While I’d love for this to be true, I still don’t think it’s likely…
Etihad A380s rumored to be returning to service
At the start of the pandemic, Etihad Airways grounded its 10 Airbus A380s. The airline made it pretty clear from early on that the planes likely wouldn’t reenter service. That’s not just because of the impact of the pandemic, but rather Etihad was already trying to radically alter its business plan pre-pandemic, and shrink into more of a boutique and sustainable airline.
Nonetheless Etihad’s management has left the door open for the possibility of an A380 return, with former CEO Tony Douglas being on the record as stating that we should “never say never.”
While I can’t personally vouch for the accuracy of this, Twitter user @MZulqarnainBut1 claims that Etihad has just once again started crew training for the Airbus A380, and that the A380 will be back next year, with dates to be confirmed soon.
I see other sites reporting this with fairly limited skepticism, which to me is surprising. In August 2022, the same Twitter user reported that Etihad is planning on bringing back at least three Airbus A380s, with the intent of flying them to London, Paris, and Sydney. He claimed that more details would be released by the airline in the weeks that followed (which didn’t happen).
Prior to that, in December 2021, the same person claimed that six Etihad A380s would be returning to service “soon.”
In fairness, I’m not trying to doubt that this person heard this information, as airlines do constantly change their plans, especially during these strange times. However, we’ve heard the same rumor from the same person for roughly a year now, which naturally makes me skeptical.
I’m passing this on both because I think it’s worth being skeptical of these claims in general, and also because I think it’s an interesting topic to discuss, as it involves one of my favorite planes. If this were to happen, it would of course mark the return of Etihad’s incredible A380 First Class Apartments, as well as The Residence, a three room suite with butler service.
My take on Etihad A380 rumors
I would of course love for this to be true, since Etihad’s Airbus A380 first class is one of my favorite uses of American AAdvantage miles (admittedly that’s not paying the bills for Etihad).
That being said, I remain highly skeptical, and if I were a betting man, I’d say this won’t happen:
- Yes, travel demand has recovered nicely, and if Etihad were still under the leadership of former CEO James Hogan, the airline would have 100% brought back Airbus A380s
- Etihad’s most recent management team has taken a much more conservative approach, and the airline has managed to shrink into profitability; Etihad now has a new CEO, who also doesn’t seem to be a huge fan of the A380
- The economics of bringing back a small subfleet of Airbus A380s simply doesn’t make sense, since there are also economies of scale involved here, which you don’t get when bringing back just a few planes
- Etihad has now started taking delivery of its Airbus A350-1000s, which are viewed as the carrier’s flagship aircraft
- Etihad will naturally grow in the coming years, as the airline still has 15 A350s on order, plus 32 Boeing 787s (and those deliveries have finally resumed)
- I do think Etihad has gotten a big halo effect from having A380s, given the great onboard product, though again, I don’t buy that this positive marketing necessarily helps the airline make much money
Admittedly we have seen some great A380 news in 2022. In particular, Qatar Airways brought back Airbus A380s, even though the airline was initially going to retire them. However, that was because of the carrier’s issues with A350s, so the airline needed the capacity.
Similarly, Lufthansa is also bringing back its Airbus A380s next summer. That’s because the airline has seen a faster than expected recovery in demand, combined with the continued delay of the Boeing 777X.
It’s being reported that Etihad has once again started crew training for the Airbus A380. This follows rumors a few months back about the airline bringing back at least three A380s, and flying them to London, Paris, and Sydney. And that also follows rumors from late 2021, about Etihad bringing back the A380.
While I’d love to be wrong, I would guess that this won’t happen. Etihad is in a much better place financially, and that’s due to the carrier focusing on cutting costs and shrinking. I have a hard time seeing how bringing back a small subfleet of Airbus A380s would be compatible with this strategy.
I think it’s even less likely with the carrier just getting a new CEO. He doesn’t want to rock the boat too much — he could be criticized if he brings back the A380 and it doesn’t work out, while he’d get less criticism if he just didn’t bring back the plane to begin with.
What do you make of this Etihad rumor? Do you think Etihad will bring back the A380?
Having done several First flights (thanks, AA!) prepandemic I'd be thrilled for these A380s to be resurected!
I’ll be claiming 50% of the ad revenue from this article
I wish they’d bring it back. My fav flight of all time was the apartments. Using aa miles :). Flying Qatar first on the a380 from syd to Doha next year. Another great use of points (80k) :)
"Etihad’s Airbus A380 first class is one of my favorite uses of American AAdvantage miles (admittedly that’s not paying the bills for Etihad)"...it is statements like these that alert airlines to start changing their rules and make rewards more difficult to obtain.
The accountants appreciate Lucky's comment but I'm sure they already speak for themselves