June 04, 2013
Etihad Airways is talking to aircraft manufacturers about a major joint order that would cover its own long-term fleet plans and those of some of the airlines that it partly owns.
Etihad is in the early stages of issuing a request for proposal, the carrier’s CEO James Hogan says during the International Air Transport Association’s annual meeting in Cape Town. He would not be specific about what type of aircraft the airline is seeking or how many, but says they would be for delivery from about 2020. Such a timeline would align with Etihad’s aircraft retirement schedule, and would help form the next phase of the carrier’s fleet plan for the 20 years through 2040.
Hogan says Etihad regards this as a group deal, and it would also cover Air Berlin, Jet Airways and Air Seychelles. These are all partner airlines that Etihad has an ownership stake in. There will be “full transparency” with two other strategic partners – Aer Lingus and Virgin Australia – and they will be able to join the deal if they wish, Hogan says.
Meanwhile, Etihad’s more immediate fleet growth plans are well underway. The airline expects to take delivery of its first Boeing 787 and its first Airbus A380 in the last quarter of 2014. The 10 A380s it has on order “are probably enough for us,” Hogan says.
Etihad plans to add another U.S. destination next year, says Hogan. He would not reveal which one it is, although it will not be another east coast city. The airline also plans to add another airline partner next year, probably from Latin America.
Regarding the Australian market, Hogan says Etihad is interested in adding flights to Perth, and it is just a question of when this will occur. In the meantime, Etihad serves Perth through a code-share with Garuda Indonesia via Jakarta. Etihad offers flights from Abu Dhabi to the Australian cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, although the flights to Brisbane stop in Singapore. This arrangement is likely to continue in Brisbane, as there are strong markets for premium traffic on both sectors of this flight, says Hogan.