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Etihad Stays Nimble With Its Fleet Plan

The carrier's CEO Antonoaldo Neves shares the company’s fleet strategy for the coming years.

An Etihad Airways Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

In a recent interview with aeroTelegraph, Etihad’s CEO Antonaldo Neves shared the company’s fleet plan for the next several years.

After a significant restructuring in 2017-2020, Etihad Airways became stronger and more resilient. The active fleet consists of more than 80 frames with an orderbook telling a growth story.

Neves outlined the goals that the future fleet should be able to support. Rather than competing directly with the Middle Eastern giants, he sees Etihad focused on the key growth areas in its region. This would mean four daily flights to most airports in neighboring countries like India, Pakistan, and countries in the GCC region, allowing for more seamless connectivity both ways.

Complementary to such expansion, the carrier would grow operations to farther points like Europe, the U.S. East Coast, or Southeast Asia to double daily. To fulfil such plans, Etihad would need  “around 150 to 160 aircraft,” the CEO mentioned.

Etihad Airways network in June 2024 (Photo: flightconnections.com)

A Strong Backbone With a Nimble Spear

Compared to its pre-2017 fleet, Etihad acquired a significant number of Boeing 787 Dreamliners and five Airbus A350 aircraft. Those are going to be the widebody workhorses for the carrier in the coming years. Complementary to the new frames, the airline still operates Boeing 777-300s and, recently reintroduced, Airbus A380 aircraft. They are well-fitting into serving long-haul markets like the U.S. East Coast or Australia and, in the case of the A380s, also the high-density London Heathrow route.

The Airbus A380 Superjumbo may get to stay longer in the carrier’s fleet with Neves being quoted to leave them till “at least 2032.” By this time the Boeing 777-300 fleet will also need replacement.

Even though Etihad Airways was one of the first carriers to place an order in 2013 for the upcoming Boeing 777X aircraft, now the deal is restructured with the airline being able to get more Boeing 787 Dreamliners instead. This might very well be the case as the CEO doesn’t see the airline ordering back the 777Xs for at least five years now. This move would create a very strong backbone for the carrier of almost 70 Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

The exciting part of Etihad’s fleet plans lies in the narrowbody segment. The entire fleet of the carrier consists of Airbus A320 family airframes, including the A320, A321, and soon-to-be-delivered A321LR. On top of the existing A320/A321 fleet that the carrier has already reactivated, it has secured leases on six new A321neos that were intended for Bamboo Airways in Vietnam but are not being taken by that carrier.

Those are expected to arrive in Abu Dhabi as soon as June and July of this year. The 10 Airbus A321LRs will arrive more gradually with the first expected also in June 2024, according to the CEO. The entire Airbus A320 fleet with allow the carrier great flexibility from short one-hour-long GCC flights up to seven-hour-long routes in Europe and Asia.

Etihad Airways fleet in June 2024 (Photo: Filip Kopec)

Up To 40 Airbus A321LRs

From the outlined future fleet of 150 to 160 planes, Neves sats around 80 to 100 will be widebodies, while 60 to 80 will be narrowbodies, including 30 to 40 A321LRs. The current orderbook seems to be confirming the first part already, but so far there are only 10 Airbus A321LRs on order. Will that change over time? This will probably depend on the performance within the fleet.

The CEO says that the aircraft is expected to be equipped with 144 economy class seats and 16 fully flat business class seats. That will be a significant improvement over the current business class seats mounted in the carrier’s narrowbodies as they do not recline to fully flat. This is foreseen to be a setup similar to JetBlue’s Mint Suite and Mint Studio, with the first rows of seats featuring additional space.

Filip Kopeć

Author

  • Filip Kopeć

    A passionate aviation enthusiast that started off his career as an aerospace engineer, but found his true calling on the commercial side of the airline business. Now as a finance guy among avgeeks and an avgeek among finance guys, he has experience working in the Revenue Divisions of three airlines. In his spare time he enjoys traveling, but admittedly sometimes is more about the journey than the destination.

    View all posts

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