Etihad’s Entire A380 Fleet Has Now Operated Ghost Flights

Etihad Airways’ entire fleet of Airbus A380 aircraft has taken to the skies within the last month. The airline’s fleet of 10 Airbus A380s hadn’t operated a passenger flight since March 24th, when the airline was forced to halt operations due to a government flight ban.

Etihad Airways, Airbus A380, Airbus A350
Etihad’s entire fleet of Airbus A380s has flown in the past month. Photo: Getty Images

The Airbus A380 has become a rare sight in the skies as of late. Except for China Southern, no airlines have been using the type for regularly scheduled service for around three months. However, the fact that they haven’t been flying passengers hasn’t meant the world’s fleet was entirely grounded. Indeed, we’ve seen many storage, maintenance, and training flights with the type since then. Now, with the completion of a 40-minute flight yesterday, the whole A380 fleet has been flown within the last month.

A whole fleet flying

The entirety of the Etihad fleet has flown for at least 18 minutes in the past month according to data from FlightRadar24.com. The data shows that since the United Arab Emirates flight ban began, the aircraft have only flown for around five hours combined.

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A6-APH has had the most love out of the entire fleet, clocking up 1 hour and 14 minutes of flight time across two flights. Meanwhile, the remaining aircraft have each only flown once, mainly in mid-June.

Etihad, Airbus A380, Flights
Etihad’s most recent Airbus A380 flight. Photo: FlightRadar24.com

According to data from FlightRadar24.com, the following flights have been carried out by the airline’s A380 fleet since it was removed from passenger service in late March:

AircraftDate of flight(s)Length of flight(s)
A6-APAJune 15th0:27
A6-APBJune 16th0:21
A6-APCJune 17th0:26
A6-APDJune 18th0:29
A6-APEJune 12th0:21
A6-APFJune 13th0:30
A6-APGJune 12th0:18
A6-APHApril 6th, July 6th0:35, 0:39
A6-APIJune 19th0:21
A6-APJJune 14th0:31

Why has the airline been flying its Airbus A380s?

Etihad hasn’t been flying its A380s with passengers onboard for over three months now. The airline has two options concerning its fleet. It could either put it in long term storage as Qantas is in the process of doing, or it can keep it in short term storage, so it is reasonably easy to reactivate when needed.

Etihad Airways plane Getty Images
The aircraft are being kept active for their return to service. Photo: Getty Images

Etihad has opted for the latter of the two choices. As such, it needs to fly its aircraft at regular intervals to meet the criteria of short term storage. We previously saw this with Ryanair’s fleet operating ghost flights. This is the case here, as an Etihad spokesperson confirmed to Simple Flying that the trips were related to maintenance. We previously explored how Etihad is looking after its fleet during this downtime.

Could we see Etihad’s A380s back in the skies?

It’s impossible to say with certainty either way. However, it looks as though the fleet is safe for the time being. There was a worry earlier in the crisis that Etihad would scrap the A380. The airline did, however, assure us that they were committed to operating the giant once more.

The fact that Etihad is yet to send the A380 into long term storage is a good sign, as it shows there is a reasonable belief that the aircraft will be back in the skies before too long. However, exactly how long is hard to know. The airline’s rival, Emirates, is planning to relaunch its A380 fleet next week, starting with small steps.

What do you make of Etihad’s A380 flights? Are they a good sign? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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