Wow: Etihad Airways Airbus A380 Returning In 2023!

Wow: Etihad Airways Airbus A380 Returning In 2023!

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While there has been speculation about this for quite some time, it’s now official — Etihad Airways’ Airbus A380s are making a comeback! This is super exciting, as the A380 is one of my favorite planes.

Etihad A380s will fly to London as of 2023

Etihad Airways has today announced plans to put four Airbus A380s back into service. The intent is for the planes to fly exclusively between Abu Dhabi (AUH) and London (LHR). The first A380 should be flying to London as of July 15, 2023, and it’s expected that by October 2023 all frequencies to London will feature first class (so I’d assume that also means all four A380s are flying by then).

At the start of the pandemic, Etihad Airways grounded its 10 Airbus A380s. The airline made it pretty clear from early on that the planes likely wouldn’t reenter service. That’s not just because of the impact of the pandemic, but rather Etihad was already trying to radically alter its business plan pre-pandemic, and shrink into more of a boutique and sustainable airline.

So that’s why it’s interesting to see the airline backtrack. Etihad claims this decision is being made due to a surge in demand for air travel across the carrier’s network, and due to customer feedback. It’s of course great to see four A380s return to service, though there’s no indication that the other six A380s will return, so the airline will have a much smaller A380 fleet than pre-pandemic.

Etihad Airways Airbus A380

The basics of Etihad’s Airbus A380s

Etihad’s Airbus A380s are some pretty special jets, and when they were in service they offered quite a halo effect for Etihad. Etihad’s A380s are configured with a total of 485 seats.

With the A380s returning to the skies, this means Etihad is reintroducing The Residence, which is a private three room suite located at the front of the first class cabin. This is the most exclusive product available in commercial aviation. Interestingly Etihad no longer has butlers, so I guess that training has to restart, or maybe Etihad is planning major changes to this product.

Etihad A380 The Residence bedroom
Etihad A380 The Residence living room

The return of the A380 means we’ll see the reintroduction of the Etihad First Class Apartments, as there are nine of those on the plane. This is one of the most impressive first class hard products out there, as there’s just a single aisle in the center of the cabin, and one suite on each side.

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment cabin
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment

There are then 70 business class seats, which are the Etihad Business Studios, the same product you’ll find on the 787. This is a solid business class product, but not as good as Etihad’s new A350 business class.

Etihad Business Studio

Lastly, there are 405 economy class seats, including 80 with extra legroom. This takes up the entire lower deck, as seats are in a 3-4-3 configuration.

Keep in mind that Etihad Airways is a partner with both Air Canada Aeroplan and American AAdvantage, so it should be possible to redeem miles for these flights, including in First Class Apartments. The A380 has already been loaded into the schedule — as of now I’m seeing business class award availability, but not first class award availability.

Etihad Airbus A380 award availability
Etihad Airbus A380 award availability

My take on the Etihad A380 comeback

I couldn’t be happier to see Etihad bring back the Airbus A380, as it’s such a beautiful plane, and Etihad’s configuration on these jets was especially nice.

It’s interesting how this time around Etihad is bringing back these planes as a dedicated subfleet that will fly exclusively on one route, between Abu Dhabi and London. That seems smart, since the single biggest selling point of the A380 is being able to offer high capacity to slot restricted airports.

At the same time, I can’t help but be surprised by the A380 returning. Etihad has made a total 180 in recent years, and has become such a conservative airline. I imagine the economics of operating such a small subfleet aren’t ideal, especially with the airline having so many A350s and 787s on order.

Furthermore, aside from the A380, Etihad more or less seems to be in the process of eliminating first class, as at this point only a handful of 787s have first class, and that will likely be cut when Etihad introduces its new 787 business class.

For that matter, it’s not easy for Etihad to sell first class with a model like this. A vast majority of passengers on Gulf carriers are connecting, yet Etihad doesn’t offer first class on virtually all other routes you could connect onto. So it’ll be tough to convince first class travelers to book Etihad when they could book an airline like Emirates, which offers first class on most flights.

I’d also be fascinated to know the timeline of this decision. Previous Etihad CEO Tony Douglas recently left the airline to take a job at RIA, while Etihad’s new CEO, Antonoaldo Neves, started in mid-October. Was this decision made prior to Neves joining the airline, or has this all been put into motion in the past several weeks?

The Lobby on the Etihad A380

Bottom line

The Etihad Airbus A380 will be making a comeback as of 2023. The airline is bringing back four Airbus A380s, and they’ll fly exclusively between Abu Dhabi and London. Given how Etihad has essentially shrunk its way into profitability and has tried to streamline its fleet, I’m a bit surprised to see this development, though I’m certainly happy about it.

