MIAMI – Expecting a “meaningful” return, Etihad Airways (EY) announced July 16 as the resumption date for regular passenger flights, according to its CEO, Tony Douglas.

In an interview with CNN, Douglas said that these efforts were “small steps [taken] in a very controlled way” as a regular schedule during these times also meant there were “a lot of variables in this equation.”

Resumption of regular operations apart from cargo flights

Regarding government approval in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Abu Dhabi, and different destinations, EY had previously established May 16 as a restart date for its customer capacity beyond cargo and repatriation flights.

Regarding these operations, the airline has structured a “skeleton network,” flying 25 of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners to offer cargo services alongside Emirates (EK) in addition to bringing citizens back to the UAE. As a result, this week EY added further return services to Paris, Geneva, and Milan.

Photo caption: (Left to right) H.E. Mohamed Mubarak Fadhel Al Mazrouei, Chairman of Etihad Aviation Group; H.H. Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Department of Transport; and Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Aviation Group; inspect the specially-designed Etihad Airways “Year of Zayed” A380 at Etihad Engineering in Abu Dhabi. Picture by Etihad Airways.

Layoffs and fleet retirement as part of an upcoming merge?

With EY confirming days ago that it was forced to make redundancies in several areas due to the crisis as well as Douglas clarifying that cargo operations were carried “in a non-competitive way” in a partnership with EK, a possible merger between the two carriers was put on the table.

Several media have reported that the layoffs would affect around 1,200 employees with an additional withdrawal of ten A380 and the inoperative A350-1000 fleet while EY plans a recovery strategy.

Touching on this, Douglas said in the interview that “at this point in time, I don’t know of any plans in that regard… It’s something that would be handled at stakeholder level or shareholder level, but what we are doing, wherever possible is working together.”

While the carrier suspended passenger capacity on March 26 following a government decision to shut down all passenger flights, it also clarified that the new resumption date remains as a possibility because it is subject to an executive mandate.