Etihad may reduce Airbus, Boeing jets orders: CEO

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Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways is yet to decide on future plans for around 50 Airbus A320neo and Boeing 777X jets it previously ordered, its chief executive said on Wednesday, raising uncertainty over billions of dollars of aircraft sales.

The state-owned carrier is restructuring under new management led by Tony Douglas after a failed bid last decade to compete with major Gulf carriers Emirates and Qatar Airways.

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Asked about Airbus A320neo and Boeing 777X ordered by previous management, Douglas said the airline was focused on sustainable growth and that a final decision had not been made.

Uncertainty over deliveries and when the industry would recover from the pandemic had added to the complexity of making a decision on future fleet plans.

“The manufactures can’t confirm when they are going to be delivered and you have a market that you don’t know when its going to recover.”

The airline had three years to decide on what it would do with the A320neo order, while a decision on the 777X jets was “way down the road”.

Airbus declined to comment. Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Boeing’s new version of its best-selling 777 twin aisle wide-body jet has been beset by delays, while supply chain issues have hit both manufacturers.

Etihad, which is in the midst of a five year downsizing to become what it calls a “mid-sized carrier”, has 26 A320neo jets and 25 777X on order, according to the planemakers.

It would continue to take deliveries of Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner liner jets, which Douglas said would become the backbone of the fleet that will trim to 65 aircraft.

Etihad has 93 aircraft, according to its website. Douglas also said the existing 30-strong A320 fleet would likely be halved as operations reduce with a focus on profitable routes.

It already plans to phase out its 5 777-300ER jets from the passenger fleet and has grounded its 10 Airbus A380s since the start of the pandemic.

“When the market comes back sustainability, then we will look at how we will scale up. We are never going to get back into the madness,” Douglas said.

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