What do you make of Etihad bringing back the A380?

Conversations (24)
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  1. Hussain Guest

    what will be the Departure timings from London Heathrow Daily and Return from Abu dubia ?

  2. Azamaraal Diamond

    I was just checking Aeroplan for LHR-AUH and saw first class on March 6.

    Looks like the fall is all booked sadly and will be in Argentina in March.

    Had a residence booked in 2020 that was cancelled by Etihad before we could fly. Air Canada still owes me some refund on that flight. Guess it's long gone.

    1. Azamaraal Diamond

      Sorry - they just switched it from 2 A380 flights to a single F class 787=9 in the last 20 minutes or so. (Mar 06 Aeroplan)

  3. No more Long Blak Coats! Guest

    @ORD_Is: Extremely Heavy Child molstng Hassid crawls out of Orlando/Miami?

  4. ORD_Is_My_Second_Home Member

    Headline: Extremely overweight French Arab crawls out of hiding to extreme apathy.

  5. Kelly Guest

    The A380 should've never been built. All praise the Queen of the Skies.

    1. Mike Oxlong Guest

      sounds like someone's never been on one xD

    2. Azamaraal Diamond

      No question that the 747-8 was one hell of a plane and still my favourite. 1'st on Cathay from JFK-YVR was memorable (but slightly less than the preceding LHR-JFK on Concorde.

  6. Ryan Member

    Seems you cannot yet book Residence though, their booking engine only allows for Econ/Biz/First

    1. Petri Diamond

      Residence will ne bookable in March (according to the Etihad website).

    2. Petri Diamond

      typo: ... will be...

  7. JB Guest

    I'm honestly a bit surprised they won't offer it to JFK. With their partnership with AA and Jetblue, I'd assume EY would have a lot of traffic to New York. Atleast enough for a once daily A380 flight.

  8. Barry Guest

    This may be a nod to the not insignificant number of wealthy Emirati citizens that regularly fly between the UAE and London. Note that Dubai - where Emirates is based - is only an hour or so from AUH - where Etihad is based, so its not difficult to drive to AUH for the Dubai based customers. I would think that Emirates will look to position its new First class cabin on the DXB-LHR route asap, if not already done.

  9. Bob Guest

    Not a single seat in F for rewards lol

  10. Slinkytravel Guest

    Able to book mixed class stopover flights with Aeroplan? (such as Business US-LON with stopover in LDN and then continue on final destination First Class to AUH)

  11. Tom Guest

    @ben, have you confirmed that they will be bringing back the butlers and/or the chefs? Will this really be the same experience it was?

  12. LDNtravel Guest

    You mention they will be flying from March 2023, however I can't see any A380's loaded into the March schedule. Am I missing something?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ LDNtravel -- Nope, you're not missing anything. Etihad announced they'd return as of March 2023, but as of now the planes are only loaded in the schedule for later. I imagine that will change soon.

    2. LDNtravel Guest

      Sam Chui has reported they're being reactivated from Summer 2023. Sadly I can only see availability from July 15th onwards so I do hope you're right and it'll be available from March!

    3. LDNtravel Guest

      I just also saw Etihad's press release on the News section of their website which also states Summer 2023. It doesn't look like it will be from March sadly..

    4. Azamaraal Diamond

      Saw F Mar 6 10 minutes ago.

    5. Azamaraal Diamond

      Aeroplan just removed the March A380 flights from schedule (there were 2 a day) and now only show one 787-9 with F class. Only checked Mar 5 - 10 but there were flights available about an hour ago. Sad but probably correcting an error.

  13. LEGALIZE ALL DRUGS Guest

    I wish I had a girlfriend so I could fly with her in the Residence

  14. Auspointer Guest

    Awesome news! Aeroplan already has seats showing for biz… scouring for first but no luck so far

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Barry Guest

This may be a nod to the not insignificant number of wealthy Emirati citizens that regularly fly between the UAE and London. Note that Dubai - where Emirates is based - is only an hour or so from AUH - where Etihad is based, so its not difficult to drive to AUH for the Dubai based customers. I would think that Emirates will look to position its new First class cabin on the DXB-LHR route asap, if not already done.

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LDNtravel Guest

I just also saw Etihad's press release on the News section of their website which also states Summer 2023. It doesn't look like it will be from March sadly..

1
LDNtravel Guest

Sam Chui has reported they're being reactivated from Summer 2023. Sadly I can only see availability from July 15th onwards so I do hope you're right and it'll be available from March!

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