Etihad Airways Pulls Most A380 First Class Inventory — What’s Going On?

Filed Under: Etihad

If you were booked to fly Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment or The Residence anytime soon, it looks highly unlikely it’s going to happen. Last week I wrote about how Etihad pulled all A380 first class inventory through the end of 2020.

The airline has now adjusted inventory in an interesting way, so let’s take a look at that.

Etihad blocks A380 first class inventory

Last week Abu Dhabi based Etihad Airways pulled all A380 first class inventory for flights through December 31, 2020. This included availability in the First Class Apartment, as well as availability in The Residence.

Prior to last week it was being sold as usual, but with this update all flights operated by A380s showed as not having any availability, in the P, F, A, and R fare classes. With this initial update, availability returned to normal as of January 1, 2021 (that’s no longer the case, though).

Etihad’s A380 Residence

Etihad Airways operates a fleet of 10 Airbus A380s, which ordinarily fly to London, New York, Paris, Seoul, and Sydney.

Etihad Airways also has first class on select 777s and 787s, and these flights continue to show first class for sale.

Etihad’s 787-9 first class

Etihad adjusts A380 first class blocking

Etihad Airways has adjusted when first class availability is being shown. No longer is it completely blocked through the end of 2020, but rather it’s being blocked on some routes shorter than that, while on other routes it’s being blocked longer.

In spite of Etihad showing the below flights as being operated by A380s, first class isn’t for sale until the following dates:

  • Sydney A380 flights show first class availability as of July 24, 2020
  • Seoul Incheon A380 flights show first class availability as of January 1, 2021
  • London Heathrow A380 flights show first class availability as of May 1, 2021
  • New York JFK A380 flights show first class availability as of May 1, 2021
  • Paris A380 flights show first class availability as of May 1, 2021

What should we make of this Etihad development?

When Etihad first pulled all A380 inventory through the end of 2020, I assumed the following possibilities:

  • This is a glitch that will be corrected soon; I suppose this is possible, though I find it odd that only A380s don’t show first class, and not other planes
  • Etihad will be removing first class from A380s; this seems highly unlikely, since reconfiguring planes is expensive, and if there’s a single aircraft type on which they’d keep first class, you’d think it would be the A380
  • Etihad has decided to ground the A380 fleet for the remainder of the year, or at a minimum is considering it

That last point seemed like the most likely explanation, by far. With airlines facing significantly reduced demand, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Etihad at least seriously consider grounding A380s for the remainder of 2020.

Could Etihad be grounding the A380 fleet all year?

But with this latest update it seems most likely that:

  • This is deliberate and not some system glitch
  • Etihad may bring at least a couple of A380s back into service soon, with the plan to fly them to Sydney
  • Given reduced demand, it could be that the plan is to keep most A380s grounded for much longer than that; there is some value with keeping some A380s flying, like keeping pilots current

On the surface the most surprising aspect of this is to potentially not see Etihad flying A380s to London until at least May 2021, since that’s the carrier’s flagship route. At the same time, with reduced demand and the need for Etihad to maintain service to avoid having slots taken away, I could see Etihad intentionally not flying A380s to London for a while, instead opting for lower capacity planes with more frequencies.

What should you do if you have an Etihad first class reservation?

I know a lot of people have redeemed miles for travel in A380 first class, whether that was done with American AAdvantage miles, or with Air Canada Aeroplan miles, thanks to the amazing value of this new partnership.

What should you do? Here’s my take:

  • Many people were probably being optimistic in terms of borders being open when they booked their travel (like Americans thinking they’ll be able to go to Australia this year)
  • At this point you could get a refund if you were downgraded, whether you paid with cash or miles
  • If you were still planning on taking the trip then I might just hold onto the current itinerary; I wouldn’t be surprised to see Etihad backtrack and reinstate A380s, in which case you’re best off holding onto your itinerary

Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment

Bottom line

I’m working on getting to the bottom of this, but Etihad is blocking most A380 first class availability, in some cases all the way until May 2021.

There are different ways to interpret this, though my guess is that the airline is considering grounding most of the A380 fleet for a long time, so it doesn’t make sense to continue selling these seats, when they might not be available on other aircraft types.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Etihad backtrack, but I suspect that’s the plan as of now. Once I have more info I’ll update this post.

What’s your take on Etihad blocking A380 first class availability?

(Tip of the hat to Gavin)

  1. Timing seems a bit odd, we are now at a point were restrictions get reduced and not increased anymore. Europe is mostly open for internal travel since yesterday, international travel will start to commence from July 1st.

  2. If they were going to ground the A380 fleet, shouldn’t they be blocking business class and economy class as well or just change the aircraft type to something else?
    Strange…hopefully it’s just a glitch in the system.

