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.

LONDON – Etihad Airways and H.H. Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan have today unveiled a special livery to be placed on one of the carrier’s Airbus A380 aircraft to celebrate the year of Zayed after its ruler in Abu Dhabi. It was inspected by Zayed Al Nahyan in one of the carrier’s engineering facilities in Abu Dhabi International Airport and was formally accepted to fly.

The special livery is just one element of Etihad’s initiatives, which will be worked alongside with Zayed to produce the Year of Zayed themes consisting of wisdom, respect, sustainability and human development, which is something that the country aims to implement on a more political level going away from the aviation side.

READ MORE: Etihad, Egyptair Expand Codeshare Partnership

Customers who get the chance to fly on this aircraft will be offered a host of content and services that have been inspired by the Sheikh, offering a new USP to the airline and potentially enticing customers to watch out for this specific airframe. Such themed offers will feature in-flight entertainment, handpicked by the Sheikh, kids packs and a photo gallery of the leader’s life.

A6-APH will be the new highlight that everyone will be looking to fly on if they are heading towards Abu Dhabi. A7-APH is one of the younger A380s in the fleet, showing an age of 1.4 years, having been delivered in May 2017. The aircraft is configured with eight first class seats, 48 business class seats and 461 economy seats, offering over 500 passengers every flight with this new theme reflecting on the successes of Zayed.

READ MORE: Etihad Airways, SWISS Sign New Codeshare Agreement

This aircraft will provide humanitarian aid initially starting from may as the “Year of Zayed Humanitarian Freighter” before eventually flying its commercial services as normal thereafter. It will be interesting to see whether it will just be the one aircraft that will be painted in this livery or whether the initiatives placed by the carrier and Zayed will continue onwards onto different aircraft across its fleet.

Is The Middle East Trying to Innovate?

On a more cynical perspective, this could be a way of trying to rejuvenate the carrier, especially as it has been in struggled conditions over the past 18 months.

With the demise of Alitalia and Air Berlin, and more recently the restructuring of Air Seychelles all falling under their purview, they are now more than likely taking a different approach to investment, which is more of a domestic approach rather than an international approach.

This new initiative celebrating the Year of Zayed could potentially boost tourism in the Abu Dhabi area and offer more of a selection of activities to flyers when they either stopover there or stay there.

Moving away from Etihad, other carriers are struggling as well. Carriers such as Emirates have also been struggling, who are taking extensive measures such as the storing of aircraft.

The Dubai-based carrier has announced that they will be storing 11 Boeing 777’s and 1 A380 in April 2018, 14 Boeing 777’s and 6 A380’s in May as well as 11 777’s and 3 A380s at Dubai World Central (DWC) Airport due to the low demand that they are currently experiencing.

Emirates are also trying to innovate and expand at the same time with Al Maktoum facing a massive expansion currently. If they are storing aircraft, does it beg the question of the necessity of having Al Maktoum either way?

Other innovations from Emirates features things such as the checking in from your own home, which was announced earlier this month. On top of this Emirates are also struggling with a mass shortage of pilots too, which is supposedly due to huge numbers of resignations citing poor working conditions.

READ MORE: Etihad Launches Flights to Baku; Announces Codeshare with Azerbaijan Airlines

Qatar Airways themselves are also struggling with the political blockade, having to spend more money rerouting aircraft away from the airspaces that they are banned from. Qatar has been trying to innovate themselves with the use of the Q-Suite which got recently introduced into the carrier’s fleet, offering what they hope to be a new Business Class solution for flyers.

However, like with Emirates, Qatar has been expanding quite rapidly and if Al Baker doesn’t play his cards right, he could end up like Emirates with the storing of aircraft if the growth is too quick and the rewards aren’t reaped.

With Al Baker warning of potential profit drops because of the blockade, Etihad showing no profit progression and Emirates storing aircraft, it must show that they are trying to innovate and differentiate themselves as much as possible before it comes to a point of restructuring and shrinking their sizes accordingly.