Call me surprised, but also not surprised by this one. There are some rumors making the rounds that Etihad will be eliminating First Class on most of their flights. According to this Airliners.net post, the airline will be stripping First Class out of all of its planes except for the A380 by 2022.
Why I Am Not Surprised By This Rumor
AirFleets.net shows First Class on board a few A330’s, ten A380’s, seven B777-300’s and five B787-9’s for Etihad.
Lets look at the A380, which is keeping its First Class. Etihad has The Apartment and The Residence on board its A380’s. I’m not surprised the A380 is keeping First Class, as not only are those products great marketing pieces for the airline, I can’t think of a single A380 operator that doesn’t have a First Class on that plane.
The A380 is ultimately too big and having a First Class product that is actually selling at $10k-$20k seat per flight is a necessity in order for profitability.
The A330’s for Etihad are on their way out the door. Some have been in the fleet for ~15 years. Etihad isn’t re-configuring these planes, they are just taking them out of the fleet. This move is unsurprising, especially considering the huge backlog of widebody aircraft that Etihad has committed to.
The 777-300’s are getting the new Business Studio. It’s unclear whether Etihad will remove First Class during the reconfiguration or if they will just retire the planes that have the First Class product. While this seems a bit surprising, it shouldn’t be. The current 777 First and Business Class products leave a lot to be desired. The only timeline provided indicates a refit by 2022.
Why I am Surprised By This Rumor
The forum seems to indicate that the Boeing 787-9’s will no longer have a First Class. This is where I have trouble believing the rumour. Etihad spent a lot of time and R&D to create a new dual aisle First Class product, when they received their B787-9’s just a few years ago.
The First Class doesn’t take up significant floor space, as there are only 2 rows for 8 seats. Etihad’s setup is similar to that of a profitable airline that has a 787-9 with First Class.
Additionally, Etihad will always have a need for a dedicated First Class product that flies to Washington D.C (IAD) and Switzerland. The 787-9 is the logical fit there, as demand at those destinations can’t support a plane as big as the A380.
Is It True?
Normally I ignore rumors until we hear something concrete from the airline. In this instance, I do believe most of what has been said, but there is no way to be sure.
I don’t anticipate Etihad coming out with a statement about it in the near future, especially considering how much of a point of pride some of their First Class products are.