  3. It’s gone. Goodbye A380. Remember when rumours were coming up that Etihad could be scrapping A380s and A350s? Well, I guess that’s happening. Frankly, this isn’t unexpected. Etihad, unlike Emirates and Qatar, is mainly focussing on their business model and are trynna reduce costs. It would make no sense for them to keep the A380s. And given WizzAir Abu Dhabi and Air Arabia coming up in AUH, EY could be focussing more on stealing more market share from these teeny tiny A320 LCC gangstas. They could probably downsize themselves and have a network similar to that of Oman Air or Kuwait Airways. Sucks that the Residence is gone 🙁

  4. Another possibility is that EY has decided that it will not, in this time of dramatically reduced demand, offer a First Class product. This saves a lot of variable costs around catering, logistics etc. and gives the carrier the flexibility to operate any route, any day, with a broader choice of aircraft (since they all offer J and Y).

    Should an aircraft with an actual F cabin operate a particular flight, no J class pax will complain when they find themselves in an F seat, with J catering and amenities.

    (Same can apply to SQ)

  5. My AA award reservation still shows F seat 4K on LHR-AUH in late September in the EY app – at least for now.

  6. Yeah, was certainly hopeful that my SYD-AUH-JFK in October would stick, but not the end of the world if not. I’ll get the miles back, use them in a couple years, or find a new way to use them if Apartments don’t return.

  7. Where is anyone travelling to? . You didn’t fly to the U.K./EU unless you are a resident /citizen Likewise the US. travel restrictions to Australia, New Zealand UAE as well

  8. It’s hard to imagine that Etihad is permanently scrapping their 380s. The Etihad Apartment and Residence is a huge prestige factor for them. I was able to redeem for the Apartment when I flew back from the Maldives. Absolutely the best F experience I’ve ever had in my life.

    ~ The Honorable Reginald

  9. It is the showers. I admit I am a novice to this, I have never flown shower class. My understanding is that there is a cabin attendant onboard to prepare the shower room between patrons. This person is not recognized as typical cabin crew, not trained in safety and is therefor more of a complication for Visa issues. Many Counties that are denying visits do allow licensed cabin crew.

  10. @Donato: EY F does not have a shower for regular F passengers that would need to be “prepared between patrons”. I think you are confusing EY with EK.

  11. @David: Sorry my post wasn’t clear. MLE-AUH was just regular F. AUH-JFK was the 380 Apartment.

    ~ The Honorable Reginald

  12. Donato – even if that was the case you would just close the showers and not the entire cabin.

    And if the shower was seen as that important to keep open you could give that task to an additional member of cabin crew (which is what I beleve EK did when there were some issues with entry clearance for the usual shower attendant)

  13. It is really sad. But prestige factor is not enought to earn revenue which is badly needed. The demand is stil weak and it will stay as fresh news of outbreaks around the world gives fuel to spreading of the virus and makes travelling still difficult. It is only obvious the EY will ground the A380. It could also be a retirement not only for the rest of 2020.

  14. @David
    Etihad does have one shower for regular First passengers on the A380; it is very small and uncomfortable but still there. The other shower is inside The Residence and can only be used by the guest(s) there.

  15. The shower was uncomfortable? Not at all. One of the best experience las available on a long flight to freshen up and counteract jet lag. Considering it’s an AIRPLANE and not a home mansion, it’s pretty darn amazing.

  16. Singapore Airlines did the same thing and pulled all its First Class availability until 1st December about a week ago.

    Lufthansa too axed First Class on all Asia Routes except PVG until 25th October.

    Given the current circumstances this all makes sense.

  17. Disinfecting the Apartments and the Residence will be very pricey. Hard to maintain consistency across multiple stations vs. business and economy cabins. Difficult to meet catering standards and no showers so soft product suffers.

    They may well have decided that a watered-down first class product won’t meet the demands of the folks who fork over that kind of money for a revenue ticket.

  18. Thank you for this timely article.

    I was just about to pull the trigger and pay for etihad guest miles to take advantage of their 60% bonus. The reason : I was planning to use it on one their halo products (either the apartment or residence). I would not otherwise be flying Etihad as I’m happy with Singapore Airlines /star Alliance and Qatar /one world options.

    For now, its a no go (buying Etihad Guest miles), regardless of what bonuses they’re offering.

    When Etihad reinstates First class apartments or Residence products (only on their A380s), I’ll reconsider buying those guest miles again thereafter.

  19. It doesn’t make sense to me. I checked and found no availability at AAd even for 2021.
    All pure YE flights are gone. What’s going on?

