Etihad Airways Retiring Entire Boeing 777 Fleet

Filed Under: Etihad

Etihad Airways is undergoing a radical transformation in an effort to cut losses by 2023. It appears almost certain that Etihad will retire its entire Airbus A380 fleet, and now the airline has revealed plans to retire its entire Boeing 777 fleet as well.

Etihad retiring 777 fleet by end of 2021

Etihad Airways Group CEO Tony Douglas has revealed this week that the Abu Dhabi-based airline will retire its entire Boeing 777 passenger fleet by the end of 2021. As Douglas describes this decision:

“You will see of us a very focused, a very disciplined operating model which is heavily built around the fleet of the 787 Dreamliner and A350-1000.”

Etihad is retiring its entire Boeing 777 fleet

Etihad currently operates a fleet of 19 Boeing 777-300ERs, which are an average of just over 10 years old. That doesn’t account for the 11 Boeing 777s that the airline already retired — Etihad used to fly six additional 777-300ERs and five additional 777-200LRs.

Etihad’s 777s leaving the fleet potentially has big implications, both positive and negative:

All Etihad long haul planes will feature new business class

What does that leave for Etihad’s long haul fleet?

With Etihad retiring its entire 777 fleet and almost certainly retiring its A380 fleet, what does that mean for the future of Etihad’s long haul fleet?

  • Etihad currently operates a total of 39 Boeing 787s, including 30 787-9s and nine 787-10s; the airline has more of these planes on order
  • Etihad has ordered a total of 20 Airbus A350-1000s; the airline hasn’t started flying these planes, but five of them are already in storage, so could enter service in the not-too-distant future
  • Etihad has also ordered Boeing 777-9s, but with the timeline of that program, the airline isn’t sure if it plans on actually taking delivery of those planes

It’s pretty incredible to think that shortly Etihad could exclusively be flying 787s on long haul routes. I have so many fond memories of flying Etihad first class on the A330, A340, A380, and 777, though that will all be a thing of the past.

Going forward, we may only ever see Etihad first class again on a small portion of the 787 fleet. I’m not sure if Etihad plans on installing first class on the A350, as I haven’t heard anything one way or another. I’d guess the airline won’t offer first class on these planes, but who knows.

Etihad will also be retiring its entire Airbus A380 fleet

Bottom line

Etihad Airways will be retiring its fleet of 19 Boeing 777s by the end of 2021, which marks another major milestone for the airline. Between this and the A380s being retired, Etihad will exclusively fly 787s and A350s on long haul routes.

Five years ago these kinds of changes would have been unimaginable, but alas, times have changed. One thing is for sure — Etihad is serious about shrinking.

What do you make of Etihad retiring its passenger Boeing 777 fleet?

  1. They will most probably end up cancelling their order for the 777X and operate 787 and 350 exclusively as their Long Haul fleet

  2. Etihad’s fleet plan is a reflection that the massive capacity of the Middle East 3 airlines is not coming back any time soon.
    Retirement of the 777-300ER for replacement by the A350-1000 shows that the 777’s value is falling because of new generation, larger aircraft.

  3. Will these planes be sold to lessors? Can’t image many airlines can afford even used planes right now?

  4. Shortsighted move but I understand. For them, to survive means making cuts today. Capacity will grow exponentially when we get past Covid which is coming sooner rather than later with the vaccine rollout. Filling a 777 won’t be an issue and in fact needed this time next year. With that said, I think dismissing the fact Etihad was on hard times due to poor investments and stiff competition in that region prior to Covid so perhaps we’ll see them go under altogether in the not so distant future.

  5. I think not short sided rather “long sided”, by retiring the generation of “heavies ” moving to much more efficient and hopefully more maintenance friendly planes will in the long run prove the right decision. I firmly believe that once the “rush” is over overall load factors will prove to be less than that of pre Covid. Gone too will be the opulence of the first class cabins of the past, they will still be a “cut above” but gone are the showers/lav attendants, lounge in the back etc.

    In any event the US carriers are still far far behind many of the foreign flags when it comes current generation planes, cabins and most importantly SERVICE let alone edible food.

  6. How does the range of 787 and A350 compare to the 777s? Will they have to cut some ultra long haul routes?

  7. I first flew to Australia in 2009 with Etihad on a mixture of 777/A340’s and at the time they were fantastic, by far the best passenger experience. From 2013-2020 I flew Etihad regularly for work and in the later years they had changed and none of the same services offered when i first flew them were remaining. If Turkish Airlines can launch flights to Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) and have a domestic partnership with VA then I think Etihad’s days would be numbered. Of the routes Etihad serves, there are at least 3 competitors per route (excluding O & D from AUH) and Etihad offer the worst service out of them. A good example is LON-BKK where amongst Etihad you have options from BA,TG,BR,EK,QR,KE,OZ,GF,WY,TK,SU,SQ,NH,JL,UK,VN,ZH,RJ,BI,PR,MH,LX,LH,OS,KL,AF,CZ,AY,CA,CZ,MU,CI,CX,AI. That is 34 competitors with one stop options from London, are Etihad offering anything above these carriers? Maybe better than the ZH,BI,RJ,AI but all other carriers are extremely comparable and if not better in terms of onboard experience and price.

  8. I’m glad to see that they’re focusing on trying to become a long-term profitable enterprise. They just need to find their niche and then exploit it. What they’re doing now is a good start.

