MIAMI — Abu Dhabi-based carrier, Etihad Airways (EY), has announced plans to lay off 50 pilots and the cancelation of its Airbus A320neo order in a major restructuring move.

Restructuring: key to survival

Etihad Airways ordered 36 new single-aisle, re-engined Airbus planes in November 2013, comprising 10 A320neos and 26 A321neos. Since then, the airline has endured turbulent financial times, recording a net loss of $1.8bn in 2016, and $1.5bn in 2017.

PHOTO: Anna Zvereva

To stem these losses, the carrier has embarked on a major restructuring program following its swath of failed investments in Air Berlin, Darwin Airline, and Alitalia.

Looking ahead for Etihad

Etihad currently maintains its fleet of 22 Airbus A320s but will not be taking delivery of the re-engined neo variants.

The airline still intends to take delivery of the 26 A321neos it has on order, as it could well open up a lot of new opportunities to Etihad with its increased range and lower fuel burn.

The type has seen success with a variety of carriers around the world who have used the type to great effect on slot-constrained routes where capacity is needed at particular times.

Etihad Airbus A350-1000

Etihad still has orders with Airbus for a substantial amount of A350s. The delivery time for these planes is still to be established.

In 2018, Etihad also encouraged its pilots to take unpaid leave for periods ranging from as little as one week up to 18 months as it reviewed its fleet requirements.

In addition, Etihad reached an agreement with its competitor, the Dubai-based Emirates, allowing its pilots to transfer over to Dubai for as long as two years.

Etihad’s pilots were granted the possibility to fly for Emirates and receive full benefits and salaries but would have to take a leave of absence from Etihad.

PHOTO: Aero Icarus.

Moreover, the cargo wing of Etihad Airways announced that the airline would be selling its entire fleet of Airbus A330 Freighters and keeping its 777 Freighters only.

This comes following a few months after the carrier grounded the entire fleet of A330 cargo planes. Some were bought and delivered to German cargo carrier, EAT Leipzig, and operated largely on behalf of DHL.

Etihad Cargo Boeing 777

Overall, the cancellation of the 10 Airbus A320neo order for the airline hints that 2019 will be a big restructuring year for Etihad.

Even though the 10 planes were destined for Air Serbia, one of Etihad’s investments in Europe, the fact that the airline still has a surplus of about 160 pilots suggests that more cuts could follow.