Etihad Airways has provided an update on its current and planned operations as COVID-19 (coronavirus) travel restrictions remain in place around the world.
First and foremost, subject to United Arab Emirates’ government-imposed travel restrictions being lifted on passenger travel, Etihad plans to operate a reduced network of scheduled passenger services from May 1 to June 30, with the aim of gradually returning to a fuller schedule as and when the global situation improves. Etihad is also continuing to operate a growing schedule of special passenger flights allowing foreign nationals in the UAE the opportunity to travel out of the country, and to carry essential belly-hold cargo such as perishables, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.
With that said, Etihad has revised the launch date of its inaugural service to Vienna from May 22 to July 1.
Tony Douglas, group CEO, Etihad Aviation Group, said in a statement, “We remain cautiously optimistic and will push ahead with our plans to resume normal flying.” He adds, however, “how [operations] will look month by month is difficult to predict.”
Network and Fleet
Currently, Etihad is using 22 Boeing 787 Dreamliners and 777-300ER passenger aircraft, with five more ready for service, to complement its operational fleet of five 777-200F freighters. These aircraft are providing scheduled and special passenger and belly-hold cargo services to several destinations worldwide. Since March 25, approximately 500 special passenger, freighter and cargo flights have been operated; these include flights to Amsterdam, Bogota, Brussels, Dublin, Frankfurt, Jakarta, London Heathrow, Manila, Melbourne, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Seoul Incheon, Singapore, Tokyo Narita, Washington, D.C., and Zurich, with other destinations planned.
Etihad Cargo is now operating up to 100 turnaround flights per week to 32 destinations on five continents. In addition to normal scheduled cargo services, special freighter and humanitarian flights have been flown to Addis Ababa, Amsterdam, Beijing, Bogota, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Chennai, Cochin, Dublin, Frankfurt, Jeddah, Johannesburg, Karachi, Khartoum, Kiev, Milan, Paris, Rome, Shanghai, Tbilisi, Wuhan, and Zagreb. More special flights will be introduced in the coming weeks.
With 80 percent of its passenger fleet on the ground, the airline has embarked on the biggest aircraft maintenance program in its history. Etihad is performing maintenance work on 96 passenger aircraft, including 29 Airbus A320 and A321s, 10 Airbus A380s, 38 Boeing 787s and 19 Boeing 777-300ERs. The program ranges from minor maintenance tasks, such as seat repairs and updates to Inflight Entertainment Systems, to bringing forward scheduled engine changes and modifications on several aircraft, eliminating the need to withdraw them from service when flights begin operating again.
Cancellation Policy and Rewards Program
The airline has introduced a range of travel waivers, solutions and benefits to help ease the burden the pandemic is having. Customers who booked directly with the airline before August 31, 2020, now have greater flexibility to change their bookings or they can opt for value-added Etihad Credit where possible. This credit will provide each customer with the value of their current unused ticket and up to $400, plus up to 5,000 Etihad Guest Miles, for future travel. Additionally, for tickets purchased directly from Etihad within Europe or the United States, a refund is also available if requested.
Etihad Guest, the airline’s loyalty program, is supporting members to retain and upgrade their Tier Status through a number of initiatives while they remain unable to travel during this period. In addition to receiving the monthly bonus Tier Miles, members who achieved 80 percent of the qualifying requirements will be extended or upgraded for 12 months. Members who achieved less than 80 percent of the qualifying requirements will be extended for three months. Etihad Guest Miles that expired in March and are due to expire in April or May, will be extended for three months for members who have been active with the program over the last 18 months. Members can also donate their miles to charities, including the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Emirates Red Crescent, who are supporting vulnerable refugees impacted or at risk as a result of COVID-19.
Etihad’s catering unit, Etihad Airport Services Catering (EAS), has been commissioned by various government entities, business organizations and community centers, to prepare and provide meals to individuals impacted by the global spread of COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, EAS has cooked and delivered over 15,000 meals a day to people self-isolating or under quarantine, frontline medical staff, humanitarian drives and for various businesses across Abu Dhabi.
EAS is also delivering amenities and providing a laundry service for Etihad employees living in temporary isolation at the airline’s eco-residences in Masdar City so they can continue to operate essential freighter and special passenger flights. These include loadmasters, cargo agents, pilots and cabin crew. Etihad crew living in company provided accommodation and requiring a meal delivery service are also being catered for free of charge.