Last Friday night, the first of ten A380s ordered by Etihad Airways rolled out of the Hamburg Airbus plant’s hangar cheered by many invitees. The aircraft displayed a new stunning “Facets of Abu Dhabi” livery design, which will be successively introduced throughout the carrier’s entire fleet. The aircraft’s luxurious interior is even more impressive, offering passengers a unique experience. On the occasion of the roll-out, Etihad’s Helmsman James Hogan together with Airbus Chief Fabrice Brégier revealed some interesting insights while speaking with the media.
Huge investments in Europe’s aviation sector
Etihad has a confirmed order for ten A380s worth $400 million each (list price), with options for another five. The aircraft will join the A320Neos and A350s that will become part of Etihad’s fleet in the coming years. “Our investment in the European Aviation industry is securing many jobs at Airbus and their suppliers in Europe,” emphasized CEO Hogan while speaking with the press. He went on to say that his airline has committed €30 billion for 189 Airbus aircraft since the company’s inception in 2003, plus an additional €5.5 billion spent on maintenance contracts and spare engine orders signed with British producer Rolls Royce. “Etihad Airways is proud to work closely with European partners, particularly Airbus, Rolls Royce and others in the supply chain, and see to it that these investments deliver a benefit for European consumers and communities,” James stated.
AUH-LHR thrice daily
The carrier’s first A380 will operate on flights between Abu Dhabi and London Heathrow slated to commence on 27 December this year. The two subsequent deliveries of the A380 in early 2015 will also service the same route, making it a triple daily operation.
With Etihad receiving its fourth and fifth aircraft later next year, the A380s will be routed to Sydney and New York.
Butler service for distinguished guests
Hogan pointed out that the new double-decker airliner is offering special guests a living room, separate double bedroom and an ensuite shower room, making it the first three-room luxury suite in the history of commercial aviation. This particular suite named “Residence by Etihad” can accommodate one or two guests who will be serviced by a personal butler. The carrier’s future A380 fleet will also feature newly designed First Class Apartments, which are fully private suites with separate reclining lounge seats and full-length bed, as well as a newly designed Business Class.
“The premium product we are offering the market will change travel forever,” exclaimed Hogan.
A380 program will become profitable
Asked about the financial situation of the A380 program, Airbus Chief Fabrice Brégier reiterated that statements made in the past remain valid. “In 2015 we’ll break even,” he promised. He admitted however, that for meeting the original target of producing and delivering 30 A380s each year “we need to get additional customers.” So far, Airbus handed over 142 of their double-decker flagship to twelve customers worldwide, with Etihad becoming the aircraft producer’s thirteenth client.
Is the hub strategy reaching its limits?
When questioned by CargoForwarder Global about the strategic viability of his carrier’s hub and spoke strategy in the face of the new Airbus and Boeing variants coming into service like the A350 or 787 that can cover long distances nonstop, CEO Hogan conceded that this might change the air travel landscape as well as cargo transports to a certain degree. He admitted that it’s more convenient for passengers to fly point-point instead of transiting at major hubs. The same applies to cargo transports because each transfer of shipments interrupts the supply chain for a given time.
Geographical advantages combined with a superb product
All things considered, however, Mr Hogan remains quite relaxed, particularly in view of the new generation of jetliners able to serve ultra-long intercontinental routes nonstop. “Etihad and other Gulf carriers take advantage of the geography. The Indian Subcontinent is right next door, a region that’s growing fast but still widely underserved, which we consider being our core market.” “By offering a superb product, growing our network constantly and through our Group of Airlines we are creating more choice for passengers and cargo clients,” he exclaimed. This package will result in growing traffic figures.
The manager also announced in his Hamburg address to the media that flights to Dallas and San Francisco are commencing this year and frequencies into Europe are slated to be increased. In addition, Etihad’s Helmsman confirmed new flights from Stuttgart and Vienna to Abu Dhabi operated by Group member Air Berlin (STR) and their subsidiary Niki (VIE). Air Berlin flights between Hamburg and Abu-Dhabi are also on the list for Q1 of 2015, provided all traffic rights issues will be straightened out by then.
Fast growing newcomer
The amazing growth of the Abu Dhabi-headquartered airline is based on various factors. To mention first and foremost, is the political and financial support granted by the Emirate’s government to the state-owned carrier. This includes building a state-of-the-art ground infrastructure at AUH Airport that’s becoming more and more of a gateway for travelers and a major transit point for cargo shipments. Embedded is the package by rigid laws that prohibit independent trade unions. This goes hand in hand with an array of labor as well as other cost advantages enjoyed by Etihad, giving the carrier a competitive edge over its European rivals. These will have to dress warmly in view of their rapidly growing Gulf competitors.