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Etihad Grounds Airbus Cargo Jets as Strategy Review Continues

Updated on
  • Carrier idles five A330Fs, focuses on Boeing 777 freighters
  • New CEO Douglas took over this month after $1.87 billion loss

Etihad Aviation Group grounded five Airbus SE freighter planes as the Persian Gulf carrier works on a new fleet plan and strategy in the wake of its biggest ever loss.

Etihad has taken the five A330F jets out of service and will focus its dedicated freighter operation on the newer Boeing Co. 777F, of which it also has five, the Abu Dhabi-based carrier said Wednesday. The U.S. model can carry 103 metric tons of freight, while the Airbus plane is limited to 64 tons.

Peter Baumgartner, who runs the company’s main Etihad Airways arm, said in a statement that the cargo volume available in the bellies of the passenger fleet means the move amounts to a “very controlled reduction in capacity.”

Chief Executive Officer Tony Douglas, who took over this month, may also look at canceling some new planes once Etihad completes a wide-ranging strategy review launched after the carrier posted a $1.87 billion loss for 2016. Etihad has outstanding orders for more than 150 aircraft, according its website, including 62 Airbus A350s and 55 Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Earnings were hurt by a decline in Mideast traffic after lower crude-oil prices limited oil-industry travel. Etihad also made failed investments in Alitalia SpA and Air Berlin Plc, which last year filed for insolvency.

Douglas succeeded James Hogan, the architect of the so-called Equity Alliance strategy that saw Etihad pour billions of euros into struggling airlines around the world in a bid to lure more passengers and join the global aviation elite.

Reuters reported the cargo groundings earlier, while also saying Etihad is offering pilots unpaid leave as it rethinks its strategy. The carrier declined to comment on any proposals concerning cockpit crew.

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