Air Berlin is changing its Boeing 787 order to the -9 variant favored by its largest shareholder, Etihad Airways, says the Abu Dhabi-based carrier’s chairman and CEO, James Hogan.
Hogan, in Washington to celebrate the launch of Etihad’s nonstop Airbus A340-500 service to Washington Dulles International Airport, after a news conference said the two airlines had just requested the change and expect Air Berlin’s firm order backlog soon to reflect the shift to the 787-9.
Boeing, which was not available for comment, still has 15 787-8s listed for Air Berlin on its order book.
The change means Etihad and Air Berlin, which have combined their 787 orders, now have 56 787-9s on backlog.
Etihad expects to take delivery of its first General Electric-powered 787 in the fourth quarter 2014, with entry-into-service expected in December; Air Berlin is negotiating its delivery dates, CFO Ulf Huettmeyer said last month.
This change in Air Berlin’s firm order is unsurprising, and Huettmeyer in March indicated that the airline was interested in the larger 787 variant as a replacement for the airline’s fleet of Airbus A330s. Etihad, meanwhile, has championed the combination of the two orders as a way to share infrastructure, pool maintenance and streamline purchases for engines, rotables, avionics and inflight entertainment systems.
Etihad has brought financial stability to Air Berlin since it became the carrier’s largest shareholder in late 2011, and had a decisive influence on the German carrier’s 2012 profit, the first positive results for the airline in five years. Etihad in February also said it would subscribe to 29.2% of Air Berlin’s new €120 million ($154 million) convertible bond, reflecting its holding in the European operator.
According to Hogan this is the last of the financial support, and the Middle East carrier has “no intention of injecting more money” into Air Berlin, he tells Aviation Week.