    After all, they’re running a business; not a hobby.

  9. I could actually foresee Gulf Airways supplanting Etihad as a member of the “Big 3” Middle Eastern airlines, or at least having a more robust network. To be fair, the *real* Big 3 at this point are now Emirates, Turkish and Qatar anyway.

    Etihad may be better off just being absorbed into Emirates, though I realize that their ownership may not see it that way.

  10. might be far-fetched, but I’m hoping the hub to hub model returns. Cant really see the economics of all these weird routes all over the place with only so much demand (especially after covid) being viable. if the hub model returns, maybe we’ll even see larger planes return (hopefully)

  11. I wonder which airline(s) will pickup these 777s.
    There should be some demand on the secondhand market.

  12. Maybe it’s for the best. Etihad has been throwing money away, and being located only 100 kilometres or so from Emirates, it is difficult to compete properly. Ideally, Emirates would take over and have a high speed rail to Abu Dhabi.
    I did like the Etihad partner alliance and I would have liked to see it grow mature. Unfortunately, it was killed off before any proper strategic choices were made.
    As John Doe, I also think the hub and spoke model is the best way for the future. Having so many nonstop routes is not efficient. And a 777 is always going to be more comfortable than a 737.

  13. The “new” business class is the same layout as the old business class, just some cosmetic modifications.

    PS EY had lots of India traffic, but that is almost dead. especially with the recent explosion in cases and deaths.

  14. Post COVID the intercontinental market between Asia and Europe is probably not big enough to support 3 airlines based on a cheap one-stop business model for some time.

    Airlines in Asia and Europe will probably need to lower their fares just to survive until the demand recovers. If nonstop flights are cheap enough, no one is going to go for a one-stop.

    Also, are there some kind of accounting tricks so an airline can “sold” those “retired” airlines to a totally unrelated “subsidiary” to move the maintenance costs off their books? These planes can be stored in long term parking somewhere, so when the demand is back, and new plane orders are severely backlogged, these planes can be unretired and return to service.

  15. The biggest problem for Etihad is that Dubai (and Emirates) will always be right around the corner. Doha isn’t that far either.

    I love the 777 but it is much heavier and more fuel-guzzling than the 787/350 so may be it’s not that bad a decision.

  16. I disagree with Mil on this: “If nonstop flights are cheap enough, no one is going to go for a one-stop.” –> I would not. Working in academia, holidays are quite difficult for me. So when I have to travel, I try to do a stopover somewhere to explore the city. I am based in the UK. I went to a conference in South Korea and on the way back I flew via Tokyo and had a 1-day stopover there. I would never be able to pay a holiday to Tokyo from scratch by myself. Ok, it was only 1 day but interesting nevertheless. I also visited Singapore in that way and Porto. So for me those stopover flight give me good value for money. As I live up north, I have to change planes anyway in London should I want a ‘direct’ flight out of the UK so it is easier for me to fly MAN-DUB-SYD than MAN-LDN-SIN-SYD for example

  17. I flew the 777 in biz a couple of times and it was pretty old and rubbish. Especially if sitting on the aisle seat. A$$ basically hanging in aisle. Worth it to connect to the a380 apt to Australia. Only got to do that flight. My best experience on a plane by far!!!

  18. I won’t be surprised if they exit the Australian market altogether.
    Especially with the Virgin partnership not being renewed.

  19. The airline industry itself is part of the problem. The system is antiquated and they rely on advances in airplane technology more than industry technology. When you can fly 10,000 miles in one shot and don’t have to worry about filling a super jumbo and making layovers that cost time and fuel what else would you expect?

  20. IAG/BA are probably kicking themselves now given they only recently took delivery of 4 new 773s. Ouch.

  21. I don’t see how Etihad will survive if profitability requirements comes into the picture; they are competing against larger international transit-oriented competitors in the short-run and in the long-run against colossal state-backed nationalists who will advocate direct routing to capture wealth and jobs for their domestic populaces. Add to that the inevitable labor crunch as South Asia looks to rapidly industrialize and provide jobs at home – will Abu Dhabians work the tarmac?

    The Middle Eastern airlines are built for yesterday’s world, not tomorrow’s.

  22. Etihad 777’s will most probably be converted to freighters in the near future and sold/leased to other operators. This may speed-up the entry into service of the A350‘s to support some routes where demand is going to come back soon.

  23. The economics of a 777 V an A350-1000 or 787 make the aircraft uncompetitive- my estimate would be around $700,000 plus based on current fuel and overhaul pricing.

    Cargo conversion might be an option but the first conversion is still seeking certification, so that is a dream for 2023+ we would also need the cargo market to stay buoyant but I sense some creeping oversupply.

    Many of these aircraft will be wined by lessors. Will they be paid out ? Or is there a Chapter 11 type structure that might be employed? Lessors will inevitably lose a fortune as there is zero demand and many options for anyone seeking an aircraft. Eitihad’s are also very bespoke – beautiful interiors and lots of luxury which I enjoy but will not work for the next operator.

  24. All, before speculating further regarding aircraft economics, performance, range, class configuration etc, you may want to remember that EY has already sold the entire 777 and 330 fleet for USD 1.0 billion prior to the current crisis (and then leased the 777s back). So most likely this is the very simple reason why the 777s go first (unlike the 380s which are only permanently stored).

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