Surplus of 160 Pilots Due to Reduced flying by Etihad


Etihad to cut 50 pilot positions

The Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad Airways will cut 50 pilot positions by the end of January as it continues its turnaround efforts.

In a memo to employees, the airline’s vice-president of flight operations Sulaiman Yaqoobi says the reduction in headcount follows a cut in capacity, and is part of the airline’s plan for a “7 to 10% reduction in our operating cost across its network.”

The memo notes that the airline has 2,065 pilots in its ranks, which is a surplus of around 160 due to the reduced flying by the airline.

He adds that the past year was “extremely challenging”, and this is expected to continue into 2019.

“However, while we posted a significant loss at the end of last year, I want to reassure you that we are on the right trajectory and are getting closer to bridging the gap between operating costs and revenue,” Yagoobi says.

Analysts point out that Etihad did not limit their fleet to two aircraft types. Etihad should have considered either an all 787 or A350 fleet. Etihad could have become the only affordable luxury airline in the region but Etihad could not control its overheads. At present Etihad is unable to substantiate the A380, it can’t even fill its 777s.

Etihad reported a $1.52 billion loss for 2017, which was a 22% reduction on the previous year as it started a major transformation initiative.

That saw it cut services to Perth and Edinburgh in 2018, as it changed focus to serving point-to-point markets.

Meanwhile unpleasant news for Airbus have also came. Etihad has cancelled its  order for 10 Airbus A320neo planes. It still has an order for 26 A321neo’s and remains unaffected. Will there be further cancellations in the future? This remains to be seen.

Some observers don’t see any surprise here. 10-airplanes order is a drop in the ocean. Airbus won’t be hurt by this cancellation as it has hundreds of orders to fulfil. Airbus can anytime win back more orders easily.

This may be a part of cutting costs and having a more fuel efficient simpler fleet. Cancelling their A320neo order and retaining the A321neo order can be viewed as a wise decision as the A321 can carry more passengers than the A320neo resulting in better financial returns.