Etihad Makes Huge Cuts to Widebody Aircraft Orders

Feb 15, 2019

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Just six years ago Etihad Airways was on the fast track to becoming a serious global airline player, it had placed orders for dozens of aircraft and was investing in airlines around the world to build out its partner network and potentially build an airline alliance of its own. But the recent times have not treated the carrier well — its run into serious financial issues, and many of the airlines it bankrolled fell apart or declared bankruptcy.

Etihad’s continually worked on cutting costs in an effort to tide the losses, and we’ve just seen another iteration of that — the airline has essentially canceled 76 orders for widebody aircraft, Reuters reports.

The Abu Dhabi based airline reportedly “restructured” its orders with both Boeing and Airbus, and the airline says it will now receive just a sliver of what it originally ordered.

The airline said it has “committed” to take delivery of just five Airbus A350-1000s, that’s down from the 40 A350-900s and 22 A350-1000s it had on order from European airline manufacturer.

Boeing had secured 25 orders from Etihad for its soon to be released 777X aircraft — specifically eight 777-8s and 17 777-9s. Etihad negotiated that down to just six 777-9s.

Less was revealed about its Boeing 787s, 29 of which are already in its fleet. Etihad reportedly has 43 more Dreamliners on order that were part of its original plan. It did not cancel any of the 26 A321neos it had on order.

An Etihad 787. Image by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.

The airline currently has a fleet of 112 aircraft, which includes 10 A380s — a plane without a bright future as Airbus just announced its ending the superjumbo program. In addition to its Dreamliners and A380s, its widebody fleet is rounded out by 16 Airbus A330s and 25 Boeing 777s.

Etihad told Reuters that it had “reached agreements with Airbus and Boeing to not disclose details of the order changes.” Etihad isn’t publicly canceling these orders, but by only committing to taking delivery of 37 aircraft out of the original 113 (not including the Dreamliners), it’s silently communicating that it’s seriously downsizing its growth plans.

We’ve reached out to Etihad for comment regarding its fleet plans but have yet to receive a response.

Emirates, an Etihad competitor and much larger airline, is headquartered in Dubai less than 75 miles away from Abu Dhabi. Etihad attempted to compete with Emirates and build up Abu Dhabi as a connecting hub, flying passengers to long-haul destinations around the world.
Both airlines are government owned, but rumors have swirled that the airlines will one day merge, and reports emerged in September that Emirates was eyeing a takeover.

Etihad had reported losses of more than $3.5 billion over the last two years — responding by cutting routes, flight frequencies and employees to reduce costs.

Etihad is a TPG staff and reader favorite. Its premium cabins offer some of the best products in the sky.

The Etihad First Class Apartment. Image by JT Genter / The Points Guy.

It has one of the less talked about but more valuable loyalty currencies out there are. TPG values Etihad Guest Miles at 1.4 cents each, and the program has some great sweet spots for redemptions with partners like American Airlines and Royal Air Maroc. You can transfer points from Capital One, Citi Thank You and Amex Memberships Rewards to Etihad Guest.

The airline may be best known for its opulence, notably the ultra-lux Etihad Residence, which features a private bedroom, sitting room, and shower.

Featured image by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy.

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