Exploring Etihad: The Progression Of United States Flights

Etihad Airways has served the US for 15 years, with its destinations this year comprising New York JFK, Chicago, and Washington Dulles. While the A340 was crucial to the US in the early days, some seven aircraft types/variants have been used. JFK, historically Etihad’s largest US market, revolves around South Asia – even more than Emirates.

Etihad has made many cuts to its US network in the past few years, hopefully making it stronger going forward. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Etihad’s first flight from Abu Dhabi to the US was in October 2006 with service to New York JFK. That first year, both the A340-500 and the A340-300 were used; remember them? JFK was joined by Chicago in 2009, while Washington Dulles followed in 2013 and San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Dallas in 2014.

This rapid growth meant that Etihad had 1.72 million US seats in 2015, its highest ever volume. However, such quick growth meant that seat load factor (SLF) – and undoubtedly also yields – suffered. From a SLF of 87% in 2012, based on T-100 data from the US DOT, it bottomed out at 75% in 2018, as illustrated below.

Change was needed and it happened. San Francisco ended in 2017 and Dallas in 2018, while JFK and Los Angeles saw big capacity reductions. And now, in 2021, Los Angeles has been cut.

In 2019, Etihad had just a 67% SLF to Los Angeles, the DOT’s T-100 data shows, while JFK, O’Hare, and Dulles all had 78%-85%. As always, SLF is just one part of performance, but it is interesting. Source of data: T-100 and OAG Schedules Analyzer.

Initially, the US was all about the A340

Airbus quads – the A340-300, -500, and -600 – exclusively served the US until 2011. Then, the B777-300ER appeared, followed by the B777-200LR (in 2014), A380 (2015), and B787-9 (2015). Between 2006 and 2020, the B777-300ER was all-important, with over two times as many seats to the US as the second most-used aircraft, the A380.

Etihad’s A340-500s, like the one shown here, played a very important role to the US. Photo: Getty Images.

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Where did Etihad’s New York passengers go?

As with most foreign airlines, including Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines, JFK was Etihad’s largest US market in 2019. It had over 360,000 round-trip seats, OAG data indicates, with a once-daily offering using the A380, a type that entered long-term storage last month.

Around 189,000 round-trip JFK passengers connected over Abu Dhabi. Over eight in ten people transited to South Asia, an even bigger proportion than with Emirates via Dubai. That said, the US to India was Emirates’ largest country-pair, as Simple Flying recently showed.

For Etihad, JFK-India saw nearly 115,000 passengers, or over six in ten of its total. However, it was Lahore, a city in Pakistan, that was Etihad’s leading origin and destination, as follows. The top-10 all involved India or Pakistan.

  1. JFK over Abu Dhabi to Lahore
  2. JFK-Hyderabad
  3. JFK-Delhi
  4. JFK-Mumbai
  5. JFK-Ahmedabad
  6. JFK-Islamabad
  7. JFK-Kochi
  8. JFK-Bangalore
  9. JFK-Chennai
  10. JFK-Karachi
Etihad’s US network now comprises JFK, Chicago, and Washington Dulles. The B787-9 serves them all. Photo: Getty Images.

Etihad to the US this year

In a week in mid-August, Etihad has 21 weekly departures to the US, with seven each to JFK, Chicago, and Dulles. All are bookable and all operated by B787-9s. Only Dulles will see aircraft with first class. The flights depart and arrive Abu Dhabi as follows (all local times), designed as always for connectivity.

  • Chicago: departing at 09:00 and arriving back the next day at 17:35
  • JFK: 09:35,17:50 (+1)
  • Dulles: 10:10, 17:55 (+1)

Hopefully, all of these changes, including earlier network cuts, will mean that Etihad will be a stronger and more sustainable operator to the US as it goes looks to a post-pandemic world.

Have you flown Etihad? What did you think? Let us know by commenting.