Etihad airlines grounds A380 – Will that affect cargo

Etihad Airlines like all airlines continue to fight against the lack of passengers presently flying worldwide. Reuters this week confirmed that they had seen an internal email which had some worrying news for airline staff. All A380 aircraft will be grounded indefinitely after the recovery growth failed to gather momentum. This will have unfortunate consequences for the airline with the likely layoffs which will follow. Fortunately for freight forwarders the A380 isn’t the most cargo friendly airline and Etihad cargo has alternatives.

What flights do Etihad cargo airlines operate

Etihad Cargo freighter fleet of Boeing 777 aircraft
Etihad Cargo freighter fleet of Boeing 777 aircraft

Etihad cargo operate a dedicated fleet of five B777-200F aircraft with a payload of 105 Tonne each. With their extensive trucking network these aircraft still offer the freight forwarder a strong cargo network. The A380 only made up 10 aircraft out of a fleet of 101 so 10% of the fleet. The size of the A380 aircraft means that as a passenger carrying airline it will have a little more impact.

Etihad airlines reducing head count

It is no major surprise that Etihad has reduced it’s largest passenger carrying aircraft. Only a week ago Etihad release a statement discussing the impact of COVID-19. This article discusses making the airline leaner, restructuring and reducing management staff. With the airline shrinking it makes sense that the largest drain on resource reduces accordingly.

Unfortunately that is passenger numbers. Passenger number across all airlines have reduced substantially and Etihad are not alone in re-focussing. Cathay Pacific’s decision to retire the Cathay Dragon brand last month confirms the changing landscape in the aviation industry.

What both airlines do appear to agree on is that Cargo is where the airlines should strengthen their efforts. Cargo rates are at their highest across all sectors which on the face of it is an issue. The disparity though between Air Cargo and Sea Cargo is reducing. With ocean rates per TEU out of the Far East and peak season surcharges increasing air cargo may well improve in the short term.

Passenger numbers and cargo

There is a direct correlation between passenger numbers and air cargo rates. Maindeck carriers have always been a more expensive option over lower deck cargo. Lower deck cargo worked as passengers helped fund the flight. Without passenger numbers lower deck cargo needs maindeck rates. Without passengers aircraft like the A380 become very expensive cargo workhorses.

This article started by asking Etihad airlines grounds A380 – Will that affect cargo? The answer is not really. If in the long term those aircraft are replaced with B777’s then ultimately cargo is likely to be the winner. Even in a passenger configuration.

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