is changing its order to the -9 variant favored by its largest shareholder, , says the Abu Dhabi-based carrier’s chairman and CEO, James Hogan.
Hogan, in Washington to celebrate the launch of Etihad’s nonstop-500 service to , after a news conference said the two airlines had just requested the change and expect Air Berlin’s firm order backlog soon to reflect the shift to the 787-9.
, which was not available for comment, still has 15 787-8s listed for Air Berlin on its order book.
The change means Etihad and Air Berlin, which have combined their 787 orders, now have 56 787-9s on backlog.
Etihad expects to take delivery of its first-powered 787 in the fourth quarter 2014, with entry-into-service expected in December; Air Berlin is negotiating its delivery dates, CFO Ulf Huettmeyer said last month.
This change in Air Berlin’s firm order is unsurprising, and Huettmeyer in March indicated that the airline was interested in the larger 787 variant as a replacement for the airline’s fleet of Airbus. Etihad, meanwhile, has championed the combination of the two orders as a way to share infrastructure, pool maintenance and streamline purchases for engines, rotables, avionics and inflight entertainment systems.
Etihad has brought financial stability to Air Berlin since it became the carrier’s largest shareholder in late 2011, and had a decisive influence on the German carrier’s 2012 profit, the first positive results for the airline in five years. Etihad in February also said it would subscribe to 29.2% of Air Berlin’s new €120 million ($154 million) convertible bond, reflecting its holding in the European operator.
According to Hogan this is the last of the financial support, and the Middle East carrier has “no intention of injecting more money” into Air Berlin, he tells Aviation Week.
Hogan adds that Air Berlin’s restructuring effort, which includes fleet and network rationalization and a cost-cutting effort, is “exceeding expectations.”
Etihad’s top executive also stands by Boeing’s 787 program despite its litany of troubles, noting that since he entered aviation in the mid-1970s every new aircraft program has been affected by issues, be it rudders on the Airbus A340 or wiring and now wings on the. “In any new product’s entry-in-service you expect issues,” Hogan notes.