Just a few months after it was reported that Etihad Cargo, the air freight arm of Etihad Airlines, had grounded its fleet of Airbus freighter planes, a company spokesperson has confirmed that the airline is now selling those planes.
The airline is in “advanced stages” of selling five of the ten aircraft that make up its cargo fleet to a new owner, a company spokesperson told Arabian Business.
“It is normal airline industry business practice to continuously review aircraft requirements and to make modifications to the fleet when and where necessary,” the spokesperson said.
Once the aircraft are sold to their new owner, Etihad will be left with five cargo aircraft, all of them Boeing 777s, which suggests the airline is looking to save on maintenance costs by operating a one-model fleet.
Saj Ahmad, an analyst with the London-based StrategicAero Research, said that “it is evident that the lacklustre market for A330 freighters has been one reason why Etihad wants to dispose of these poor-freight carrying airplanes, but also because the 777F jets are far more efficient, carry far more payload and from an operational standpoint, they have synergies with the existing 777-300ER passenger airplanes in their fleet.”
Etihad has sought to reorganise itself as it continues to recover from losses of AED 7.34 billion ($2.01 billion) in 2016.
Ahmad added, “Etihad is clearly wanting to boost cargo operations on passenger flights, thus dispensing the need for a bigger, dedicated freighter fleet.
“Anything that drives efficiency into airplane utilisation will not only deliver Etihad economies of scale, it will help bolster revenues and force down costs as the airline looks to get back into profitability.”
In June, the airline announced that annual results from last year which show higher revenues and shrinking losses, albeit losses from core operations of more than a billion and a half dollars show the airline is still having to cope with the effects of a strategy that saw it absorb impacts from partners Alitalia and Airberlin which went into administration.
Revenues have increased 1.9 percent to $6.1 billion from $5.9 billion in 2016, while losses in core operations have shrunk by $432 million to $1.52 billion from a record $1.95 billion last year.
The airline carried 18.6 million passengers last year, and despite $337 million in additional costs from higher fuel prices, the airline says unit cost efficiencies have improved by 7.3 percent; general and administration expenses have been reduced by $162 million over the last year.