The chief executive of Etihad Aviation Group has cast doubt on the carrier’s fleet of ten A380 superjumbos returning to the skies.

In an interview with Abu Dhabi newspaper The National, Tony Douglas said that “We have now taken the strategic decision to park the A380s, I’m sure it’s very likely that we won’t see them operating with Etihad again.”

Last year fellow Gulf carrier Qatar Airways said that it would not be bringing its A380 aircraft back into service in the near future, stating that “it is not commercially or environmentally justifiable to operate such a large aircraft in the current market”.

And Lufthansa’s CEO Carsten Spohr recently said that “In the current situation, we do not see any prospect of the A380 in our fleet.”

Lufthansa CEO: “we do not see any prospect of the A380 in our fleet”

Douglas also said that Etihad’s fleet of new A350 aircraft would not be deployed until 2023, with the carrier focusing on its B787s for long-haul operations.

Etihad also has six of the delayed B777-9 aircraft on order, and when asked if the carrier was considering converting these orders Douglas said:

“When you’re in a street fight with Covid, it’s almost irrelevant, because the deliveries are way out in the future anyway. The trick to this one is to focus on 2021-2022 … that journey is a 787 Dreamliner journey.”

Earlier this month Etihad reported a 76 per cent fall in passenger numbers in 2020 due to Covid-19, resulting in an operating loss of $1.7 billion.

Etihad Airways reports 76 per cent fall in passenger numbers in 2020

Douglas said that he does not expect air travel to return to pre-crisis levels until 2023, and said that the rollout of vaccine programmes will dictate operations this summer.

“As we get into the summer months, unless vaccine programmes slow down or there is a flaw in the strategy, things will start to tip back into the right direction in a whole bunch of countries,” said Douglas.

“My expectation is that we’ll start to see the list of countries that are able to have travel corridors will get longer and longer, which will be heavily impacted by the way in which vaccines give that assurance.”