Etihad upgrades Sydney, Melbourne to Boeing 777 (but no first class)

Executive Traveller exclusive

Etihad Airways is switching its Sydney and Melbourne routes across to a Boeing 777, despite the airline’s previous intent to retire its 777 fleet by the end of 2021.

A spokesman for Etihad Airways told Executive Traveller “Etihad’s 777 fleet remains in operation to meet customer demand on key routes, supporting Etihad’s fleet of 787s and A350s.”

The move will help the Gulf airline and Virgin Australia partner soak up its share of international travel, which has come surging back faster than anticipated.

The Boeing 777s pack in more seats than the Boeing 787s, with Sydney flights now seeing a three-class 777 crowned by eight private first class berths – although Etihad says this is only a short-term measure until its two-class 777s can be swung down to Sydney.

Etihad’s Boeing 777 first class.

In the interim, those eight suites are being sold as business class, with passengers receiving business class meals and service – although in more spacious and better-appointed surrounds.

Melbourne will get its own bump to the Boeing 777 from June 9 for flights EY460/461, with EY462/463 following from August 1.

Etihad recently marked 15 years of flights to Australia, although its departure from Brisbane was a factor in letting rival Qatar add the Queensland capital to its full-time network. LINK

The airline has also added the Airbus A350 to its fleet, boasting an all-new business class with sliding privacy doors, while an evolution of these Business Studio suites is slated for the next wave of Boeing 787-9s due for delivery from 2023.

Etihad’s A350 business class.

In addition, the A350 adds a fresh take on economy – one which delivers more legroom than ever before – in the form of Economy Space seats, while resisting the lure of a dedicated premium economy cabin.

Etihad Airways CEO Tony Douglas has suggested to Executive Traveller the A350s could make their way to key destinations in Australia, Asia and Europe in 2023, following deliveries of the next seven jets from Etihad’s initial firm order of 12.

“It probably won’t be long before you’ll see Etihad livery on A350s in many key European destinations as well as destinations in Asia and Australia, with a fleet of 12 and probably building after that,” Douglas told Executive Traveller on the sidelines of the A350’s inaugural flight from Abu Dhabi to Paris. “They’re going to get out and about!”

Sydney and Melbourne were served by Etihad’s Airbus A380 in pre-pandemic days, and while the airline announced plans to retire the superlative superjumbos – with their extravagant three-room Residence suite and nine spacious first class Apartments, along with a cosy Lobby lounge social area – Etihad chief Douglas has refused to write them off.

“I’d never say never but they’re not in the plan at the moment,” Douglas remarked earlier this year. “If the economics of it work, they’re back in,” he stated, reflecting that “the traveling public, our guests, loves them.”

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