Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways is weighing on options regarding Boeing and Airbus orders. The state-owned carrier is uncertain concerning the future of around 50 A320neo and B777X orders. Under the new restructuring plan, the airline is still evaluating the options over the aircraft ordered by previous management. The CEO Tony Douglas stated that Etihad was currently focused on ‘sustainable growth and that the aircraft manufacturers couldn’t confirm the date of aircraft delivery and recovery of the air travel market.
The Emirati flag carrier’s uncertainty over aircraft orders can impact billions of dollars of aircraft sales. The complexity of making final decisions on whether to keep these aircraft has risen with ambiguity over deliveries of jets and rejuvenation of the market. The airline has three years to give the final decision on whether it will follow through on its order for 26 A321 neos and even more time for 25 777Xs.
Outstanding Airbus and Boeing jet orders
Etihad’s previous management, led by James Hogan, had placed firm orders with both Airbus and Boeing as part of its fleet modernization strategy. At Dubai Air Show 2013, Etihad has signed a contract with both aerospace giants. The US25.2 billion agreement with Boeing included seventeen B777-9xs and eight B777-8xs, making Etihad, the launch customer of this type. A deal for twenty-six A321-200Ns was placed with Airbus to rapidly expand the airline and compete with major Gulf airlines such as Emirates and Qatar Airways.
New Management under Tony Douglas
As Etihad continued its transformation into a mid-sized carrier, it reshuffled its top management team to meet the challenges of the global downturn in aviation head-on. The carrier adjusted its business to continue to deliver on its mandate in the wake of COVID-19, ensuring long-term sustainability and contribution to the growth and prominence of Abu Dhabi. Tony Douglas, the Group CEO of Etihad Aviation Group, led the new management to streamline the organizational structure.
The restructuring also saw the no. of adjustments in a fleet of widebody aircraft as the airline hesitated to continue its previous aircraft orders. It grounded its 10 Airbus A380s as the pandemic started to hit the passenger market. Once the market comes back sustainably, the carrier will scale up the fleet plans. As for now, Etihad has already planned to phase out five 777-300ER jets while continuing to take deliveries of Airbus A350-100 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It has already received five of 15 ordered A350-100s. An additional plan to trim the existing 30-strong A320 fleet to half is being made to focus on profitable routes.
B777X cancellation-How will Boeing react?
Etihad’s order for Boeing aircraft comprises Dreamliners and 777Xs. Regarding 777X, a total of 25 (eight 777-8 and seventeen 777-9) unit orders have been made that account for almost 10% of the total order for this model. It will be a major blow for Boeing in the event of B777X cancellation as the American manufacturer will lose about 10% of that type of order. Meanwhile, Etihad is the only customer of Boeing B777-8 unit alongside Emirates and Qatar Airways.
For Airbus, the cancellation of twenty-six A321 neo won’t make a large difference as A350-100 deliveries are less in doubt.
The current fleet of Etihad Airways
Currently, Etihad has 93 jet-powered airliners consisting of both Airbus and Boeing as per its website. It has twenty Airbus A320-200, ten A321-200s, nineteen B777-300(ERs), five B777-200Fs in its fleet with a firm order for eleven B787-9s and 21 B787-10s Dreamliner to make them the backbone of its fleet.
Delayed operations of Boeing 777X
Boeing’s new version of a large twin-engine jet, B777X, won’t enter into the service until 2023, as confirmed by Boeing’s announcement. The newest plane’s debut was supposed to be in 2019, was postponed because of weaker demand and increased certification requirements amid the COVID pandemic. Additional regulatory scrutiny in the wake of two fatal Max crashes and less demand for new jets has pushed back the delivery of 777X, making it easier for customers to cancel the orders.
777X is the latest series of Boeing 777 family powered by new GE9X engines, featuring new composite wings, greater cabin width, and superior efficiency, built on passenger-preferred 777.
About Etihad Airways
Etihad Airways is an Abu-Dhabi-based airline operating passengers and cargo flights to the extensive network of more than 65 destinations across the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. It is one of the top middle-eastern airlines in the world, known for its seamless passenger connectivity and sophisticated aircraft fleet.