Abu Dhabi airport to add special bridges for Etihad’s Airbus A380s
Abu Dhabi International Airport will be equipped with special bridges by December to receive Etihad Airways’ new super-jumbo aircraft, the carrier’s chief executive said.
“Is Abu Dhabi ready for the A380? You bet it is,” said James Hogan at the Airbus A380 roll-out event in Hamburg.
“We are working very closely with Abu Dhabi Airports Corporation. We already have one fully fitted air bridge in place and the other one will be available shortly.”
The world’s biggest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380, requires a special bridge at the gate to connect the double-decker jet to the terminal. It is also not practical to transfer about 500 passengers from the aircraft to the airport using buses.
Etihad’s A380s will feature a US$20,000-a-ticket flying hotel suite complete with a Savoy-trained butler. The service is expected to lift the carrier’s premium travel offering ahead of its rivals.
Etihad said it will deploy its A380 on flights to London starting from December – eventually flying three times a day. Etihad will also fly the A380 on its Sydney and New York routes from next year.
Etihad has 10 of the aircraft on order.
Mr Hogan said that the A380s would remain in the hands of Etihad and will not be deployed by Etihad’s equity alliance partners.
Etihad’s growth strategy is focused on expanding its global route network by forming equity alliances, in which it invests in carriers in strategically important regions.
It has minority stakes in Aer Lingus, Air Serbia, airberlin, Air Seychelles, Virgin Australia, India’s Jet Airways and Switzerland’s Darwin Airline. Etihad’s latest investment is in Alitalia, the ailing Italian airline.
Meanwhile, the cancellation of a billion-dollar plane order will help the loss-making German carrier airberlin carry out its turnaround plan.
On Friday, the airline, in which Etihad holds a 29 per cent stake, shelved an order for 18 Boeing 737 aircraft and 15 Boeing 787 aircraft worth a total of $5 billion at list prices as it strives to curb spending and return to profit.
It has been slashing jobs, costs and unprofitable routes after a period of rapid expansion left it saddled with debt.
Last month it presented new turnaround plans, including shrinking and harmonising its fleet, which comprises planes made by Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier.
“Not taking on the 33 aircraft ordered will significantly reduce future capital expenditure and improve our balance sheet,” said the company’s finance chief, Ulf Huettmeyer. Its existing 45 next-generation 737s will remain in service on European short and medium-haul routes, it said, adding it would continue to adapt its fleet by buying or leasing aircraft, albeit on a smaller scale than originally planned.
The cancellation boosted airberlin’s shares, which gained 7.5 per cent to €1.38 at the close in Frankfurt on Friday.
Separately, Mr Huettmeyer could be set to leave the German carrier to join Etihad to manage its airline holdings around the world, according to a Reuters report quoting sources.
* with Reuters
Updated: September 27, 2014 04:00 AM