Etihad Airbus A380 Leaves Abu Dhabi For Long Term Storage

On Friday morning, the latest in a row of Etihad Airways A380s left Abu Dhabi International Airport, heading for long-term storage in Europe. Having removed the type entirely from its website, Etihad is now in the process of sending the remaining of its young superjumbo fleet west and to a very uncertain future.

Etihad Airbus A380 Leaves Abu Dhabi For Long Term Storage
Etihad is sending another of its Airbus A380 aircraft to long-term storage. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Month-long procession to Spain

The fate of Etihad’s superjumbos has been hanging in the balance over the past year. The airline’s ten A380s have not operated any revenue services since March. When speaking at a conference last month Etihad’s CEO, Tony Douglas, expressed that he no longer saw the Giant of the Skies as commercially viable.

In keeping with that sentiment, Etihad A380s have been making their way from Abu Dhabi to long-term storage. April 19th saw the arrival of A6-APG at Teruel in Spain, having made the seven-hour-long journey from the UAE to most likely never return. About a week later, A6-APJ came to keep it company. On May 11th, they were joined by A6-APD. On Friday morning, A6-APF took off from Abu Dhabi Airport at 10:10 local time, most likely heading their way.

At the time of writing, A6-APF was heading northwest over Europe, just entering Bulgarian airspace. No destination has been declared, so we shall have to wait for confirmation on where it will touch down. In all probability, it is heading for Teruel. Furthermore, it is unlikely it will come back into service with Etihad as the airline has removed all mention of the A380 from its fleet description on the website.

Simple Flying has reached out to Etihad Airways for confirmation on the flight’s destination but was yet to receive a response at the time of publication.

Etihad, Airbus A380, Retirement
Etihad has sent four of its A380s to Lourdes in France. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Divided between Lourdes and Teruel

According to data from ch-aviation, the other six of Etihad’s A380s are stored at two different locations. A6-APA is at Lourdes/Tarbes Pyrénées in the south of France since November 2020, along with A6-APB, A6-APC, and A6-API. This leaves only A6-APE and A6-APH still in Abu Dhabi. If the recent trend is anything to go by, they might not remain for very long.

The youngest of the Etihad A380s is only just over four years old. Photo: Getty Images

Youngest fleet retirement ever?

While the retirement of Air France’s A380s felt extraordinary as the double-deckers were only of an average age of just over nine years, Etihad is waving goodbye to planes even newer. The airline’s first A380 was only delivered in 2014.

The last, and therefore youngest, only arrived in Abu Dhabi in 2017. Given the current situation and everything we are able to discern from Etihad, this means that a mere four-year-old state-of-the-art aircraft outfitted with a Residence Suite, nine first class Apartments, and 70 business suites will, in all likelihood, never fly again. A6-APF, currently on its way over Europe, is just over five and a half.

Do you think Etihad is making a mistake in letting go of its A380s? Did you ever fly on one of the airline’s Giants? Leave a comment below and let us know.