  20. QF have mothballed their A380s for the rest of the year, so seems likely other carriers will do the same.

  21. @Joe — Genuinely curious – how are you still flying this? “SYD-AUH-JFK in October”?

    Doesn’t Australia have their borders closed for all international travel in or out & expected to be in place least until Jan 2021?

    The US is not actually banning travel from Australia or Qatar, but that’s somewhat a moot point if Australia’s borders closed. Unless you’re a US citizen and aren’t planning to return soon to Aussie?

  22. Whoops — my question to Joe above – meant to say “The US is not actually banning travel from Australia or AUH” — not Qatar/DOH as I misspoke.

  23. Let’s be honest here. Etihad doesn’t need the A380. Etihad isn’t Qatar or Emirates and their relatively small would be better replaced with A350s or 787s that can be used at more airports.

    The Etihad A380 is an amazingly comfortable aircraft, especially in premium cabins, but her days are few.

  24. The A380 FC apartments are the one and likely only reason I’d go out of my way to take a Ethiad flight.

    And I would go considerably out of my way to do so, for example positioning through Kenya instead of Tanzania for a Safari, or routing a return from Australia to the States through AUH and Europe.

  25. @The Honorable…

    Key word is “want”. Most don’t need it. On a side note I’m very concerned about the future of F class cabins on the likes of EY, LH and CX.

  26. Yes @Cat, Australia does have its borders closed – officially at this stage until end of September but there is talk it will be till 2021. Qantas announced yesterday they will have no international flights before the end of October. Australia is a big market for the Gulf carriers so obviously that capacity is not going to be needed by this region so perhaps that has played into their decision. Whilst Australians are on the welcome list for European countries and almost everywhere else in the world, it is a moot point because Australians are prohibited from leaving the country and only returning citizens or residents are able to enter & then have to be quarantined in a hotel for 14days. Tough as it is, certainly seems to be the major reason cases were controlled & the govt is not looking to have a so called second wave.

  27. Ugh. I seem to keep getting caught with problems the past couple of years. Wife and I are booked on AUH-JFK in Oct. Reservation on Eithad website still shows A380 F, for now…

  28. @Brian

    Need and want depends on the person. I personally won’t be flying any further than Europe if I can’t travel in comfort. I’ve already tasted the good life and have zero desire for anything less.

    ~ The Honorable Reginald

  29. May be they are being smart. They know due to the conditions around the virus they can’t provide full service, so they might as well not offer it. May be they are not sure if there will be a change of aircraft. Although uncertainty these days with passengers and travelers, also with related companies.

  30. There is not going to be much travel until 2021 so first class is probably not necessary. Let people experience Business class for a change …….or even ( horror )………….. try economy

  31. Alright then its time to move to Qatar Qsuite inside of the terrible EY business studio. This is a baaaad idea by EY.

  32. @Ben I am curious if the same thing is happening with Emirates on Alaska Mileage Plan? Alaska seemingly has zero availability in any class on Emirates. Thanks.

  33. I think it’s so funny how many of you criticize Etihad about lack of food, service deteriorating, crews being lazy, and then all of a sudden you can’t live without F. I for one hope all the airlines block all awards in F and limit availability to full fare passengers only. Like Air France.

  34. Australia’s international borders will be closed to the end of 2020. There will be no tourism movement in or out until 2021. Not sure if the penny’s dropped with Etihad yet, but expect to see their flights to Australia disappear from the 2020 schedule soon.
    I have October F flights (AA miles award) booked SYD-AUH-CDG & return, but am looking at moving that booking to March 2021 when I can do so with no penalty.

  35. Could you please clearly mention that posts have been updated. That way those of us who don’t want to read posts with minor updates can scroll past.

  36. Ok so I am seeing multiple dates in Jan and Feb 2021 for first class flights on A380 from AUH to JFK both on Etihad and Aeroplan website. Does that mean these are all phantom spaces or what?

  37. Ben, Korean Air seems to be doing something similar: both paid First Class fare buckets and award inventory (A) have been pulled from most long-haul routes unless they are operated by A380 or B748i.

  38. @alexz

    no, Ben needs to update this post again. Availability is back as of Jan 1 on these routes.

  39. Maybe airlines are now realising what a horrible crime it has been allowing point redeeming folk to ride up front when others are paying full F fares 🙂 :). The horror of it all lol

    Ben its time to start paying full fare F to ride up front. I believe you did that once with a trip with your dad. Very noble of you.

  40. Etihad is changing the equipment to 787 on the JFK AUH route until Aug 31 and selling First class seats. But definitely looks like no A380 for that route the rest of 2020.

  41. We have an Etihad flight in business on 1st Oct from Heathrow. It shows as A380 “Confirmed” and allows upgrade bids to first class – so who knows ‍♂️

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