As production ceases for the Boeing 747, the Airbus A380 is being reintroduced into service with Etihad Airways. The return of the double-decker behemoth was seen as highly unlikely with the sharp downturn in air travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Several international air carriers, including Etihad, parked their A380s and were unsure if the planes would ever fly again.
Against all odds, Etihad Airways has announced today that four of its ten Airbus A380s will be reintroduced on its route between Abu Dhabi International Airport and London Heathrow Airport. The first A380 will reenter service in summer 2023, and the Abu Dhabi-based airline’s four massive Airbus will exclusively fly on this route.
Etihad has stated, “The move follows a surge in demand for air travel across our network and customer feedback for the return of one of the most remarkable commercial flying experiences in the sky.” It looks like the decision was less about the huge plane and more about the Abu Dhabi-London route. As the Abu Dhabi-owned flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, Etihad also aimed to raise the profile of Abu Dhabi and attract business to the Emirate along with being a profitable airline.
It should be noted that Emirates, the rival Dubai-owned UAE flag carrier, has never wavered in its commitment to the Airbus A380 for its long-haul services. Emirates, the airline most associated with the gigantic airliner, ordered 123 Airbus A380s with 119 double-decker jumbo jets still in its fleet. In contrast, Etihad is in the middle of a managed contraction with the airline focused on serving its hub in Abu Dhabi and not aiming to be an omnipresent intercontinental passenger carrier.
Etihad’s Airbus A380s are known for featuring the Residence, a first-class three-room apartment in the sky. Each of the airline’s A380s is fitted with nine Residences, each with a bedroom, bathroom and living room. It’s an opulent flying experience that no other aircraft is large enough to offer. Etihad hopes the A380’s reintroduction will indirectly bring travelers across the Gulf states and the Indian subcontinent to Abu Dhabi.