Etihad Readies for Arrival of A380s, Boeing 787-9s

 - May 6, 2014, 4:59 PM
Shown is the bedroom of 'The Residence,' Etihad Airways will provide on the Airbus A380 forward upper deck. (Photo: Etihad Airways)

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways announced first destinations and unveiled premium cabin configurations for its coming Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 widebodies on May 4. The Gulf carrier plans to start service of both aircraft types in December.

Etihad’s first A380 superjumbo will operate from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow Airport. The carrier will add a second A380 to the same route in the first quarter next year. By the end of 2015, Etihad plans to operate five A380s, serving destinations including Sydney, Australia, and New York’s JFK International Airport.

The carrier will also place its first 787-9 Dreamliner into service in December, followed by a second aircraft next January. It did not specify the first destination. By the end of 2015, Etihad plans to have five 787s serving Washington, D.C., Düsseldorf and Mumbai, “with further route announcements to follow.”

Etihad has 10 total A380s on firm order. Following delivery of the first superjumbo later this year, it expects four in 2015, three in 2016 and two in 2017. It has ordered 71 total 787s for delivery between 2014 and 2023, including 41 787-9s and 30 787-10s, which will make Etihad the world’s largest Dreamliner operator.

Also, the carrier unveiled cabin configurations for the A380 and 787 fleets, including a three-room “Residence” on the A380 that will come with butler service and offer “levels of luxury and total privacy normally found only on private jets.” The European Aviation Safety Agency has certified the forward upper-deck cabin for single or double occupancy. Etihad has allocated the A380’s entire upper deck to premium cabins, including nine “First Apartments” with sliding doors, reclining armchairs and full-length ottomans. On the 787, Etihad  has designed an enhanced “First Suite,” adding new features including a chilled mini-bar.

The carrier will install the Panasonic eX3 entertainment system across both fleets, and both will be Wi-Fi capable for mobile devices. Etihad said it has developed curtained prayer areas for Muslim passengers that will be equipped with “a real-time electronic Qibla-finder” showing the exact direction of Mecca based on the aircraft’s geographical position.