Etihad Hints At A380 Return But Awaits Economic Viability

Etihad A380 at Hangar
Credit: Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways has raised the possibility of returning its Airbus A380s to service as the market rebounds—but only if several factors align. 

In comments to local media following the release of the Abu Dhabi-based operator’s 2022 half-year results July 28, Etihad CFO Adam Boukadida said the airline, which grounded its A380 early in the pandemic, was exploring bringing back the aircraft but admitted it was too early to make that decision as oil prices remain high. 

Boukadida said that oil prices of $65 to $80 could justify the aircraft being pulled out of storage. Current prices are around the $100 mark and have been notably volatile in recent months. He added that any return to service would have to take into account factors such as passenger demand, capacity and ticket prices.

In March 2021, Etihad Group CEO Tony Douglas said the airline had decided to park all 10 of its A380s, adding, “it’s entirely likely we will not be utilizing them going forward because of the operational costs associated with them.” 

The four-engined European airliner has been displaced at several airlines by more economic twin-engined types. Douglas has been generous in his praise of the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the airline’s Boeing 787-9s. 

Responding to questions from Aviation Daily, an Etihad spokesman said the airline “Would only re-enter our A380s into the fleet if the yield on ticket prices and demand would make them financially viable. With the currently soaring oil prices that is unlikely to occur any time soon.”

The Etihad spokesman described the A380 as “something that all of us would love to return from a travelling perspective, but the economics need to make sense.” 

The global A380 fleet has enjoyed mixed fortunes as the world emerges from the pandemic. Some operators, such as Air France and Malaysia Airlines, have retired their fleets. Others, including Qantas, All Nippon Airways and British Airways, have already restarted some A380 services.  

The largest operator of the type, Emirates Airways, is steadily returning its fleet of 123 A380s to operation, with around half flying at present. 

Alan Dron

Based in London, Alan is Europe & Middle East correspondent at Air Transport World.