The process of retraining crews and returning them to piloting the world's largest aircraft, the A380, could be a major sign that the Abu Dhabi-based airline will return the double-decker superjumbo to the sky in in the very near future.
Like many airlines, Etihad has suspended its fleet of 10 A380 aircraft. This happened at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, when the number of passengers fell and the UAE closed its borders.
In the end, Etihad sent its A380s into deep storage at special facilities in France and Spain, where they were supposed to be “indefinitely.” What's more, then-CEO Tony Douglas warned that they might never take to the skies again.
For Douglas, the voracious four-engine A380 consumed too much kerosene, an expense hard to justify. Especially when the airline was trying to make up for a massive $1.87 billion loss.
At the same time, Douglas was trying to improve Etihad's reputation for sustainability by focusing the airline's future on the much more efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350. Despite the fact that the A380 was popular with passengers, it simply did not fit into the vision of the airline's management.
But with demand showing no signs of slowing down and a large number of new aircraft piling up around the world, it appears that Etihad has decided to reopen at least part of its A380 fleet.
However, Etihad has already sold four of its A380s, leaving six , which can theoretically be returned to operation. It remains to be seen, however, whether Etihad will bring back its luxurious three-room residence suite layout.
As for potential routes for the A380, London's Heathrow, Paris's Charles de Gaulle, and Australia's Sydney are most likely to return.
There is no official confirmation from the carrier yet on any issue regarding the future of the A380.
Many Airbus A380 operators have taken the giants out of service during the pandemic, including Air France and Singapore Airways, although Emirates remains committed to its A380s, and British Airways has already returned to the skies its entire fleet of 12 Superjumbo.
Lufthansa plans to restart some of its A380s next year. Qatar Airways continues to operate the aircraft despite Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker calling the A380 one of his biggest mistakes.