Whether the Etihad Airways Airbus A380 fleet will fly again remains undecided due to brand and sustainability issues imposed by the aircraft, the airlines CEO Tony Douglas said.

The company has grounded its A380 fleet of 10 aircraft after the pandemic hit the worldwide market in March 2020, forcing Etihad Airways to reconsider its fleet strategy. 

On May 19, 2020, the carrier’s management disclosed that its A380 fleet might never return to service and the brand-new Airbus A350-1000s would not enter service with the airline at all.

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Etihad Airways is reportedly facing pressure from debt holders to undergo a restructuring. The news comes following reports that the airline was preparing to permanently ground its entire fleet of Airbus A380, cut thousands of jobs and was rethinking its 20 future A350XWBs. 
 

As of September 28, 2020, the fate of Etihad’s 10 A380s was still uncertain.

“The question is whether it will ever fly again, to be equally direct about it, I’d say the jury’s out,” the airline’s CEO said on Etihad’s podcast, adding “I’m not trying to rule out the A380, it would break my heart either more to do so.”

Aside from sentiment, Douglas expressed several concerns about the A380 as a model in general.

“Anything with more than two engines is not going to be able to sustain itself going forward, particularly if your brand is as serious about sustainability as Etihad is. It’s heavily handicapped by two engines too many, and other aircraft that can do the job far more efficiently and sustainably.”

The chief executive also compared the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to the Airbus A380, stating that the former was “massively more efficient per kilometer” than the latter.

Douglas also expects the pandemic to accelerate the A380 retirement, as it happened with the Boeing 747.