Etihad slashes order for Airbus A350-1000 once again
Etihad Airways has further reduced its Airbus A350-1000 order, following a series of modifications and delivery delays with the twin-engined aircraft.
The national carrier, which is based in Abu Dhabi, had originally purchased 25 A350-1000s as part of a large-scale fleet expansion programme in 2008.
However, it was rumoured to be unhappy with design modifications announced at Paris International Airshow last year, leading to six aircraft being removed from the firm order in January 2012. As a result of the latest cancellation, Etihad’s order currently stands at 12 A350-1000s.
"While we have reduced our firm orders, our 25 options and purchase rights for this fleet remain in place and will no doubt play a crucial role in the airline's growth. This is not a new cancellation," a spokesman for the airline commented. "Although not intrinsically linked, the recent delay to the A350 XWB programme provided an appropriate opportunity for Etihad to revisit its projected fleet mix in the latter part of the decade.”
Revisions and delays to the A350-1000 have resulted in a public fallout with other customers over the past year, such as Emirates Airline and Air Lease Corporation. The most vocal, however, has been the aircraft’s launch customer Qatar Airways, which threatened to cancel its order for 20 of the -1000 variant in favour of the smaller -900 model.
“It never makes me happy when one of the programmes we are so dependent upon is being delayed. This will dent our expansion and fleet replacement programme,” the media were told by Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker. “Airbus is not listening to us; I don’t think they’ve achieved anything with this investment and frankly, we are losing confidence in the manufacturers’ ability to deliver contractual commitment.”
In reference to Etihad Airways’ initial cancellation earlier this year, Al Baker confirmed there Qatar Airways was not immediately planning to follow suit. “I’m not familiar with Etihad’s strategy and they can decide whatever they like, but I think it’s too premature to cancel. It’s true that the aircraft is not meeting performance targets and I have voiced my opinion on this matter several times. However, Airbus has promised to make improvements and I have confidence in them producing a good aeroplane, so we need to give them time,” he explained to Aviation Business magazine.
“The aircraft is still several years away, so we have time, although I will not wait indefinitely because Qatar Airways has a very clear strategy to keep the average age of our fleet very low and we need to ensure that strategy does not fall behind. The A350-1000 is important in terms of meeting that goal, as it has been earmarked to replace a very specific type of aeroplane in our fleet.”