The UAE’s Etihad Airways anticipates slowly increasing the number of passenger flights it operates from May 1, as it starts to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an April 16 update on the Abu Dhabi-based airline’s planned recovery, group CEO Tony Douglas said that, subject to UAE government-imposed travel restrictions being lifted on passenger travel, the company plans to operate a reduced network of scheduled passenger services from May 1 to June 30, gradually returning to a fuller schedule as the global situation improves.
“The term ‘unprecedented’ is currently the most used in our industry, and the most appropriate,” Douglas said. “However, we remain cautiously optimistic and will push ahead with our plans to resume normal flying. While the intention is to assume a ‘business as usual’ approach to the restart of our operations, the aviation landscape has changed, and how it will look month by month is difficult to predict.”
Douglas said the cumulative gains achieved by the carrier’s ongoing transformation—the company has been moving away from its previous “super-connector” profile to a more point-to-point route network in order to reduce huge losses—and the support of its shareholder, the Abu Dhabi government had left Etihad “in a relatively strong position to withstand any instability.” “We will pivot on this and act with agility to seize opportunities we may not have previously considered,” the CEO added.
Etihad is currently operating a growing schedule of repatriation flights and using passenger aircraft to carry essential cargo such as perishables pharmaceuticals, and medical supplies. Since March 25, around 500 special passenger, freighter and cargo flights have been operated. Etihad Cargo is now operating up to 100 turnaround flights per week to 32 destinations on five continents.
Etihad is using 22 Boeing 787s and 777-300ERs, with five more ready for service, to complement its operational fleet of five 777-200F dedicated freighters. These aircraft are providing the scheduled and special passenger and belly-hold cargo services.
With 80% of its passenger fleet on the ground, the airline has embarked on what it describes as its biggest-ever aircraft maintenance program.
Etihad Engineering, the group’s MRO division, is performing maintenance on 96 passenger aircraft including 29 Airbus A320 and A321s, 10 Airbus A380s, 38 Boeing 787s and 19 Boeing 777-300ERs.
This program of work ranges from minor maintenance tasks, such as seat repairs and updates to inflight entertainment systems, to bringing forward scheduled engine changes and modifications on several aircraft, eliminating the need to withdraw them from service when flights begin operating again.
Etihad has revised the launch date of its inaugural service to Vienna from May 22 to July 1.
Photo credit: Etihad Airways