Luxury lovers, rejoice!
Etihad Airways will bring its Airbus A380 back into service, the airline said on Friday.
The airline will pull four of the palatial double-deckers from storage and operate them between Abu Dhabi (AUH) and London Heathrow (LHR), the airline said, starting next summer. The airline did not provide an exact date or month.
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Etihad grounded its fleet of 10 A380s in March, 2020 as the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic effectively put a freeze on global travel. Although airlines continued to fly bare-bones schedules and cargo flights, the A380, with four engines and seating for upwards of 500 passengers in some configurations, was too inefficient and expensive to operate.
The following year, then-CEO Tony Douglas confirmed that the airline planned to keep the A380s grounded “indefinitely,” saying during the World Aviation Festival in April that “they are no longer commercially sustainable. So we have taken the difficult decision to park those machines up indefinitely.”
At the time, Etihad planned to reorient its fleet around the smaller but more nimble and efficient Boeing 787 and Airbus A350-1000, FlightGlobal reported.
But times change.
Travel demand has surged globally since mid-2021 as vaccinations were rolled out and countries began removing travel restrictions, with airlines struggling to add enough capacity to keep up.
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“We have decided the time is right to return some of our A380s into the fleet to satisfy the demand which has made them financially viable once more,” current CEO Antonoaldo Neves said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming our guests again on board this remarkable aircraft.”
By adding the A380 to the London route, the airline says it will be able to free up capacity for additional frequencies on other routes, along with and new destinations.
Etihad will also add five Airbus A320 narrowbody jets back into service to support the A380s. Those aircraft would be used for more regional flights from the airline’s Abu Dhabi hub, allowing for more connecting capacity to accommodate all of the A380 passengers.
Etihad’s A380s feature some of the most storied and luxurious products in the sky, making its return an exciting moment for some travelers.
Etihad also features a unique product on the A380 known as “The Residence.” Essentially a three-room suite at the front of the upper deck, the Residence has a living room, a separate bedroom and a private bathroom with a shower. The living room alone is about the size of a standard first class “Apartment” seat.
The Residence, which often costs upwards of $20,000 for a one-way flight — although award flights have been available in the past — also features amenities like private butler service, customized menus, and exclusive airport lounges and access.
Etihad, meanwhile, is not the first airline to reverse course on a grounded A380 fleet.
Lufthansa said in October that it would return the parked A380 to service by summer 2023. Three of its eight A380s will operate high-demand routes out of its Munich hub starting in June, with additional planes reentering service later in the summer. Lufthansa sold six additional A380s during the grounding.
In a statement, Lufthansa cited “the steep rise in customer demand and the delayed delivery of ordered aircraft.”