We now know where the daily Melbourne-Abu Dhabi A380 will fly when Etihad changes that service to a 777 in October. It will move to Sydney, giving the harbour city double daily flights on the opulent giant airliner to Etihad’s Middle East hub for connections to dozens of flights, some also flown by A380s, to cities in Europe and the UK.
The changeover, from October 29, comes as a jolt for Melbournian fans of the flight in what has to be the best appointed A380 in any airline’s service today (although new Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Qantas remakes of their A380s have been flagged.)
On current indications, the changing of Sydney to Abu Dhabi flights to an all A380 schedule will coincide with unofficial reports that Singapore Airlines will launch its new A380 product, in the first of a tranche of five new deliveries of the big Airbus, on the Sydney-Singapore route in the same month.
Etihad flies twice daily to Abu Dhabi from Sydney, and is a major competitor on the Australia-Europe market with Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Emirates, as well as a co-equity holder in Virgin Australia with the Singaporean carrier.
From the end of October it appears that travellers between Sydney and London (or connections at major hubs en route) will therefore have a daily choice between as many as eight or nine A380s a day. Two with Etihad, three with Emirates, one with Qantas, one or two with Singapore Airlines, and seasonally, a possible return of a daily flight with Qatar Airways.
With a shortage of slots at London Heathrow and (so far) continued growth on long haul routes to Asia and the ME as well as EU and UK, operating those routes with smaller jets means the airlines would have to leave large numbers of customers behind. Or have them diverted to other airlines like Cathay Pacific, where their business focus may be preoccupied with trying to get enough seats for centres like Hong Kong, where home airport congestion is further complicated by slot shortages at Sydney.
It’s these Sydney and London airport issues that explain the sudden focus on A380s by the key players on the Australia-London and Europe routes, and not anything inherently wrong with the Melbourne market. Melbourne’s main airport has plenty of upside potential, assuming the owners get cracking on ensuring an additional runway and further terminal expansions occur in a timely manner.
In a statement Etihad said:
The announcement comes as Etihad Airways marks the 10th anniversary of flying to Sydney, its first Australian destination.
Featuring the carrier’s revolutionary The Residence – the world’s first three-room suite on a commercial airliner – the additional deployment of the 496-seat double decker aircraft means one of Australia’s largest cities will join London and New York as an all-A380 operation.
Business and leisure travellers to and from Abu Dhabi, the airline’s operational hub, will enjoy increased capacity, and the airline will meet the growing demand from the UAE and connecting cities across the Gulf region, the Middle East and Europe.
The Sydney – London Heathrow route, via Abu Dhabi, will also offer guests the consistency, convenience and comfort of a seamless all A380 service in both directions. All three daily London Heathrow flights are operated with an A380. Beginning June 1, the second daily New York service will be upgraded to the superjumbo.
Introduced on the Sydney route two years ago, the A380 accommodates up to two guests in The Residence, which features a living room, bedroom and shower, together with nine First Apartments, 70 Business Studios and 415 Economy Smart Seats.
Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways Chief Executive Officer, said: “Sydney is one of our busiest and best performing long-haul routes where we have experienced increased demand, particularly in our premium cabins, since the launch 10 years ago.