Photo: Photo Dylan Abagni via Flickr

In response to questions from New York City-based Bloomberg News about what route the plane would be put on, a spokesperson for the state-owned airline said:

“The introduction date of the aircraft’s entry into service is yet to be determined as part of the airline’s broader strategy planning.”

Etihad had lofty ambitions

Etihad had lofty ambitions from its inception and thought it could compete with Emirates and Qatar Airways by offering a similar hub and spoke model out of Abu Dhabi. The truth of the matter was that no matter how aggressively it tried, it would always have to play catch up with the competition.

While analysts could see the logic of Etihad’s ambitious plan, they were scratching their heads at the decision to partner with Jet Airways, AirBerlin, and Alitalia. All now defunct except for Alitalia, which had to be taken over by the Italian Government.

A change of tack

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic brought aviation to its knees in 2020, Etihad knew that it needed to cut back if it was ever to make a profit. The first thing it did was cancel orders with Airbus and Boeing for 42 A350-900s, two A350-1000s, and 19 Boeing 777Xs.

F- WXAD - Airbus A350-1000 - Etihad Airways
The A350s are in storage at Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport (BOD) in France. Photo: Dylan Agbagni via Flickr

When speaking about a corporate shakeup and a new direction for the airline in November 2020, Gulf Business quotes Etihad Aviation Group chief executive officer Tony Douglas as saying:

“After our best-ever Q1 performance, none of us could have predicted the challenges that lay ahead in the remainder of this year.

“As a responsible business, we can no longer continue to incrementally adapt to a marketplace that we believe has changed for the foreseeable future. That is why we are taking definitive and decisive action to adjust our business and position ourselves proudly as a mid-sized carrier.

“The first stage of this is an operational model change that will see us restructure our senior leadership team and our organization to allow us to continue delivering on our mandate, ensuring long-term sustainability, and contributing to the growth and prominence of Abu Dhabi.”

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Etihad A380s may not be coming back.

Once it became apparent that the pandemic was not going away anytime soon, Etihad decided to ground its fleet of ten Airbus A380s. Since then, many A380 operators have decided to retire the bigs jets early and move towards large twin-engine planes. In a sign that Etihad might be doing the same, last month Etihad removed the A380 from its website.

With codeshare partner Air Arabia Abu Dhabi up and running, it also negates the need for many of Etihad’s short-haul routes, allowing them to concentrate more on long-haul and their new bespoke charter service.

Etihad Airways Airbus A380
Etihad’s A380s will not be coming back. Photo: Getty Images

As for the A350s, the obvious choice is to put them on the old A380 routes but seeing as Etihad has not said how it plans to use them, we will have to wait and see.

What routes do you think Etihad would be wise to deploy the A350s on? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.